1996 Burst
Designed by Richard Hare, Jennifer McWilliams, David Bishop, Mark Drop
Reviewed 1998 February 4

Rating +5 Linearity wide
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty challenging Relevance strong
Interface 1st paned simple Real-time minor

You are Drew Blanc (played by Christopher Lloyd), a slave cartoonist working for a big company, producing a show about a sickly sweet bunny. While working all night to produce character sketches for a new expansion into even more cute bunnies, you are magically transported into a cartoon world.

The world has three regions: Cutopia, where all the cute toons live; the Malevolands, home to all the mean and nasty toons; and Zanydu, which has the wacky, good-natured toons. Count Nefarious, ruler of the Malevolands, has invented a machine with a malevofier ray which turns nice toons into nasties. King Hugh of Cutopia will help you to return home, but only after you help him gather the parts necessary to build a cutifying machine, to help him counteract Nefarious' machine.

The first part of the game is a scavenger hunt for these parts. Here you are helped by Flux Wildly, a toons from Zanydu that you created in your idealistic youth, before being trapped into creating cute bunnies. You're not done once the machine is made, however. In the second part, things don't go quite as planned and you wind up trapped in Count Nefarious' dungeon, without Flux to help you. You must then escape from the dungeon, find a trans-dimensional warp device created by Nefarious, and escape the castle in the malevofying machine.

This is one of the funniest adventure games yet made. There is an edge to the toons that keeps the humour sharp. The malevolent toons are not the sweet toons of Saturday mornings, but grittier characters that have a touch of Ralph Bakshi about them. (Not too much, though: the teen rating is apt.) While the game world is not that big, it is filled with many characters who are fun to talk to. This is not a game to rush through; you want to try silly things just to see all the funny responses.

Toonstruck is not just a collection of gags -- there is a well designed game to play, too. If you tune your mind to the logic of the cartoon world, the challenges are well presented and reasonable. There are several clever and original challenges, including some riddles, a few machines, and many inventory based puzzles. There are many real-time challenges, but most are simple (e.g., wait for a character to be distracted then grab an object) and none set you back if you fail. There are a couple of challenges that require arcade level response, but they are simple and repeatable -- keep at it and you should be through it in less than five minutes.

The challenges are well integrated into the story; they are relevant parts of the cartoon world and your mission in it. One or two were fairly difficult, but most were of moderate difficulty. While one of many might be your personal stumper, you shouldn't be stalled for long, and the game will usually proceed at a steady, fun pace.

The interface is clean, and is very similar to the Discworld games. Your inventory is kept in a bottomless sack, which is normally a tiny icon on the lower left, but expands when clicked to show you icons of your booty. A single action mouse does everything.

The graphics are well done, but not flashy. They portray the cartoon worlds you've seen on screen just as you know them, not trying to enhance them to show off. The bravura performance is left to the voice acting, led by Lloyd and including Tim Curry, Dan Castellaneta, David Ogden-Stiers, Dom DeLuise, and many other accomplished cartoon voice actors.

Toonstruck combines a good story set in a funny world with a well designed and balanced set of challenges. Expert adventurers will have a jolly romp, but most will find a pleasant level of challenge, and all will find a barrel of laughs.

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.