Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
They say that whenever the moon is full, even normally sane intelligent people can get a little strange. Well the people at Alternative Games in Canada have obviously been touched with some of that strangeness, and the result is an adventure that is pure moon madness magic. This is the first game from their small independent company, and they must have had a ball making it. Apparently nothing was too crazy to include, and so at first glance it looks (and sounds!) for all the world like one some children might put together. But don't let that amateurish veneer fool you. Because once the initial shock wears off, you discover that underneath all of this good natured lunacy lurks a well thought out, and expertly designed, true adventure game, that's been made by a group of pros who are simply still kids at heart.
You play a young and ambitious Private Investigator wannabe with a once in a lifetime opportunity: a job interview with the famed Copper & McIntosh agency in San Francisco. It's an unusual firm to say the least, the only one specializing in paranormal investigation, and as we soon learn, something weird has indeed been going on in the city. But you are naive and blissfully unaware. So when you are hired and given a seemingly simple robbery case, to prove your worth while the rest of the team is in Scotland, you dive right in without thought of the consequences. Little do you realize that before it's all over, you will find yourself up to your neck in mystery, magic ..... and murder! ..... and all in a world gone mad from the light of that Full Moon in San Francisco.
This is a 1st person, point & click game, with a drag and drop inventory, a notebook, a map (once you find it), and subtitles for conversations. The interface is somewhat unusual, but well designed and very easy to use. All menus are hidden within a colorful border surrounding the main game window, and can be accessed by simply holding the cursor over that area. Movement in the game is linear, with directional arrows at the edges of the picture.
But the game is decidedly different from the norm in several ways. Before you even begin to play, you must choose the gender and attributes of your character (percent strength, perception, and magical ability), gamble for your start up money (with 5 random rolls of the dice), and even adopt a pet (a dog, an ape, or a goat)! And just like in real life, what you can or can't do will vary according to your finances and ability ..... and your pet will always cost you time, aggravation, and money.
Finally you're ready to enter the game world itself, and if you're not prepared for it (as we weren't), that can be a bit of a shock. The 3D rendered settings look normal enough and some are quite beautiful, and the background music is nicely varied and lighthearted. But the 2D characters are unlike any that you've ever seen before. They're hand drawn, comic strip 'paper dolls', each deliberately exaggerated to illustrate the main features of that person's personality. And the humor is totally off-the-wall: 'Showerman' and an Elvis-impersonating elevator, to name just two examples, plus an occasional Full Moon icon that always results in something really absurd. And all of the game's outrageous dialogue is delivered by enthusiastic but obviously amateur actors, with voices that vary greatly in both talent and volume!
At first we didn't know whether to laugh or groan ..... and we did some of both. But it wasn't very long before we were taking it all in the spirit in which it was intended. And by the time the first day was over (the game is divided into 5 days), we were so caught up in solving this supernatural murder mystery that we hardly even noticed how loony it all was.
Because to solve it, you must think and act like you really live there. You must sleep, eat, get dressed, take your pet to the vet, and go out on dates. You must read the daily news, shop for supplies and a car, search for evidence, talk to witnesses and take notes, and keep in touch with your boss and others by phone and email. It's an engrossing unusual case, and it gets more serious and threatening as you go along. And yes, you can make mistakes and miss a clue, or make someone mad at you, and even die, so save often.
The puzzles vary from easy to difficult, but the hardest puzzle can be skipped if you're stumped. And the innovative design of the game includes a button that tells you what you need to do next (although not how), to help eliminate the need for a walkthrough. Plus something that we really liked: you actually get to choose whether you want to use a weapon or not. And even if you do want more action, it's only a stun gun that shoots rotten bananas!
It's an inspired and wonderfully offbeat game that the whole family can enjoy: a true one-of-a-kind original that should not be missed.
We like this new company's attitude ..... and we wish them luck.
Developed (2002) and published by Alternative Games.
Minimum System Requirements: PC Only!
PC: Pentium II 300 MHz Processor; Windows 95 / 98 / 2000 / ME / NT / XP; 64 MB RAM; 12X CD-ROM Drive; 16 MB Video Card; Windows Compatible Sound Card; Internet Explorer 5.01 or Higher; 350 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; Keyboard and Mouse
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Walkthroughs or Hints: