The Games That Time Forgot: Toonstruck

How can you not love a game with cover art like this? Christopher Lloyd is awesome. On Taxi, he was Reverend Jim; in Back To The Future, he was Doc Brown; and in Toonstruck, he was Drew Blanc. The failure of Toonstruck isn’t nearly as gargantuan or unfortunate as last week’s game, but that doesn’t make it any less depressing. Toonstruck was a fun, hilarious romp through an animated world that was cut way too short by some overzealous designers.

The Plot Drew Blanc is an animator whose claim to fame was The Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show, which is exactly as annoying as it sounds. Drew always hated the show, and still does, but it was nonetheless his creation, and now his boss wants him to create an even bigger and better version of it–Fluffy and Friends. While Drew is up late, suffering from insomnia and writers block, his TV mysteriously turns on by itself, showing, of all things, The Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show. Drew gets sucked into the TV, and when he awakes, finds himself inside the very cartoon world he created. When he gets there, he meets Flux Wildly, a small, zany, purple creature of Drew’s creation that had been rejected before The Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show ever came to fruition. With Flux’s help, Drew has to end the war between the different countries in the Toon World: Cutopia (where everyone is happy and free and smiling), The Malevolands (a land full of pain and evil), and Zanydu (where everyone is wacky and insane). Count Nefarious, the ruler of the Malevolands, has created a weapon (“The Malevolator”) that turns everything it hits into an evil, twisted version of its former self. King Hugh, ruler of Cutopia, charges Drew and Flux to collect items to create a counter-malevolation device to combat Nefarious. A Cutopian landscape, complete with a "Care-crow" (he doesn't like to frighten people).

The Gameplay It plays like a typical adventure game, but decidely more minimalist. The game is played entirely with the mouse, you can open up your inventory with a small icon on the lower left of the screen, and your cursor is context-sensitive. In terms of the actual game mechanics, Toonstruck is extremely straightforward. Drew gets zapped by a (self-proclaimed) all-knowing robot. Later on, he gets confused and explodes when you ask him, "What is the one question you cannot answer?" What makes Toonstruck great, however, is the enormous sense of style the game has. For anyone who watched the cartoons of Tex Avery or Chuck Jones when they were younger, Toonstruck has a pleasantly familiar feel to it. From the dialogue, to the animation, to the puzzles themselves, everything in the game abides by a sort of “cartoon logic”: for example, all elephants are scared of mice, throwing an ear of corn into a fire immediately produces popcorn, and you can eventually get a “portable hole” that allows you to travel from one area to another instantaneously, simply by stepping into it. It just plain looks cool, too: Christopher Lloyd is the only real-world character in the game, so if you’re a fan of seeing live-action characters interact with animated ones, then this game will be right up your alley. It looks seamless and awesome to see Drew act alongside his animated companions—so much so that it might make you want to rent Who Framed Roger Rabbit again. "Moo for me, baby! Moo!" The game also has a Looney Tunes-inspired, twisted sense of humor. Physical violence is everywhere—there’s even a store you can go to where the owners make a living out of beating the crap out of each other, and then selling you the same items they hurt each other with. Later on, the game gets darker, but still remains funny: after they get hit with The Malevolator, a barn full of happy and talkative cows transforms into a weird dungeon of S&M equipment. The cows themselves become dominatrixes.

Why You Probably Haven’t Played It Because Virgin Interactive is made up of total morons. Okay, first of all, the final version of the game was supposed to be twice as long. TWICE. As long. The game was originally to be four discs long, but was eventually cut down to two—Virgin Interactive was so sure that the game would be a hit, that they saved the latter two discs for the eventual sequel. I would like to take this moment to point out that John Travolta started to film the sequel to Battlefield Earth before the original was even in post-production, just because he was so sure audiences would love the first. Zanydu. The other two discs would have included an incredible amount of stuff: there was going to be an entire Wild West world, an area that resembled a child’s bedroom at night (complete with scary closet monsters that could only be defeated by turning on a light), and, strangest of all, you would have gotten to meet Vincent Van Gogh during one of his creative dry spells. If you’ve never played the game, it’s probably difficult to be interested about those new levels, but trust me when I say that their addition would have made the game a hell of a lot longer, and even more fun than it already was. What little is left of the concept art for these deleted scenes can be found here. Then, there’s the typical lack of marketing, good reviews but bad sales, so on and so forth, and the planned sequel was cancelled. Toonstruck’s failure wasn’t really a surprising one. The tone was both too dark for kid gamers and, at times, too zany for adults. It was also an adventure game, which puts it in pretty bad standing to begin with from a sales perspective. However, the failure of Toonstruck, and the cancellation of its sequel, remains very depressing — quite simply, Toonstruck was fun. The characters were funny, the visuals were great, and the puzzles were entertaining. If you want to play it, you’re gonna have to eBay a copy, and even then you’re going to have to do a respectable amount of tinkering to get it to work on Windows XP. However, if you’re at all a fan of zany adventure games or the Looney Tunes, then you’ll definitely enjoy Toonstruck.

DESTRUCTOID READERS: We’re looking for your suggestions as to what the next Games That Time Forgot articles should be on. Feel free to leave your game recommendations in the comments.

Anthony Burch