Once upon a time there was an evil wizard who lived in a castle near the little village of Phungoria. The bravest villagers tried and failed to kill the wizard, until one day it fell on the young, rather goofy looking Marvin to take his turn.
Holy Giant Mushrooms!
Surprised by the wizard on his way to the castle, Marvin was knocked off his feet and lost his sword. But just when he looked certain to die, he saw out of the corner of his eye .. a giant mushroom! Using the outsized fungus, he whacked the wizard upside the head, striking him down and thus saving the world. Of course, when he got home it was the fungus rather than Marvin which got all the glory, and an annual mushroom festival was established to remember how the world had been saved. Each year someone was picked from the village to look after the mushroom, which has sat safe on its plinth in the town square ever since.
Until today. Because today Abraham Goodmate was hit over the head with a large blunt instrument while he was cleaning the mushroom, and the dastardly assailant grabbed the sacred toadstool and made off with it. As young Gilbert Goodmate, it is up to you to recover the mushroom and save your grandfather Abraham, who has been thrown into prison and threatened with execution for allowing the relic to be stolen.
This being an adventure game though, finding the mushroom and uncovering the identity of the thief is easier said than done. Even getting out of your own house is something of a challenge, as it's built on top of a tall mountain and the only way down is in a ramshackle wooden lift. Unfortunately the crank snaps off in your hand as you wind it up from the valley far below, and you won't be going anywhere until you can fix it. It's going to be one of those days...
Luckily there are a vast number of items at your disposal throughout the game and, like any adventure game hero, Gilbert is something of a kleptomaniac at heart. There is no rubber chicken, but you will be able to pilfer a crystal ball, a mouldy old potato, some drugged honey, a book of bad love poems and a bottle of Dr Fraud's Miracle Medicine during your travels, along with many other equally bizarre items. Thankfully Gilbert has incredibly voluminous pockets to store all of these objects in, and the sight of him pulling an entire vaccuum cleaner out of his trousers is truly a disturbing sight to behold.
And the other characters you will meet on your travels are just as strange. There's the hypochondriac who believes he has almost every disease known to man, the suspicious looking agent from the Phungorian Bureau of Investigation who is on a drugs stake-out because the stolen mushroom may be a controlled substance ("we believe it has certain .. unusual properties"), the paranoid Pete who believes that the vikings are about to invade and spends his entire life sat on top of a tower with a cannon, the fortune-teller Madame Zyx with her freaky music and oil burners, and the cowardly viking who needs to slay a fearsome beast to prove his manhood.
I'm Not Putting That In My Mouth
A simple point-and-click interface is used throughout the game, and holding down the left mouse button over any object or character will give you a funny little mushroom-shaped icon which lets you select whether you want to use the item with your hands, eyes or mouth.
Selecting the eyes examines the object more closely, the hands allow you to pick up, touch or otherwise manipulate it, and the mouth lets you eat and talk. Every item and character in the game can be used with any of these three functions and the results can be amusing, if not particularly useful. Usually if you try to do something daft you will just get a message along the lines of "I don't want to look stupid", "it's not voice activated" or "I don't think that will help", but sometimes something truly silly will occur.
The game has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, and there are constant jokes at the expense of other adventure games, as well as funny throw-away references to everything from Monkey Island and Myst to soft drinks and the X-Files. Try using your sword on another character, for example, and Gilbert will complain that he doesn't have time to learn all of the insults, while the local eccentric inventor Elton has a big UFO poster on his wall reading "Believe? I just want to build one!"
Stop That, It's Silly
Generally the humour is spot on, and there's plenty here to keep you amused as you try to rescue your grandfather, recover the mushroom and win over the beautiful Princess Michelle while resisting the temptation to touch, fondle, grope or caress her (all of which you will be offered the opportunity to do if you try "using" her with the hands icon).
Some of the dialogue can be a little long-winded at times, even though it has been cut back slightly since the first version of the game we received, and although the voice acting is mostly very good, some of Gilbert's longer lines can sound a little flat and lifeless at times, especially when he's reading from a letter or book. But most of the conversations are funny enough to keep you involved, and if you run out of patience you can always skip forwards with the ESC key.
The only real frustration is that sometimes you will have to wade through a long chain of pointless small-talk before the game will allow you to ask or do anything useful, and occasionally you must go through several options before it will even let you out of the conversation at all. At these points you have to wonder why the game even gives you the choice of what to say, as you are forced to use all of the options anyway.
Apart from these few slight lapses in the dialogue and pacing though, Gilbert Goodmate is a very funny and highly entertaining adventure game, and thanks to the cartoonish hand-painted backdrops it's also a good looking if rather low-tech one. Some of the puzzles are a little obtuse, but they do at least make sense, and some of them are obviously send-ups of other adventure games, such as the daft tile-sliding and logic puzzles that you must solve to enter a hidden cave.
Coming hot on the heels of recent releases such as Stupid Invaders and Escape From Monkey Island, Gilbert Goodmate proves once again that the adventure game genre is still far from dead.
8 / 10