Down in the Dumps

 

Developer:    Haiku Studios

Publisher:    Philips Media

Released:   1996

PC Requirements:    IBM PC, P-90 MHz DOS 6.1, Quad speed CD Rom, 16 megs Ram, 60 megs HD, VESA compliant with 1 meg memory (640 X 480, 256 colors), 16 bit Sound Blaster compatible sound card.

 

 

 

by Singer

I REALLY wish I hadn't chosen this game for my first review here at GB. At the time, it seemed like a good idea pick an obscure title that has likely piqued the curiosity of anyone who's seen it offered at Playing Games or elsewhere. I had visions of trumpeting this game as a hidden gem that was sorely neglected due to poor marketing or its unusual subject matter. At worst, I assumed I'd be heralding the game as a diamond in the rough, hindered by its flaws, but well worth a play for the many reasons I'd spell out. Instead, I'll be telling you why it's a garbage game in more ways than one.

Although a DOS-based game, it supports Windows 95 (which is what I used, so I can't speak for Win98 or above), and I had no technical problems. Installation was a breeze, so off we go to the game.

The story begins with the Blubs, an average family of aliens, colliding with the spaceship of some unsavoury characters, sending both ships hurtling towards our very own Earth. Unfortunately for the Blubs, they crash land in a dump and can't escape until they've repaired their ship.

The gameplay is standard mouse-based, third-person, point 'n click adventure fare. The game itself is broken up into four self-contained episodes, each of which must be completed before proceeding to the next. Three of the four do revolve around finding an item for your broken ship, while the other wanders off in an unrelated direction.

You control each of the Blubs at various points of the game, so allow me to introduce them to you. They are: Grandpa Blub, Grandma Blub, Mr. Blub, Mrs. Blub, Son, and Daughter. According to the on-disc manual, the name of the family animal is Stinky, but the game simply refers to it as "the Pet". Similarly, the villains are subtly labeled "Bad Guys". Presumably if you think of yourself as "the Player", you'll fit right in! Without even the benefit of NAMES, you'll find it difficult to care about any of the game characters. Zero marks for creativity here.

The best feature of this game, far and away, is the graphics. While one might expect the locale to bring it down in this department, the game looks colourful and interesting. This isn't so much an actual dump as a badly littered area, and the scattered trash adds a visual flavour to the game. Everything is done in a cartoon-ish style which is quite charming. Items you can pick up or interact with are clearly defined, so no pixel hunting is necessary.

The quasi-3D presentation has no bearing on the gameplay, and in fact drags it down, as the characters walk as if they were wading ankle-deep in dump sludge. Fortunately, you can hit the space bar to end each animation, or turn them off entirely. Cutscenes and transitions between screens are a bit of an eye-sore, however.

Voice acting is acceptable, and I might even call it "good", although the dialogue is generally so abysmal that you spend your time waiting for them to FINISH talking. This was supposed to be a funny game, but apart from the odd amusing line or two, the comedy consistently missed the mark. Normally I appreciate weird, but this game out-weirded itself.

There are also two incredibly dreary mini-games that you are required to complete in order to proceed. One in particular is quite frustrating, as the odds are clearly stacked against you, and once you lose, you're forced to start over. You could be playing that sequence for a looooong time.

So what about the puzzles?... The good news is that there are no slider puzzles, mazes or the like. The puzzles in Down in the Dumps are purely inventory-based. Too bad they make absolutely no sense for the most part. The developers seem to have chosen the time honoured tradition of creating the wackiest solutions they could think of and built the puzzles backwards from there. To make matters worse, this game contains a whole SCHOOL of red herrings. At one point it occurred to me that I had more junk in my inventory than in the dump. So I spent most of my time trying everything possible, and usually I'd stumble across the solution eventually. However, some solutions were SO specific in terms of where, when and how to use items, I'd never have figured them out without the help of a walkthrough.

And speaking of walkthroughs, here's the real kicker of my experience with the game. I mentioned earlier that the game consisted of four episodes, right? Well, that's what you're led to believe by the game. And the only two walkthroughs available agreed with that assessment. However, playing the mini-games must have induced some kind of delirium, because for some inexplicable reason, I went back in after the credits rolled and accessed the main menu again... and found a fifth episode!!!

This final episode sees our beloved Blubs back on their repaired ship and heading home. I guess the developers considered resolution to be an Easter Egg!! Haha!! Those nutty tricksters! But wait there's more to the joke. This is a TIMED episode which is simply RIDDLED with bugs, allowing characters to be in two places at once at the expense of losing your cursor. I never could figure out the proper solution. Fortunately, Alex Tait at Just Adventure was able to miraculously piece it together (once informed that the episode even existed, of course). So if you DO find yourself playing this game some day (you deserve your fate, if you ignore my warnings), at least you'll be able to finish it.

Bottom line time... I'd never tell anyone NOT to buy a game. Let's face it we're BAAGERS; that's why we're here. No no, you're welcome to buy it if you can find it dirt cheap I'm urging you not to PLAY it!!! You know full well that that's a totally different matter. Just put it near the BOTTOM of that unplayed pile and KEEP it there.

Final score: 40%

(Recommended) System Requirements

Pentium 90
Quad Speed CD-ROM
16 MB RAM
60 MB Hard Drive space
VESA compatible video card

This document may not be distributed without express written permission of the author and the content may not be altered in any way.

For questions or comments on this review,
Please write to: Singer

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