Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
The prequel to this game, 3 Skulls of the Toltecs (1996), is one of our all time favorite games. It was a hysterically funny, tongue-in-cheek look at our so-called wild American west, with outrageous characters, ridiculous situations, and a wonderfully self-interested amoral 'hero' named Fenimore Fillmore. It was sort of like a Western version of Monkey Island, and we loved it. So of course we were anxious to play this game. But it's been a long time between games. Has Fenimore Fillmore changed?
Well, yes and no. This game is still set in the West and Fenimore is still the hero. But anyone who played the first game will notice immediately that some major changes have occurred. For one thing, this game has a shockingly different look and feel to it because it is 3D instead of 2D. And you notice right away that a lot of the humor has been modified and some new tasks have been added, evidently to make it more appealing to kids. So at first we were not at all sure that we adults were going to like it. But we hadn't been playing for very long before we realized that, despite the differences, once again we had been sucked right into their game, and we were enjoying ourselves immensely. Some things never change!
As the game begins we see Fenimore, out riding his horse one night when he comes upon a farmhouse and peers in through the side window. It is the home of Joe Banister, a poor farmer, his wife Stella and their young son Billy. Suddenly without warning, the Starek gang arrives. They are the henchmen of a rich and powerful cattle rancher who has been trying to buy out the only two remaining farmers in the area. Joe, shotgun in hand, shouts that he will never sell, and so they prepare to burn the place down.
Things look like they may be getting a bit rough, so Fenimore, true to form, starts backing quietly away. But he backs right into a cactus, and the sudden pain in his butt makes him leap out in front of the gang, firing both of his pistols haphazardly. It's enough to scare the toughest hombre! They run.
The whole family thinks he's a hero, and so he's invited to dinner. But Fenimore is allergic to the artichoke soup that they serve him, passes out, and awakens the next morning only to find that his guns are missing. Little Billy has taken them, leaving nothing but his own toy pistols for Fenimore to use. It's gonna be an interesting day...
This is a 3D, 3rd person, point and click game, with a smart cursor, optional subtitles, and unlimited picture saves. Sound, graphic detail and mouse sensitivity can all be adjusted, and the unobtrusive music can be turned completely off if desired. The interface is expertly designed and very easy to use. The main menu button and the drag-and-drop inventory are both hidden in a strip at the top of the screen, while actions and subtitles appear in a strip at the bottom. A simple right click allows you to choose between 'look' and 'take/use' or 'speak to', which then brings up a dialogue strip with a choice of subjects. And there's an aerial view map that automatically appears whenever you want to change locations.
The graphics are wonderful... colorful, highly stylized Western exteriors and interiors inhabited by delightful characters that look like they've just stepped out of a Pixar film. The developers used a new generation engine called 'Picture', and the results are truly amazing to see in a 3D-adventure game. Everything in the game is mouse controlled, simple point and click, instead of being keyboard controlled like so many other 3D games have been. The characters all move logically, in real time. And we were fascinated watching such details as the changing camera view that follows Fenimore, and the accurate variations in his body shadow or reflection in mirrors, no matter what you choose to do.
But it is his wide range of realistic movements and facial expressions that is most impressive. Fenimore looks like Woody in Toy Story, but all grown up now, a 'real' cowboy. He walks, stands, mounts his horse (you can hear the leather saddle creaking) and even climbs things like a swaggering cowboy. And he smirks, grimaces, grins and leers like one too! His emotional reactions are a joy to watch, and some of his physical antics would put any acrobat to shame.
Creating memorable characters is something this company does very well, and you'll meet some new ones here that you won't soon forget. Our particular favorite was the self-important sheriff, but they're all great, from the talkative maid Livy to the dumb bandit and the mousy bank teller. And of course we can't forget to mention Fenimore's ladylove, the unconventional buxom redhead who steals both his heart and his freedom in the end. The characters are all broadly sketched Western stereotypes, but with a modern attitude that invites some very funny lines, and voice acting is excellent... we especially liked the voice of the irascible old codger who runs the telegraph office.
Evidently Fenimore has a hitherto unsuspected weakness for flattery, because he uncharacteristically volunteers to keep playing the hero and help defend the farmers against Starek. But he quickly learns that's not going to be as easy as he thought. He must find another man to join them in their fight, get money for the weapons, fortifications and ammunition that they'll need, and somehow stop Starek's extra gunmen from arriving on the afternoon train.
Most of the puzzles that you must solve to accomplish these things are traditional and inventory based. They're wonderfully convoluted and fun to do, and you are usually rewarded with one of the many seamlessly integrated outrageous cutscenes that pepper the game. You can't die in this game, but it's a good idea to save a lot anyway, both before and after all of the puzzles, because things can and do often happen unexpectedly.
But as mentioned previously, some new elements have also been added to this game that were not present in the first one. Your horse has an energy bar that decreases every time you ride him, plus you must search for the hidden money that you'll need in each new location. And you must catch a fish barehanded, do some target shooting, and have a couple of gunfights with the bad guys near the end.
Fortunately for us, all of these things, with the exception of the target shooting, were easy to do once we figured out how. We stocked up on carrots to feed the horse before we left the farm, augmented our cash by sending telegrams and getting bank loans, and figured out our gunfight strategy by saving first and trying it a couple of times. We even managed to successfully complete the target shooting after 6 or 7 tries.
Of course we would have preferred it if they had left these things out of the game. But we have to admit that they were all logical to the story, and the kids in your house will probably love them. It's a great game that your whole family will enjoy, a sidesplitting adventure guaranteed to make your day, and we highly recommend it. Don't forget to watch the outtakes at the end!
© January 2005 Mr. Bill's Adventureland
Please Note: We would recommend that you install the PATCH before you start playing the game. We also recommend that you do not exhaust your conversations with Shorty and do not start a drinking duel with Shorty until after you have defeated Whiskers, Fatty and the Fairman (all 3). We played the game the first time without the patch and exhausted our conversations with Shorty and started a drinking duel with him after we had defeated only Whiskers. The result was that we were unable to have a drinking duel with Shorty later in the game when we needed to, so... we started the game again from the beginning after installing the patch. We experienced no problems after that.
Developed (2003) by Revistronic and published in North America (2004) by The Adventure Company.
Rated: E for Everyone (cartoon violence, mild language, use of alcohol and tobacco)
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium III 850 MHz Processor; Windows 98 / 2000 / ME / XP; 128 MB RAM (256 MB Recommended); 3D Accelerator Graphics Card with 64 MB of Memory; DirectX 8.1 Compatible Sound Card; DirectX 8.1 or Higher; 1 GB of Free Hard Drive Space; Mouse, Keyboard and Speakers
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