Gilbert Goodmate and the Mushroom of Phungoria

2001 Prelusion
Designed by Daniel Nilsson, Lorne Laliberte; Mike Hiltunen, David Engdahl, Mats Öhr, Patrick Broddesson, Joel Ygberg, Per Hemmingsson
Reviewed 2001 November 2

Rating +2 Linearity wide, segmented
Reasonability sporadic Connectivity high
Difficulty challenging Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time minor

A long time ago, a young man defeated a megalomaniacal wizard by bopping him with a mushroom. The locals have since enshrined the mushroom, each year entrusting one person to guard it. You play Gilbert Goodmate, a young man. No, it's not your turn to guard the mushroom, but your grandfather's. The mushroom is stolen, and your grandfather is thrown in jail, to be executed for dereliction of duty. It's up to you to recover the mushroom to save ol' gramps. You'll get a bit of help from your sweetie -- the local princess -- and some of the other Phungorian natives. You won't get much help from party-hearty Vikings, intent upon enslaving you.

The plot is mostly just a scavenger hunt through Phungoria, followed by a chase across nearby lands. The people you meet have a surprising depth. It's not that they're very deep or complicated, but that they have just enough individuality and intelligence to make them seem real.

The dialogue, though, is slow moving. There's a lot of repetition, a lot of rambling monologue: it's intended to be funny, but I found it too obvious. The writers seem to be trying to disprove the axiom that brevity is the soul of wit; they didn't succeed. It's not that bad, though, when looked at as a fairy tale voice. The result is closer to King's Quest than Monkey Island.

While the plot isn't earth shattering, the structure and pacing are great. There are lots of challenges and plot triggers, laid out non-linearly for a large chunk of the game, with no sequencing problems. The story is constantly moving in small increments, not standing still then lurching ahead with an infodump.

There are many challenges. They usually make sense, in a cartoony sort of way. They tended towards silliness not because of what they required, but by what they didn't allow. For example, at one point you have to cut a line: the knife works, but the sword doesn't. I constantly had the right idea for overcoming a challenge, and had a viable plan, but it wasn't the One the authors had in mind. This might still be okay if the game acknowledged such actions with a "close but no cigar" indication, but there was none. The result of such failures is that you think your idea is wrong, so you move on to other approaches, doomed to failure. Fortunately, the actual solutions tend to make a kind of sense, and are fun, so you're not likely to be stumped for unbearably long. Some are devilishly clever, so the cheers drown out the grumbles.

One slight problem that popped up several times was poor focus. Some necessary objects fade into the background detail. It's not really pixel hunting, since the objects are large enough, but it's related. Think of E.T. hiding in the pile of stuffed toys. I also had some small problems with the hotspots on inventory objects. If you have an object "in hand", it may be larger than the scroll inventory button, making it hard to activate that button without accidentally dropping the object back into the inventory. It's just a small annoyance, but I was constantly tripping over it.

The background art was beautiful. The characters, though, seemed crude in contrast. They didn't seem to have clean, sure lines. It might just be an unfamiliar style. The voice acting was uniformly good, and the music was good, so overall the presentation was as good as any other cartoon style game I've seen.

Gilbert Goodmate has a lot of shortcomings, but they're only short by a bit, triples instead of home runs. The story is entertaining, the challenges are engaging and fun, and the presentation is beautiful.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.