Brats entertainment

Adventures of Willy Beamish logo

DYNAMIX * £34.99 * Hard drive recommended * Mouse * Out now

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-pubescent schoolroom terrorist, he's addicted to Nintari videogames (now there's a subtle play on words, e?), eats pizza and, to be brutally frank, I'd probably hate his guts if I ever met him. And yet the game is appealing in a perverse sort of way.

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-animated scene setters in which you don't do anything. You can't even hurry them along, so you just have to put up with them. In fact, it's best to save the game after each one, so you won't have to plough through it all again if you fail.

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-type thing.

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.



Adventures of Willy Beamish logo

Who are two of the best animators in the world? Disney and Hanna Barbera? Well that may be the case but it takes more than a couple of big names to make a successful graphic adventure, as our Willy finds out...

It's curious how you can tell which country a game's from. French games are usually very weird and very colourful, while the Germans like technical and fast games. The Americans however, seem to have a never-ending desire to create film-like games on computers, hence games such as Monkey Island and anything by Sierra.

Willy Beamish is Sierra's latest outing and true to form it's a sort of movie game about a small boy and his frog called Horny. The storyline goes something like this: Willy's about to get an awful grade on his report card which means he won't be able to go to the Nintari championships, which is a kind of computer console Olympics.

It's a different sort of game altogether...
This is a curious type of game. It squats squarely between more standard graphic adventures and strategy/decision-making games. A typical scenario will involve you making a few decisions on Willy's behalf, such as sneaking out of class or not and then making the most of any situations that arise as a result in a more standard inventory, object, solution form.

For example, at the beginning Willy's stuck in class. The obvious way to get out is to fake a stomach cramp. Every time there's a decision to be made a window pops up and you simply choose the appropriate choice. A bit more of the story will then play out. Should things quieten down you'll be presented with the option of exploring the room on-screen by moving the mouse pointer about and trying to pick things up or exit to other locations.

Typically there are about five decisions to each static screen section. Thus it's easy to take the story off at complete tangents. Using the earlier example for instance, if you don't go to see the school nurse then you can do some writing and sneak out while the teacher's got her back turned to you.

It's not terribly taxing on the brain cells. If you save the game regularly then you could probably finish the entire game without having to restart once. In fact it would seem that the game was aimed fairly and squarely at kids; American kids that is.


Willy is fun for a while, though it won't grab your attention for very long because of the incredibly slow disk accessing.

Your mother wouldn't like it
Actually that's a lie, she'd love it. This is one of those wholesome games which you could happily let the Pope loose on. The graphics are superb, they've achieved a kind of oil-painting sheen to them which is evocative of Doctor Seuss in the Nineties.

The animation sections of the game, while pleasantly diverting are slow. You certainly wish that Willy could move with a bit more speed sometimes, though with the number of colours on screen at once, it's probably not a reasonable request.

Willy Beamish is fairly fun for a while, though it probably won't grab hold of anyone's attention for any great lengths of time. This is due, in part, to the incredibly slow disk accessing. The game comes on a massive 12(!) disks (yep count 'em) and you find that most of your time is spent swapping disk nine with three or disk two with eight. In fact this disk swapping is so soul destroying that it's not worth getting the game at all unless you've got a hard drive on which to install it. The verdict then takes into account the disk accessing; if it came on fewer disks and was a bit quicker, it would have been a different story. As it is Willy Beamish is tortuous fun.

Progress through Willy Beamish can be a frustrating process. You see, there are portions of the game where the computer characters interact with each other, during which your only job is to keeping hitting the right mouse button. For instance, in the hallway after you've sneaked out of class, the coach catches you and asks what you're doing. If you answer incorrectly he'll ask you to do 20 push-ups, which kicks off a small exchange of information. Then finally, when you've done the push-ups he'll ask exactly the same question again. Once you finally figure out what you're meant to do, you still have to endure elaborate and time-consuming animated sequences.

If you've got the impression that the game's about waiting, then you're right. While the problems are simply a case of hit and miss, you can't avoid the complex and tedious animated sections. If you forget to save regularly you'll end up having to watch the same yawn-inducing bits again and again.

Struck it lucky?
Willy Beamish is touted as a humorous game. The only funny thing about this game is that it comes on 12 disks and costs £34.99. Sierra claim that the game's got "a spice of adult humour thrown in". What they mean by this is your bog-standard Benny Hill humour which is about as funny as Barrymore's new show.

For example, if you make a trip to the nurse's office, you'll discover an extremely buxom girl who's ample proportions quiver about. Seriously, it's not titillating and it's not funny.

Other reasons to be dubious about this program's credentials include the fact that they give you a note book, stickers and assorted rainforest wasting bumph and the fact that it's sold 80,000 copies in the United States already. However the fact that the backdrops were drawn by two professional artists from Walt Disney just isn't enough to stop the program being consigned to the could-have-been-but-isn't file.



Kinderkram

Adventures of Willy Beamish logo

Na liebe Kinderchen, Ihr könnt doch sicher alle schon bis zwölf zählen? Das ist günstig, denn dann habt Ihr keine Schwierigkeiten mit dem Wechseln all der vielen Diskettlein dieses Süßen Spielchens. Allerdings dürftet Ihr in diesem Fall bereits viel zu erwachsen dafür sein...

Nach "Rise of the Dragon" und "Heart of China" wurde nun das dritte Adventure des Sierra-Partners Dynamix vom PC auf den Amiga umgesetzt. Wie nicht Amiga anders zu erwarten, gibt es wieder eine kinderleicht zu bedienende Mausklicksteuerung, traumhaft schön gezeichnete Grafiken mit zum Teil wirklich gut animierten Szenen und - ganz wenig Spiel!

Inhaltlich geht es bei diesem "interaktiven Comic" um den kleinen Willy, der für sein Leben gern an der Nintari-Spielemeisterschaft teilnehmen würde. Das Problem dabei ist, daß sein Zeugnis nicht übermäßig berauschend ausgefallen ist, zudem hat Papi soeben seinen Job verloren, was den altern Herrn auch nicht gerade in Spendierlaune versetzt. Weil aller schlechten Dinge drei sind, handelt es sich bei der Süßstoffirma Tootsweet, die Daddy einen neuen Job angeboten hat, anscheinend um einen äußerst dubiosen Laden...

So unüberwindlich all diese Probleme auch erscheinen mögen, gelöst hat man sie in drei, vier Stunden. Man braucht bloß bei den Gesprächen, die im Multiple-Choice-Verfahren ablaufen, jeweils die sinnvollste Antwort auswählen und die simpel gemachten Rätsel knacken - schon ist der Erfahrungsschatz wieder um ein geschafftes Spiel reicher! Hier mal ein Beispiel für den horrenden Schwierigkeitsgrad: Wer im Café den herumnervenden Rüpel loswerden will, muß dazu nur das Warnschild von der terpetinverseuchten Toilette entfernen. Wenig später geht der Kerl nämlich dort rein, zündet sich eine Zigarette an und... gibt endgültig Ruhe!

Daß das Game eher zur leichtlöslichen Sorte gehört, heißt aber noch lange nicht, daß es deswegen langweilig wäre. Ganz im Gegenteil, das Programm hat ein paar astreine Gags auf Lager: Einmal wird Willy z.B. von einer Straßengang angepöbelt, woraufhin eine scheinbar friedliche japanische Touristengruppe plötzlich zu einem Haufen wilder Karatekas mutiert, die den Knaben entschlossen verteidigt! Oder Horny, der mit Cola gedopte Frosch - echt zum Kichern! Aber was hilft es, nach wenigen Stunden ist der Spaß vorbei, und dann ärgert man sich bloß noch über die rund 120 Märker, die man dafür ausgegeben hat.

Zudem sind die Bilder zwar sehr hübsch und sehenswert animiert, die Begleitmusik ist ebenfalls recht ordentlich, aber die hohe Handhabungsnote gilt eigentlich nur für den Festplattenbetrieb. Wer sowas nicht hat, kann sich schonmal innerlich darauf einstellen, daß er bereits während des Vorspanns mehrfach die (insgesamt zwölf!) Disks jonglieren darf! Sieht man von diesen "Kleinigkeiten" ab, ist Willy Beamish wirklich ein sehr witziges Adventure... (C. Borgmeier)



Adventures of Willy Beamish logo

Sierra go back to school for their latest hard-drive based graphic extravaganza.

Lawk-a-lawdy, it's another American brat. 'No, keep calm', I thought. 'Don't let your pathological hate of Macauley Culkin and his kind of prejudice you against Willy Beamish'.
But enough of my personal psychotic tendencies, and on with Sierra's latest stab at a hard-drive based interactive adventure (well, would you want to play from 12 floppies?). Broken down into the simplest possible terms, Willy Beamish comes across like the child of an unholy marriage between Heart Of China and Leisure Suit Larry 5. And, as such, it has many of the same strengths and weaknesses as those games (obviously most of the weaknesses can be traced to the Larry side of the percentage).

The game begins with Willy's frog causing a bit of commotion in school assembly - the last of the school year. From here we see Willy daydreaming about playing in the 'Nintari' Games Championship (Nintari = Nintendo mixed with Atari - clever, e? Well, maybe not). His fantasy soon dissolves in a puff of smoke, though, and the realisation that he's actually sitting in the class, with the witch-like teacher staring down at him.
Teacher explains that this is the last lesson of the school year, and that the report cards have been posted to all the kids' parents - it's at this point that you can be forgiven for complaining, quite loudly, that, hey, we're five minutes into gametime, and we haven't actually been given the chance to do anything yet! Thankfully this intro of David Lean proportions can be skipped, but...


A nice try, but the result is far too limited

Into the game, and the structure is similar(is) to Heart of China. which means that the bits of 'action' are divided by little bits where the players get to select a possible action or choose an answer to a question. Movement is achieved by moving the cursor around - if it transforms into an arrow, then Willy can move in that direction. If not, it's tough. The conversation bits are pretty rudimentary, usually no more than three possible answers are available. More often than not selecting the inappropriate answer will result in Willy being sent off to Military Academy (Bill & Ted, anyone?) i.e. Game Over.
This limited form of control and interaction is frustrating to say the least. There's practically no freedom of movement (one of the most important ingredients to an adventure) and any deviation it does allow from the correct path to completion might be fun, but sure doesn't get you any further.

Willy Beamish does have good points, though. The graphics are pretty snazzy, with watercolour-style backgrounds - all unfinished lines and carefree drabs of colour. The sprites perhaps look a little too simple by contrast, but they move pretty well. And the cameo pics of the people actually do have quite a bit of character (much like the nurse's 'top heavy' uniform, which seems to have a life all of its own).

IT'S A MAN, MAN'S WORLD
Willy's mum is particularly well, um, realised. Call me a sexist (the girls in the office do anyway), but it's not hard to forget about the little brat, and concentrate much more on the irresistibly cute parent. Hey, nice belly button!
Willy's kid sister also proved kind of fun. Demanding to be pushed ever higher on the swing, it's hard not to succumb to her wishes. Hey, kid, you want to go really high? Hee, hee, hee. These little (ahem) 'high points' really show just what can be done with the scenario and game structure. It's just a pity that the plotting wasn't a little 'tighter', and more freedom made available at each stage.


The conversation is pretty rudimentary

I guess the best comparison is along the lines that if Heart Of China is one of those posh Eagle picture stories, then Willy Beamish is a good old-fashioned cartoon strip - and as such could easily be the more successful of the two.

The story isn't bad, the characters are neat, and the cartoon graphics work well. It's just the one-dimensional nature of the gameplay which lets things down. I known it's supposed to be like playing a comic, but that doesn't mean that the plot has to be so linear. More 'pathways' would have bolstered the longevity tenfold.

THE COMIC DOESN'T STAND UP
As it stands it plays like a straight strip, with just the one plot. The result is that deviations from the predetermined plot are so minor as to be unnoticeable, character interaction is similarly down to pre-programming, and once it's been seen once, there's no need to ever play it again. In this sense it's going to suffer comparisons with - of all things - Space Ace 2.

To sum up then, it's a nice try, but the result is just far too limited. I hear that they're currently working on Willy Beamish 2 - maybe that one will up the level of interactiveness a bit, because as it stands the game system used in Willy Beamish is just way too simple. Hrmph. I never liked kids anyway.


SCHOOL'S OUT FOR SUMMER...
The lengthy intro sequence depicts life at your typical American school. It may be the last day before the school holidays, but there's still plenty of time for our Willy to land himself into trouble. Even as early as morning assembly things aren't exactly going smoothly...
Adventures of Willy Beamish: Introduction
In morning assembly at Carbuncle High, Willy and his friends grab a nap...
Adventures of Willy Beamish: Introduction
Mr Frick drones on and one. The kids, as usual, pay no attention whatsoever.
Adventures of Willy Beamish: Introduction
Willy snores away, while something small and green rustles in his backpack.
Adventures of Willy Beamish: Introduction
Wake up Willy! Horny is about to cause havoc, and Mr Frick won't be pleased.
Adventures of Willy Beamish: Introduction
Willy wakes up, but not in time to catch his pet frog. Now he's in trouble!
Adventures of Willy Beamish: Introduction
Mr Frick becomes an unwilling frog-lover. This is not going to be a good day...

Adventures of Willy Beamish logo

Nostalgia's a funny thing. For instance, when I was a kid, I would have given my right arm for a pair of X-Ray specs. These promised that, if I parted with several chewing gum wrappers, I would be able to look at the bones in my hand or - and this is what I really wanted them for - through women's clothing. Of course, reality was totally different and, on borrowing a pair, the bones were just the result of an optical illusion and I grew up thinking that women's legs joined at the knee. The reason for this memory? Well, Dynamix's Willy Beamish is all about that 'difficult' age.

Spanning a ridiculous TWELVE disks, Willy Beamish is a point 'n' click adventure following the fortunes of young Willy as he bungles his way through life. As a nine-year old, Willy's only aspiration is to enter the Nintari video game championships, and it is up to the player to help him realise this dream.

Starting in the detention room in Willy's school, the player must use the mouse pointer to collect objects and select actions and answers from a series of menus. Unfortunately, though, for every small action you perform, there is an inordinate amount of disks accessing which, even when running from a hard disk, interrupts the flow of the game enormously. In addition, although a number of options are thrown at Willy, mistakes are almost impossible to rectify and often lead the player into a dead-end situation.

The linear gameplay revolves around picking the right answer at every key point, whether it involves helping your Mum (sorry, Mom) in the kitchen or taking a hall pass to skip a detention. However, everything happens at such a snail's pace that I had been sitting at the machine for nigh-en three-quarters of an hour before anything integral to the plot happened! OK, so this is the price you play for such impressive graphics, but even they can't disguise pure padding.

Anyway, after enduring much accessing and even more fancy screens and slow animations, I watched uninterested as, after loads of dully family waffle about the older sister's boyfriends and the like. Willy's Dad announced he had been made redundant. Willy then has to come up with the entrance money needed to stake a claim in the Nintari championships and the actual adventure begins - along with a further series of screens and options.

I really like the idea of basing a game on a nine-year-old's point of view, but Willy Beamish is bogged down with tedious loading and intermission screens. As you reel through the wads of waffle it is very easy to miss key clues, and stuff your chances of reaching the championships. Granted, the graphics, sound and the simple control system are excellent, but the continual accessing and swapping of disks ruins any really enjoyment.


WILLY WIN? Guiding WIlly's actions is simplicity itself. Using the mouse to guide the pointer, the arrow you control will change colour if there is something 'usable' in the vicinity. In addition, when the arrow comes near a possible exit, it will change to an exit sign indicating you can leave. To use objects, Willy has a satchel which contains everything he has collected, and using or giving an object is just a matter of clicking on the required object and moving it to the place of use. In addtion, by clicking on the right mouse button, the arrow icon changes to that of a magnifying glass which allows the user to survey individual objects.