Retrospective: Toonstruck • Page 2

Getting animated.

Then as mentioned, Tim Curry camping it up as the animated Nefarious, delighting in his evil lines. Plus, oh, it's only Dan Castellaneta, voice of Homer Simpson, as Flux. (Unrecognisably, it should be said - the man has range.) Plus the rest of the voice cast, playing the enormous number of cartoon inhabitants of the world, are all of an extraordinarily high quality. In fact, I'm struggling to think of any game I've played that has voice acting as good as this.

The voices are matched by the animation. The whole game feels like a tribute to classic cartooning, drawing from a range of sources. A mixture of Chuck Jones and John Kricfalusi, by way of a demented Disney, it may not have the detail of the greats, but it possesses the passion.

Extended cut-scene sequences often play out as tributes to Loony Tunes classics. If something goes through a wall, it of course leaves a them-shaped hole behind. Running to bowl naturally offers a Flintstones "diddly-diddly-dee" sound as tiptoes scuttle. Run off the edge of a cliff and there's going to be a few seconds before gravity kicks in. They're important rules the game understands.

Of course, an adventure is nothing without its puzzles, and here too Toonstruck shines. There are some extremely dodgy ones, and I'll confess to turning to a walkthrough on a couple of occasions, but otherwise there's a really splendid sense of application of inventory items in interesting ways - the core ingredient of great nineties adventures.

What makes it most satisfying here is that there's no attempt to hide the shopping list. The Malevolator has 12 items that make it work, things like polish, needles, stripes and salt. You are tasked to find each item's opposite counterpart. It's a dubious use of "opposite", more the "thing that goes with it". But it means you've got 11 things (sugar to replace spice is provided for you) to search the three areas for. Rather splendidly, it never tells you exactly what they are, leaving you to figure out that it's the bowling pins that will replace the needles in the malevolator's design.

The bulldog's gym is one of the most fun cartoon moments in the game.

It's beautifully balanced. Often adventures can either leave you with about two locations to explore at a time, removing any sense of freedom. Or they have a vast open space to explore and the resulting agoraphobia that leaves you not wanting to head anywhere. Here the world expands as you solve puzzles, access to the Malevolands only available once you've figured out how to get past a wolf beset by malapropisms.

The one catch is quite how painfully slowly the characters move. Wantonly missing is the option to double-click on an exit to jump straight there, and often you have to trudge quite some distances to complete tasks. Later in the game you can use a portable hole to more quickly get from each of the three town centres, but it still remains a laborious process.

I also enjoyed quite how many stalwarts of cartoons it didn't shy away from. At one point the heroes are even being boiled in a cooking pot. It's something of a surprise that there's not a sequence in which you're trying to escape from quicksand. The game just gets cartoons, understands why they're special, and revels in this. It can't be understated how much Toonstruck shines with this.

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John Walker

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