November 30, 2009
Captain Novolin was a notorious SNES title about a diabetic superhero who fought off sugary snacks. If Seanbaby’s review of the game is to be believed, that’s about all there was to this (probably) well-meaning game that only wanted to educate children about certain health problems but has nonetheless gone down in video game history as a silly joke.
On that note, I present Starbright’s Quest for the Code, a star-studded video game assembled to teach kids about asthma. Actually, the game isn’t geared towards kids in general but rather is targeted specifically towards kids suffering from asthma. I have no idea if this game was ever marketed or intended to turn any kind of profit. The still shrink-wrapped copy I procured for a dollar in a spent shop stipulated that it was not to be sold but should be freely given to an asthmatic child.
Here’s the story: Diane Sawyer — lending her newscasting talent to this charitable cause — breaks a story about a giant machine that has just landed in town and is threatening to release all manner of asthma triggers. The machine is run by one Mucus Airgon, someone who apparently really has it in for asthmatics and has a gang of 7 henchvillains creatively named “The Evil Seven”. So you know that 7 levels are going to be involved somehow. I should clarify at this point that the main thrust of the game is to educate asthmatic children how to live with asthma and that it does not have to be debilitating. It seems that Airgon’s grand plan is simply to demoralize asthmatic children. The gap between that and the “Profit!!” step remains a smidge hazy but I’m certain I have seen stranger premises in other games during this Gaming Pathology project.
The title of the game refers to the acquisition of 7 pieces of a code which will be used to destroy Airgon’s asthma-triggering machine. Or some such.
Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays the guide, Cyrus and shows up, Matrix-style (as in, he mysteriously contacts you through your computer). He leads you first through a lung simulator to teach you how the human respiratory system operates and how asthma and its triggers act upon the system. I had a sinking feeling about the game play aspect of the proceedings as soon as I saw the first activity — cleaning up snot in the nose.
Now, I’ve put up with a lot of outlandishly silly game play concepts for this blog (measuring and cutting drapes continues to stand out in my mind). But how creatively bankrupt does your premise need to be before cleaning up snot becomes a viable game play mechanic?
I hate to dwell too much on this point since this is most likely a kind-hearted charity effort. The game has 3 main types of game play, at least during the levels that I played, and not counting the cursory snot cleanup. The first type involves the player dragging different types of asthma triggers over areas of a room where that type of trigger can occur. The game then challenges the player about a good course of action for mitigating that trigger. This is seen above. The second type of game play, encountered after the player has finished auditing a room, is a simple point and click pixel hunt to determine the location of a member of the Evil Seven. After locating the dreaded villain, there is a trivia round where the player must answer a number of asthma-related trivia questions correctly in order to clear the level.
There is at least one other type of game play on offer– after clearing the first 2 levels, the player gets to shoot mucus in an Asteroids clone. There is likely to be another minigame after the next 4 villains, based on the way the villains are grouped in the stage select screen.
As mentioned, a lot of famous people lent their voice talent to their game. Here’s the full list:
- Cuba Gooding, Jr. as your guide, Cyrus
- Diane Sawyer as “The Newscaster”
- Kelsey Grammer as Mucus Airgon, leader of the Evil Seven
- General H. Norman Schwarzkoff as Robo-Roach
- Whoopi Goldberg as Moldy
- Funkmaster Flex as Mold Mob game announcer
- Jeff Goldblum as Alex Dander
- Shaquille O’Neal as The Fuminator
- Glenn Close as Chalktisha
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Perfuma
- Minnie Driver as Smokita
I would enjoy learning more about how this game was produced. The credits are quite extensive and a lot of work and talent went into it. Maybe one day I’ll put together a highlight reel of some of the villains from this largely Smacker-based game.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Childrens Games,Trivia Games,Windows Games | Comments (1)
October 27, 2009
Oh look, another Hello Kitty video game that isn’t in MobyGames yet. Dang it. All right, let’s just get this over with.
Really, I shouldn’t have a foul attitude about this. My last outing with a Hello Kitty game — Hello Kitty Dream Carnival — was actually quite the delightful romp. Hello Kitty Bubblegum Girlfriends is more of the same — colorful, simple, and actually very fun. I’m impressed that, even though Dream Carnival and Bubblegum Girlfriends were developed by different houses, they both carry a very consistent style. This probably goes to show that Sanrio exercises tight control over its licensees.
This game, like the other one, is a series of 8 rather well-engineered minigames. Here are the ones I found the most interesting.
First, I was all over Sky Bubble Popper, which is a variation of the Puzz Loop formula of which I have become a large fan thanks to Luxor and StoneLoops:
I always love a good Breakout clone and Cupcake Trampoline delivers while being the most exploitative minigame on offer:
Hello Kitty and her bunny friend use a trampoline to keep the squirrel in play grabbing ice cream cones and cupcakes. I hope the squirrel at least gets a cut of the spoils for her role.
I absolutely could not figure out what was going on with Bubble Gum Taxi which has something to do with picking up Tetris-looking pieces from the conveyor belt and placing them on a puzzle:
Crazy Cookie Race eventually shaped up to be my favorite game and it had many pieces:
Place cookies from the bottom shelf onto the light outlines moving on the conveyor belts (first and third from the top). Those cookies come out baked and decorated on the second and fourth belts where they must be manually picked up and placed into the appropriate boxes on top before they reach the end of the belt. You’re going through a lot of ingredients but Hello Kitty’s friends have many more for you to use. You just need to click on them when they arrive with the ingredients and they will cheerfully drop them into the cauldron.
Interesting tech trivia: The credits for the game give a shout out to the Lua programming language, implying that it must be used in the game somehow.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Childrens Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)
October 26, 2009
I’ve seen Operation and Clue adaptations in this Gaming Pathology project and now I come to another board game adaptation — Candy Land. I wonder if this will be a direct adaptation (like Clue) or an “inspired by” type of adaptation (like Operation). The answer turns out to be a mixture– it is a direct adaptation of the original Candy Land board game but with 8 minigames/side activities to keep things interesting.
As for the primary board game, the developers went through the trouble of lovingly modeling the beautiful Candy Landscape in 3D and rendering still shots that encompass every single space in the game. When moving from one space to the next, the player is treated to a somewhat clunky transition between these shots. With a little more computing horsepower, this could be a great FPS setting or some kind of 3D animated game.
Now here are some of the more unusual items that struck me about the side activities. In the Gingerbread Plum Forest, the player meets Plumpy who cheerfully describes himself as the last of the Plumpa Trolls. You would think that being the last of his race would be cause for despair, but not so. Plumpy wants nothing more than for you to tickle him into surrendering plums for a pie. Maybe that’s his way of coping with the trauma and depression.
Next to the Ice Cream Sea, the player has the opportunity to customize a giant sundae by clicking through the various layers in order to rotate through colors/flavors. Then, clicking on the creatures surrounding the sundae allows for decorating. Afterwards, ask the fairy to set the sundae adrift on the Ice Cream Sea where it is promptly devoured by a whale. It seems that eating it on shore would have been a positive idea. Then again, maybe it’s better to let the whale have at it considering that the sundae was decorated with bodily excretions from anthropomorphic confections and foodstuffs.
The Lollipop Woods afford the player the opportunity to decorate giant lollipop trees using a special decorating machine. It turns out that lollipop decoration is performed in a CMYK colorspace.
This is Gloppy, the proprietor of the Molasses Swamp. There are no activities in the swamp except to interact with a few surroundings.
Indeed, the highlight (lowlight?) of the swamp is when Gloppy implores you to — direct quote — “Come back again so we can get messy together.”
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Childrens Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)
October 18, 2009
So far, all of the food-related advergames I have seen on this blog have been for items that are not held in high regard by nutritionists. So here is Dole’s 5-A-Day Adventures which promises to teach us all about proper nutrition and exercise in the most cloying ways imaginable.
So this is pretty straightforward. There are 8 areas, as seen in the above screenshot. Each one provides the player with a lecture about some aspect of nutrition or exercise, usually delivered by anthropomorphic produce (“Hey kids! Remember to eat lots of me and my friends!”). Here’s the phyto chemical parade. I’m trying to figure out if there is a demographic that would be old enough to comprehend words like “phyto chemical” yet still young enough to withstand the inanity of this game.
Afterwards — and the UI is a bit confusing in this respect — the player can choose to either take the Challenge or the Ultimate Challenge for a given area. The respective challenges are a bit misnamed. The unadorned “Challenge” is actually significantly tougher and revolves around trivia that is sometimes multiple choice (as seen in the next screenshot) and sometimes interactive (like having to build a food pyramid). Players earn tokens for correctly answering these questions.
The “Ultimate Challenge” is an insidious misnomer. These present a series of yes/no questions where correct answers are awarded a gold star each. After a little playing, you will no doubt notice a distinct pattern: all the answers are a resounding “Yes”. And they all seem to be somewhat behaviorally-oriented:
Other questions were along the lines of “I sang one of the 5-A-Day songs to my family”; “I sang a 5-A-Day song with my friends.” It was around this time that I decided this was a little messed up. Let’s face it– the only way that kids are going to be exposed to this is in a compulsory context in a classroom environment. And here is this automated mechanism dispassionately supplying repeated negative feedback if a child dares to answer that he or she did not sing a 5-A-Day song.
With any luck, some budding computer hackers exposed to this at a precious young age were able to reverse engineer the data file format, which the game was nice enough to store in a folder on the desktop. Let’s have a look:
Then launch the game again, select the hacked file:
Then call the teacher over to show off the fact that I successfully completed all the objectives in the game, and may I please go outside and play?
After feeling like I emerged triumphant in that skirmish, I checked my pantry only to discover a shelf of Dole brand canned products. So it seems Dole has won the larger battle here.
The CD-ROM I have is marked “2000 edition” and I found references on the internet dated as early as 1998. I also found a portfolio page from a company named IDD which claims credit for this game. IDD is not mentioned in the credits for my version, nor is their screenshot similar to anything in my edition. I was able to contact someone involved in the creation of this edition at eMotion Studios and my contact confirmed that there were just these 2 versions of the game.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Childrens Games,Licensed Schlock,Trivia Games,Windows Games | Comments (4)
July 29, 2009
The month is winding to a close and I don’t like for an entire month to transpire without making sure I play at least one strange new (old) game. So I picked one that I have had my eye on for quite some time due to its natural mysteriousness: Sky Island Mysteries. See? “Mystery” is right there in the title. Combined with sparse cover art and no manual, it sounds intriguing.
As usual, my interest was quickly dashed when I dove into the actual content. It’s another Macromedia Director-driven educational kids game. One thing I’ve finally started to notice about these games is that I’m pretty sure I’m hearing a lot of the same sound effects among various Director-derived games. I’m beginning to suspect that Director comes with a library of royalty-free sound effects that authors are allowed to distribute in their games.
So here I am, enlisted as a special assistant to one detective Joe Clue-steau. At Clue Central, he describes an outbreak of criminal activity and how I can help gather clues. (Brief aside: I wonder if I’m the only one who has been trained to cringe at the word “clue”? In the last decade, the word has so often been used in the context of an epithet.) The method for gathering clues is to solve puzzles unique to each of 3 sky islands. This doesn’t actually have anything to do with sleuthing, from what I could discern. After solving enough puzzles, some snake creature goes and retrieves a clue for us.
One type of puzzle — seen above — is the rebus found on, well, Rebus Isle. I had never heard of this before but it was certainly interesting. Based on the pictorial and animated clues, add or subtract sounds to develop words that answer the joke riddles. The one above was the most complicated that I encountered. It seems that rebus puzzles require a decent command of English phonetics.
Then there was Airshow Isle as shown above. To be honest, I was completely baffled by this one– something about organizing the logistics and flight plans of an entire airshow. Aren’t we supposed to be catching criminals, darn it? I just took a screenshot and moved on to Stadium Isle, home of — you guessed it — the stadium. The puzzle involves something called “Fripple”. The game doesn’t make it entirely clear what a Fripple is. Depending on the context I heard the word used, it could either be the sporting event being played in the stadium, or the race of misshapen creatures gathered for the event.
The player’s job during these puzzles is to place different creatures in seats depending on certain ad-hoc rules for those creatures. E.g., the cheerleaders only feel secure cheering when their sitting near other cheerleaders.
I was left a bit frightened of the consequences when the game challenged me thusly:
I assure you that, despite your overactive imagination and cynical worldview, the Fripples do something quite innocuous.
Somewhere along the line, these inane puzzles were supposed to net me enough clue currency to whittle down the list of suspects and solve various mysteries. No one has ever accused me of being very civic-minded and I didn’t care that much about taking a bite out of crime. I guess that makes me part of the problem rather than the solution.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Childrens Games,Educational Games,Mac Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)
March 22, 2009
Yep, one more. Another Barbie title that I overlooked during my Barbie gaming spree back in January. Honestly, I don’t know why I even bother to keep a spreadsheet of all my games if it can’t even help me keep track. MobyGames needs to have complete information on every Barbie game under the sun, and my sources indicate that we aren’t even close to being done.
So Barbie dons her fins and takes to the water in Barbie Mermaid Adventure. There are minigames aplenty, starting with the cuddlefish game (not to be confused with cuttlefish, at least, that’s what I’m asserting). The goal is to rock them all to sleep. If you pass by one that’s already snoozing, it will wake up. So there’s a little logic at work here.
These Barbie games (and Macromedia Director-based, kid-targeted games in general) are highly formulaic. So here’s the formula for Mermaid Adventure:
- 3 levels, each of which has:
- 1 rainbow dolphin
- 2 minigames
- 3 musicians
The goal of the game is to prepare the big party. In each of the 3 levels, find the rainbow dolphin. Before you can do that, you must complete the 2 minigames for the level. And while you’re at it, contact each of the 3 musicians jamming in that level.
Here’s another minigame, where it’s necessary to match 8 pairs of fish as they float around:
This game leaves me undecided about the aquatic doll — she’s either the most easygoing individual ever when faced with enormous stress, or she is a remarkable airhead who doesn’t understand priorities. The opening movie sets up all the problems (complete with all the juicy data I will need for a perfect MobyGames entry, which I managed to furiously transcribe, and I appreciate it was all explained right there in one place): We’re going to have a big party today with a carefully choreographed dance number to live music. But we need to personally invite the 9 musicians so that they can play — we’ll work out the music later. Oh, and the magic shell of light in the theater just broke. And that’s why we need the magical trio of rainbow dolphins — only they can repair it (I wanted to make a comment here about rainbow tuna nets but it’s late and I just can’t figure out a way to make it fit).
And Barbie still has time to spare to cheerfully listen to a clownfish tell silly fish jokes. I wager there are times when Barbie wishes she wasn’t so good with animals.
So while there should be 6 minigames, mathematically, there are actually only 4. There is one unique game per level, but one maze in each which Samika the Seahorse must complete. The goal for each of these mazes is to obtain something else for Barbie to wear at the party. I was a little stunned when I saw these boxer shorts:
Barbie assured me the item was actually a necklace. Naturally, there is an activity where you can decorate the necklace as well as earrings and a crown using the seashells collected throughout the adventure. Another non-game activity is to jam with the musicians.
One more minigame, and this one was predictably fun. It’s hard to go wrong with a Breakout clone which is what you must play to, well, save the whale:
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Barbie Games,Childrens Games,Girlie Games,Licensed Schlock,Windows Games | Comments (2)