Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
Humphrey Bogart in the Hereafter! That's what this 'film noir' game reminds us of. One of the great old-fashioned 1940s Bogart movies, with all of the world-weary characters who smoke and drink too much (is that why they're dead?), crime and corruption, heart-breaking dames and seedy nightlife, and even the 'one-brick-short-of-a-full-load' sidekick with a heart of gold!
You play suave, debonair (especially in your white dinner jacket!) Manny Calavera. You talk like Bogart with a Latin accent, but look like one of those papier-mache skeleton dolls, called Calaveras, used in the Mexican Day of the Dead festivals... as do most, but not all, of the characters. As the title implies, the game is about the 'dance of death' and is based on the Aztec belief that, in the Land of the Dead, the soul must undertake (!) a 4 year journey to the 9th underworld, its final home. But getting there is half the fun, and you can either go economy or first-class luxury cruise (with exotic ports-of-call along the way for great things like cat racing!), depending on what you have 'earned' in life.
You are one of the combination Grim Reaper and Travel Agents who work for the Department of Death (the DOD) in El Marrow, selling tickets to the afterlife. But you work on commission, so what you earn depends on how many luxury tickets you can sell and lately you notice that you're not being given any of the 'good' clients. You're being played for a sucker and at this rate, you'll never earn enough to buy your own ticket to paradise. "Something is rotten in the Land of the Dead", and you've got to find out what's going on!
This is a 3rd person game that was designed for play without a mouse. You use the keyboard arrow keys for movement (or joystick or gamepad)... which we thought we would hate, but once we got used to it, we hardly noticed. No mouse means no cursor, so Manny turns his head and looks when he sees something of interest in the area. The resulting full screen gameplay is realistic and immersive, and even most of the puzzles require clues that you learn naturally from the unfolding story.
The graphics are superb, an Art Deco and Aztec inspired 'Casablanca-like' atmosphere, and the characters are endearing and memorable (a piano-playing demon who loves hot rods and gambling!). And the music is absolutely great, a rocking mixture of original Latin, Jazz, and Big Band Swing. We had to have the audio soundtrack CD (turn on your speakers and refresh to hear the theme now).
The story is divided into 4 parts (the 4 year journey) with each part taking place on that year's Day of the Dead festival day. It's an innovation that adds even more to the feeling of continuity and realism, since you get to see how everything and everyone has changed during the preceding year. And the story itself is pure delight, a pseudo-serious tale with tongue-in-cheek humor and sly references throughout... including its look at that "ultimate evil" which can befall you enroute!
We hated to see it end. The characters had become like family, and we missed them when they were gone! And when little papier-mache dolls can make you feel like that, it is high praise indeed... and the mark of a great game. Our choice for Game Of The Year 1998.
Produced (1998) and published by LucasArts Entertainment.
The game's music soundtrack CD was available from LucasArts, but apparently no longer.
Rated: T for Teen 13+ (animated violence, suggestive themes, use of tobacco and alcohol)
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium 133 MHz; Windows 95 / 98; Microsoft DirectX 6.0; 32 MB RAM; 4X CD ROM Drive; 2 MB PCI Graphics Card; 16-bit Sound Card; Keyboard; Optional 3D Graphics Support Requires a 4MB PCI or AGP 3D Accelerator
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