Tonight’s descent into gaming madness is I.M. Meen, another title from Simon & Schuster Interactive, who also brought us the business-as-war FPS Forbes Corporate Warrior. The cover of the CD-ROM bills it as an “action-packed 3D learning adventure for ages 9 and up”. That’s all I have to go on.
When I examine the contents of the CD-ROM, I realize that this must be a DOS-based game (also, the game’s copyright date is 1995). This gives me the opportunity to properly configure DOSBox for this experiment. I had forgotten just how slick DOSBox is as I do not often have occasion to use it. The game’s audio configuration has no trouble detecting DOSBox’s Sound Blaster emulation facilities and I’m off and running.
This eponymous villain has the most curious pet peeve: He can’t stand the thought of goody-goody children studying. He’s a proactive wizard/mad scientist/librarian/whatever so he creates a special book that can trap children in a labyrinth. In the intro animation, Meen manages to trap two more children — a boy and a girl — in the maze-book.
When you begin the game, you select between playing either the boy or the girl (with no notable difference between their in-game abilities) and you can also configure the play and reading levels. You are then cast into a Wolfenstein 3D-style maze where you immediately run into Meen’s traitorous Gnome lackey, Gnick, imploring you to rescue the children imprisoned in this dungeon by solving some kind of reading puzzles. Offensively, either child can throw a right hook using the space bar. This turns out to be enough to dispatch the giant blue spiders that infest the labyrinth. The trolls shown below, wielding spiked clubs, can usually sustain 2-3 blows from an elementary school student.
The red meter under the boy’s face is the boy’s health. I have not yet figured out if there is any way to replenish this health. And facing off with the numerous trolls in the dungeon tends to hurt an awful lot. Fortunately, there are some other limited-use offensive range weapons to be found in the game, including a fire wand and explod-o-fruit. These are picked up using a right mouse click and dragged into one of the squares underneath the power meter. To equip a weapon, drag it into the hand icon at the bottom of the screen. As for the other icons, the Meen icon brings up the game menu, the compass icon is informational, and map icon shows the auto-cartography feature which is incredibly useful in a dungeon crawl like this where everything looks the same.
An interesting item about this FPS-influenced game is that it appears to be controllable completely by a mouse if the player so chooses. Granted, that would be a bit tricky. You can move the mouse to various sections of the field and the mouse cursor indicates which direction the player will move when pressing the left mouse button. Further, the right mouse button throws a left punch. This is a fairly violent game by educational entertainment standards. Still, I think the game could have benefited from a strafe-punch option.
So where does the educational aspect come into play? When you see a scroll on the wall, approach it, press the space bar, and find yourself confronted with such a puzzle:
Correct the punctuation errors to free a fellow child. It’s interesting to note that the screen resolution changes from 320×200 to 640×480 for the text editor, and that the text editor is quite decent in that it actually supports word jumping with Ctrl-left/right.
I know that video games, just like any other form of entertainment, necessitate some suspension of disbelief, and that I should not think too hard about any aspect of them, particularly the storyline. However, I have the worst time understanding what Meen could possibly have against studious children. Has he had to deal with one too many know-it-all, smarmy little brats in whatever his day-to-day dealings happen to entail? Was he pushed over the edge by all those “My child is an honor student at…” bumper stickers? If you examine the above note screenshot that needs its punctuation fixed, you will see that it is written by Meen’s paranoid gnome henchman, Gnick. Gnick’s paranoid disposition in the game is inconsistent with the insolent tone of the note. However, his level of English composition skill could be in keeping with the low levels of education that Meen desires in those around him.
It could be that Meen is insecure about his own intellectual prowess and seeks to incapacitate the learning process for young children so they can’t possibly grow up to expose him for the fraud he is. I think I know people like that in real life.
But if you wish to peer a little more deeply into his mind to understand Meen’s motivations, here is the entire intro video for the game:
26 thoughts on “<span>DOS Time: I.M. Meen</span>”
What’s happened to the first screenshot? It looks a bit out of vsync. :)
Multimedia Mike says:
Indeed. Thanks for catching that. I have replaced it with a far more terrifying screenshot.
I think Meen is just an asshole. I’ve met quite a few people like that… :)
There are healing items in the game: Power Potions (which are like small medkits) and Stealth Sneakers (which are like large medkits). You can find a power potion on the first level if you look around, and also a pair of sneakers if you solve the wall puzzle correctly (this consisting of pulling the correct earring on two side-by-side pictures of Meen). Also, the enemies are actually making you tired, not killing you (if you don’t believe me, get hit down to about 1/4 of the red bar, then watch the portrait; the kid will [sooner or later] start yawning). This is so that when you run out of waky-wakyness (or ‘Agility’ as they put it in the manual), you can be thrown back into your special cell like the obedient prisoner you ought to be (this cell being the area where you begin the current level, obviously). No, I have no idea what agility has to do with staying awake, nor do I know what staying awake has to do with getting hit by a spiked club. Just know that when I was at that tender age when game logic isn’t questioned I had some fun with it and that it still holds a (very quirky) place in my heart leading me to still want to try and finish it (which I probably won’t anytime soon, since I’ve run across many, many other games that demand my attention more forcefully).
Multimedia Mike says:
@BDR: Thanks for the tips, in case I’m ever motivated to play this game again. And I’m glad to know someone else has heard of I.M. Meen.
Actually, I still own it. But yeah, an obscure title for sure so there aren’t too many people who would know anything about it.
Here are some more tips (I just replayed up to the fourth level):
1. Meen may pop up from time to time (in animated vids much like the intro) while you roam the dungeon; the only real effect his taunting you has is to possibly startle you (and the Pets he speaks of are always on the fourth level of the dungeon, which also have the friendly gnome in front of your cell to remind you of their presence in case you don’t know/forgot that there was going to be a Pet on the level [and these Pets are basically bosses for each section of the dungeon]).
2. As you’ve noticed, the 10 year old main character’s fists make for the most used and most useful weapon (since there’s not a whole lot of items in the dungeon, and all of them [save one that doesn’t show up until the end] have a limited number of uses before they dissappear), though you tend to take a bit of damage from meleeing most of your battles this way. You can, however, increase the reach of your fists (and thus reduce the damage you take) by turning diagonally and punching on the side closest to the place where the monster is coming towards you. It’s not an incredible boost but it is enough to get a few shots in (enough to dispatch ants, grim reapers, and trolls) before the bad guys can take a swing at you. This of course works best in corridors or around corners, which fortunately you’ll be fighting in most of the game (AFAIK, at least…)
3. There are two things in the tower area (levels 1-4) you’ll run across; push buttons and Meen faces. Push buttons are the weird white slabs with a black border around them that you might find around the dungeon (you should be able to find at least one while wandering through the levels); push them and you’ll be rewarded with a new passageway (most of the time these contain goodies, sometimes they have goodies and enemies, and other times they just open another path to a different part of the level). Meen faces work in a similar fashion, and it seems unless they are truly side-by-side all you have to do is right-click the earring to get the ‘good’ result from them (as opposed to the bad result which is health/’Agility’/awakeness reduction or being transported back into your cell).
Oh yeah.. just realized something a bit more pertinent to your writing (can’t believe I didn’t figure it out sooner): The paranoid helping gnome is Gnorris, not Gnick (which is why the writer of the note above seems to have a different disposition than the gnome in the game).
Multimedia Mike says:
Interesting. I didn’t get the impression that there were multiple gnomes in the game. I’m glad to have your Meen expertise on board.
Actually, I just remembered something else: If you get far enough in the game, you get to personally meet the other gnomes. They will be throwing axes at you as I recall, but you will get to meet them. ;P
Multimedia Mike says:
You really should write the definitive walkthrough for I.M. Meen, BDR. This knowledge needs to be preserved for the ages.
You really ought to be careful what you say. I’ve actually been encouraged enough (and had a perturbing enough experience in not being able to find a certain secret passage) to try and write something like a definitive walkthrough. I plan on blaming you for it, too. :P
I just picked this game up on eBay; after reading this webpage and also a review on Quandary, it sounded like fun. I felt lucky to find a copy as I have only very rarely seen it on eBay. Just as he said above, the game install in DOSBox is quick and painless. My copy didn’t come with a manual but I don’t think that will present any problems. I was glad to read the tips above. It looks like a fun game overall.
Multimedia Mike says:
Glad you were able to snare a copy. I hope you didn’t have to pay too much for it. Whenever I have looked it up, certain people want $50-$60 for this old title.
It cost me about $20 for the game in a jewel case only; no documentation, but that’s not really needed anyway. So, not too shabby. :) It certainly IS getting expensive when it pops up on eBay (and that is infrequent).
I used to play this when I was little and would like my younger brothers to try it, but the game is nowhere to be found. Could somebody please upload it somewhere?
Jason Enthonius says:
I remember that classic game, it’s kind of fun. But the game could not run well in XP, wish to collect the sound effects and its music, but I don’t know how to extract it. :(
If someone wants to direct my attention to a freeware or otherwise cheapish program that can automatically extract information from CDs, I’d be happy to try to provide an online copy of the game. God knows that Simon & Shuster aren’t making any profit off it now anyway.
I HAVE VISTA! and i use dosbox… but when i run IM MEEN its just a blank dos screen and nothing happens!!! how do i play the game!!!
I. M. Meen says:
This is the best game ever, it’s even better than Action 52, Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, or the second-best game ever, Anagrammatic.
I would play it but the grammar part makes me not want to.
“It could be that Meen is insecure about his own intellectual prowess and seeks to incapacitate the learning process for young children so they canâ€™t possibly grow up to expose him for the fraud he is.”
fraud he is.
Grammatical error :3
Grammatical error :3
Well I. M. Meen is used in many youtube poops, and is now an abandonware software.
I managed to screw up the games files so i don’t have to do the grammer parts, and i removed the backgrounds from the cutscenes to see if i can use them for Chroma Keying.
Does anyone know how to extract the internal files?
I still have I’M MEEN and CHILL games. It was my son. Now he has a stepdaughter and will let her play it when she is old enough. It is a good, tough and challenge game. Too bad, there isn’t more of these kind of education like these for the kids to learn.
The Magic of Animation « Kostya's Boring Codec World says:
[…] the comparison here’s the captured image from the intro playback (stolen from Mike’s review of the […]