Kids eh? What lovable little tykes they are. As soon as they can walk, they learn the basic skills of writing on wallpaper in crayon, spilling things just to see what yoghurt looks like out of the pot, helping themselves at the Woolies pic 'n' mix counter and saying 'poo' just to annoy Great Aunt Matilda.
Actually, now you think about it, kids can be pretty unlovable most of the time. And they get worse as they get older.
Our Willy is one such tearaway. A typical American pre-
You start the game in school. It's the last day before the summer holidays, sorry, summer vacation and Willy has landed himself in detention. The long, and realy quite dull, intro sequence shows Willy's pet frog, Horny (ar, arf, arf), leaping about in assembly, or roll call, or whatever the Americans call it.
He lands on the headmast... sorry, principal's head and nicks his wig. So, detention for Willy. Can you figure out how to sneak home? If so then you get to wander around your house, investigating all the rooms and basically just getting a feel for the place before dinner arrives, when you'll have to sit through several hours of dialogue in which you don't have any input.
This is one of Willy Beamish's biggest problems. There are a lot of semi-
The whole game gives quite a good impression of things just cruising along as normal in Willy's life. You know, you have meals with the family, you meet your gang for pizza, and so on. Every now and again the game will prod you further along the story line and you move onto the next problem.
The main aim of the game is to get Willy to the Nintari Championships, but he's a bit strapped for cash and Dad's lost his job. Cash can be raised by getting Horny to win the frog jumping contest. However, Horny is up against Turbofrog and he will need some extra stimulus to get him into a winning mood.
Along the way you'll have to solve other little puzzles to continue along the right track. For instance, can you bluff your way out of a beating from the local hard man? Can you figure out how to get out of school in time to intercept your report card? Also lurking in the background is the mysterious Tootsweet company, who are plotting to do fiendish things in the town sewer system. Quite how this will affect you I've no idea, but the whole thing will probably come together in some exciting big finale-
Well, it's probably no surprise to find out that Willy Beamish is by the self same bloke who wrote the rather wonderful Heart of China (Gamer Gold last month, fact fans). This does indeed promise great things, but to my dismay things weren't quite as hot as I'd hoped.
As I've already said, there are too many instances where you just sit back and watch static screens, and then there are times where you seem to just wander around waiting for inspiration. At first glance it looks very interactive, a game to rival Monkey Island even, but closer scrutiny and repeated play reveals that your responses are very conditioned. Sometimes it may seem that you've got several options open to you, but they all push you in the same direction. This may or may not bother you, but I couldn't help but feel a bit cheated by it.
There's humour, as you'd expect, but it's hard to tell just who it's aimed at. Sometimes there are clever little satirical digs at American society which will go way over kids' heads, and next you're being presented with a fart joke, which will have kids in stitches at the exclusion of us more refined adults.
On to technical things, and the graphics are quite nice. The backgrounds are often very detailed, colourful, laden with objects that you can examine, if not use.
The sprites are a bit stilted, as the hard drive whirring away frantically to itself proves, and a lot of the close-ups look like Dpaint pictures. A nice cartoony feel, but a bit of a comedown after the lush scenery of Heart of China.
Sound is, amazingly, absolutely abysmal. There is a tune, but the hard drive accessing interferes with it. So one minute it's bouncing along quite happily and then it goes all slow and garbled as another animation is loaded in. It's just like when the batteries start to wear down on your Walkman, y'know?
All in all, Willy Beamish isn't a bad little game. It's just not as good as I so desperately wanted it to be. It's a confused little product, not quite sure what it wants to be. For a start, it's too expensive for kids. Some of the Americanisms will confound them, and the twelve (count 'em, twelve!) disks that need to be installed will bore them rigid. As for adults, there's just not enough interaction to warrant this kind of money.
It's charming and cute for a while, but once you've finished it - as you undoubtedly will, as it gives you many prompts in the right direction - there's no incentive to try another route. Mainly because there is no other route. A brilliant idea, but a slightly less than brilliant game. Ho hum.