Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill and Lela
This is another one of those old (1996) games that we've been meaning to play for like forever. We knew that it had to be something pretty special. After all, it was produced by Dreamworks (yep, THAT Dreamworks), with the idea for it liked and approved by the great Steven Spielberg himself. And everything we had read about it was good. Even PC Gamer named it their 'Game of the Year' back then... back when they still liked adventure games.
Nevertheless, we still weren't prepared for what we saw or what we heard when we actually started playing the game. Because we're here to tell you right now that this game is different... radically, weirdly, and utterly charmingly... different!!
To begin with, absolutely everything in the game (and we do mean everything) is made of what looks like brightly colored kids modeling clay. Now we had heard that the characters in the game were made of clay. But clay food? Clay water?? Clay TOILET PAPER???? And the music that goes with the whole thing is just as crazy, maybe even more so. It's rhythmic, funky and warped, with totally indecipherable vocals, and yet it's the kind of music that you find that you're tapping your feet to, in spite of yourself.
It all came as quite a shock. But as wild and wonderful as the setting is, it was the pointed little story that really got our attention. For the writers are a group of young philosophers, and so with a sly sense of humor (especially in the details), and a skewed and jaundiced eye, they decided to simplistically illustrate what the real problem was when God created man... the better to also show us the only solution.
You play Klaymen, a newly created man(?) made of clay, who awakens one morning without knowing who or even where he is, or what he's supposed to do. So you begin to explore... and it soon becomes clear that, to succeed, you must first find out exactly what has happened and why you're here. And that sets the stage for this well nigh perfect little adventure game.
It is a 2D, cartoon style, 3rd person, point & click game that is expertly designed and very easy to use, and it ran without a hitch. All of your options are located on one menu that can be accessed at any time by simply hitting the ESC key, and you can skip areas already seen in the game by hitting the Spacebar. The music can be turned on or off and there are apparently unlimited saves, which you name yourself.
There are no subtitles, but none are needed because there is no dialogue. Only a few of the characters speak, all of them in animations, and their voices are very clear. And there is only a small inventory, with no unused items. Potentially useful things are easy to spot (no pixel hunting), and Klaymen will pick up the item if you click on it, store it inside his chest, and then automatically use it when you click on the appropriate puzzle.
The idea for this unusual game was first spawned from a series of original paintings, and it shows. Apparently over 3 tons of clay and frame-by-frame hand positioning of the characters was required to create the world depicted in the artwork. And you can watch "how they made this mess" (their words, not ours), as well as meet the perpetrators, by clicking on the 'About' button in the options menu.
But the results were certainly worth the horrendous amount of work involved. The brilliant and bizarre full screen graphics are, quite simply, amazing, and both the movements and the facial expressions of the endearing characters seem absolutely real. And when you add to that the maniacal, addictive, jazz and blues based original score by Terry Taylor (the music soundtrack is still available... see below), then you have all the makings for a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable experience.
To unearth the truth, you must find and view 20 short videodiscs that have been scattered throughout this world, while solving a variety of puzzles as you go. The puzzles are not all that difficult if you are really observant about what you see and hear on your trek, and besides, there's a built-in hint system within the game that you discover right away. It's located where we all do our best thinking, in the 'John', and there you can always find inspiration about what to do next, written on sheets of toilet paper (we told you that these guys had a sense of humor!).
But there are a few things that we should perhaps warn you about. There is only one place in the game where you can die, and it is clearly marked. Just believe them when they tell you, and don't try it unless you save first. Also the game has a built in randomizer, so many of the puzzles won't have the same solution twice. This means that you must solve them yourself. You won't find the solutions in walkthroughs, just suggestions about how to approach them.
Most of the buttons and switches, etc, that you see along the way all do something, but often it's in a remote location and you can't immediately see the results. So it's important for you to understand that, unlike in most games, these all operate like a light switch... that is, they're either off or on. So when you encounter one that doesn't seem to do anything, make sure that you hit it only once, or you'll be turning it back off again.
But other than that, just be sure to make a note of any symbols that you see to save yourself from having to find them again, like we had to do, once you discover that you need them. And walk the whole length of the Hall of Records. It contains 'The Neverhood Chronicles', which is apparently a history of the creation of their world by Hoborg (their name for God). Don't worry, you don't have to read any of it, but you will find things that you need along the way and at the very end. And finally, once you have all 20 discs, patiently watch them all again even if you have previously seen most of them, because you will receive a necessary item for doing so.
It's a completely engrossing and very funny game, a little story about good and evil done with a lighthearted touch, and with, of course, 2 possible endings. The writers have a deliciously warped outlook on life that is evident in small details and sight gags throughout the game. It shows up in everything from the way Klaymen walks (just slumphing along... no bones, you know), to the sound of his burps when he eats; in everything from a security camera that wants to tell you 'knock knock' jokes, to an evil robot named Bil who is (naturally) part of a 'Kill Bil' puzzle.
And the animated cutscenes are absolutely priceless! We will never forget the expressions on the faces of the sheep when they saw that one of their group was in the wrong place at the wrong time... or the 'Alien vs Predator' fight to the death over a teddy bear that we witnessed.
It's a one-of-a-kind game that you should not miss, if you can possibly find a copy anywhere. We really enjoyed it... and we think that you will too. Thanks, Hoborg!
© April 2005 Mr. Bill's Adventureland
The complete music soundtrack of The Neverhood (including the words of the songs), along with the complete music soundtrack of Skullmonkeys and some music from Boombots, is still available in a two CD album titled Imaginarium. It can be found at DanielAmos.com
Developed (1996) by The Neverhood and published by DreamWorks Interactive.
Rated: T for Teen 13+ (mild violence)
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium 75 MHz Processor; Windows 95; 8 MB RAM (16 MB Recommended); 4X CD-ROM Drive; SVGA Video Card and Monitor; 8 Bit Windows Compatible Sound Card and Speakers (16 Bit Recommended); 10 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; Mouse
Where To Buy This Game:
The best chance for finding this game would be at used software places or auctions or trading sites. Our Places To Buy Games page may be able to assist you in finding a copy of this wonderful game.
Walkthroughs or Hints: