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Written by  :  Jayson Firestorm (156)
Written on  :  Jul 26, 2002
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars

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Not the classic it strives to be, but an enjoyable, great-looking game all the same

The Good

Quite possibly the most impressive voice cast ever assembled (to date) for a computer game, There are some great characters – most notably, the wonderfully camp Carecrow; as well as the rude octopus who owns the arcade; Jim and Woof - the Wacme vendors who love to test their ultra-violent devices out on each other; and Snout the dungeon guard, who’s allergic to just about everything you’d expect to find in a dungeon! The characters are often laugh-out-loud, and the veteran performers voice them superbly.

The graphics are lovely looking, and truly haven’t dated at all. At worse, Lloyd does look a little static at times, but considering complexities of mixing live-action with a computer-generated cartoon, it’s completely forgivable. And there are some incredible, TV-quality cut-scenes at various points during the proceedings, again mixing live-action Lloyd with the cartoon world, that have to be seen to be believed.

The first disk takes you through the “cute” Cutopia, the wacky land of Zanydu, and the dark, eerie Malevolands, as you search for the various items you need. The second disk is practically a separate sequel to the first disk, with Drew separated from side-kick Flux, and trapped in Nefarious’ castle. The second disk is a smaller play-area to explore than the first, and the plot is not focused as much, but there’s still some fun to be had.

The music and in-game sound effects are excellent (actually, the majority of them are stock sounds that can be heard in many a TV cartoon). And very impressive how the music fades seamlessly from one tune to the next as you enter a different location.

Oh, and don’t be fooled by the cutesy start into thinking it’s a kid’s game, there are several “crap”s, “asshole”s, and “basterd”s thrown in, and some elements (such as the bondage-loving cow) will even make some more mature players blush!

The ending is nothing short of a blatant set-up for a sequel, which was never made. A shame really, as there was still more mileage to be had from the concept.

Technical-wise, I didn’t have any trouble running it under Windows 95, unlike similar adventure games, though it did crash out of memory on older machines.

The Bad

Well… how do I say this...

There’s great characters, great ideas, great just about everything. But something’s just lacking.
It’s almost as if they tried TOO hard. On hindsight, it seemed to me that there were actually TOO MANY things thrown in to the game, making it rather cramped, and not giving the better bits full space to flourish. Characters such as the aforementioned Carecrow are great, but with him and %99 of the other characters (and places) in the game, it’s a case of solving one puzzle involving them, and that’s it. Tthey’re there one minute, but as soon as you’ve solved there relevant puzzle, that’s the last you’ll see or need most of them for the entire game.

The “cutesy” bit in the early stages of the game is maybe a little TOO cutesy and childish, and may put some players off. The designers would have done better to slim this right down (or even eliminate it completely) and expand Zanydu, the “wacky” land, much more. And mid-way through the second disk, in Nefarious’ castle, things verge on feeling a little dragged (and a little empty without side-kick Flux) – they might have done better with ending the story at the end of Disk 1 and expanding the things seen in that half.

As I said, the animations are extremely well done, but a couple of them – notably the VERY long one at the start of the second disk, maybe are a little TOO long – after 6 minutes or so (yes, really!) you wish they’d just hurry up so you can get back to the game!

The game has a huge number of save slots, with a mini-screen shot and space to type a note of where you are, which is great; but the game doesn’t default to your most recent save, leaving you trawling through old saves until you find the right one.

The game runs fairly happily on my all-singing, all-dancing Pentium, but back when I originally played it on my 486, it crashed occasionally due to lack of memory.

One other thought – no dying. Now I don’t like dying every 2 footsteps in adventure games, but a cartoon land – such potential for so many gloriously cartoony gruesome deaths. A missed opportunity.

Oh, and one other thing. The US had a different cover, but here in the UK, the cover certainly did no favours in selling the game, and does it no justice at all.

The Bottom Line

I could never decide on my overall conclusion of this game. I had a great time playing it, but the overall feeling I got was that it tried TOO HARD to be a classic. Too many ideas crammed in, and the cutesy bit in the early stages of the game do it no real favors.
But it’s an excellent game with some amazing graphics, and some very amusing characters and dialogue. If you’re a keen adventure player who enjoys the LucasArts / Sierra adventures, then Toonstruck is well worth a play.