Eurogamer Retrospective: Toonstruck

By John Walker on April 19th, 2010 at 10:24 am.

Wouldn't work in 3D now, would it?

Eurogamer currently sports my retrospective of Toonstruck, the 1996 point and click adventure starring Christopher Lloyd and some cartoons. I went back to it having forgotten if I even liked it 14 years ago, and was absolutely delighted to discover that it’s fantastic. I say things like:

“In looking back at some of the best (and worst) adventure games of the eighties and nineties, it’s too easy to remain within the archives of LucasArts and Sierra. Perhaps Westwood’s Bladerunner gets quickly remembered, Cecil’s Broken Sword games, and someone will recall Adventure Soft’s Simon The Sorcerer games. But what about The Legend of Kyrania series, also from Westwood? Access’s Tex Murphy games? Microids’ Syberia? And what about Burst Studio’s Toonstruck? Why isn’t everyone talking about it? It’s absolutely bloody brilliant..”

And it continues here. Also, I can’t resist doing a gallery for this one either, so that’s coming up.

Oh, and the EG comments seem to have inspired a few to start voting at GoG for them to attempt to get the rights for this one. You can do that here. Search for Toonstruck, then click to vote.

Of course, this might not work – Toonstruck was published by the now defunct Virgin Games, and a number of their games are now in rights-hell, meaning no one knows who owns them. And therefore no one can give permission for them to be re-released. Although Planescape seems to have emerged from the ashes, albeit somewhat peculiarly, so perhaps there’s hope.

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30 Comments »

  1. Risingson says:

    Brilliant brilliant game. Maybe the humor is a bit inmature in its sexual references, but the cows transformation and the squirrel puzzle are one of the most ingenious things I’ve ever seen in adventures. Pity that it was too costy for its own good.

  2. Matt says:

    A genuinely funny/charming gem, this was. Even today I find myself occasionally saying “It’s all very good until someone loses an eye,” when trying to use pointy objects on people.

  3. HermitUK says:

    I’m guessing the one puzzle you couldn’t get past thanks to our uber processors was the Gift-o-Matic. Remember breaking this out again a couple of years back, and loving it, but sadly had to give up at that point.

    GoG is the perfect grounds for a re-release of this, as it’s a game that so deserves a second chance. Let’s hope someone works out who owns this, and how they can get it working on our modern machines.

    Also, thanks to this game I can never hear the word footman without making the butler joke in my head. It never fails to amuse.

  4. robrob says:

    I got Toonstruck well after its release for £2.50 in a Game shop (or was it an Electronics Boutique back then?) there were a couple of puzzles which were made difficult by having a decent PC: the first one was the cooking pot, the second is the Giftomatic that John mentions. I’d imagine a current PC would make both of them impossible.

    With the giftomatic, you have to press a button and then almost immediately click again to get it to land on the right gift. Unfortunately there are four or so gifts so you have to time your clicks within that tiny window to get each of them. It was difficult and relied on luck rather than any semblance of skill but over the course of a week or two, a friend and I managed to do it. Every time you failed you had to sit through a painful dialogue where a dog hit you in the head.

    It was worth it though, I think the castle at the end was my favourite bit. I’ve still got the box somewhere but I don’t fancy trying to install it if it’s as complicated as John describes.

    • John Walker says:

      The Gift-O-Matic is now completely impossible. Or at least it was for me. There’s not even a split second during which to click.

      The cooking pot, however, while awkward, only took me a few minutes.

    • Clovis says:

      Every time you failed you had to sit through a painful dialogue where a dog hit you in the head.

      This is very similar to what happens in modern games with QTEs, like in The Force Unleashed.

  5. Premium User Badge James G says:

    Picked up Toonstruck for a mere £2 in GAME, albeit about a year after release. Great fun.

    One thing which always confused me was the decision to have Drew wear a brown coat, as it gave him a very monotone colour. Perhaps this was intentional, to contrast him with the brightly coloured background, or for technical reasons, but it always struck me as an odd choice.

  6. P7uen says:

    I’ve only ever heard 2 butler jokes and they have both involved Tim Curry.

    This cannot be a coincidence.

  7. BooleanBob says:

    Drew Blanc was sneaking around guards in a box before Solid Snake was even out of his combat nappies!

    Amazing game. So many memorable moments. So much good music, and voice acting! Even the audio setup was brilliant, with Count Malevolent laughing in gloriously sinister stereo sound.

    “Good book?

    Ohmigawd no, I’m like, totally agnostic?”

    is one of my favourite game gags ever.

    • Dominic White says:

      Just being pedantic, but the first Metal Gear came out in 1987, so there.

      That said, I’ve always wanted to play Toonstruck. Pity that, as mentioned in the article, it’s a nightmare to get running, and because almost all the companies involved are defunct, Good Old Games are unlikely to get hold of it.

  8. ItchingPowder says:

    I was just thinking about this one the other day and how some of the early PC+movies mixing projects actually had some interesting ideas.

    This had some good humour.

    I really think the secret of adventures used to be that they had quirky charm, their own humour and didn’t take everything so goshdarn serious. Also, L O V E and attention to detail.

    • Risingson says:

      Remember that the problem with Toonstruck is that it was one of the casualties of the demise of FMVs, meaning it was one of the last examples of PC+Movies. What is funny is how related it is to another expensive adventure that didn’t earn much: Discworld 2.

      Offtopic: when people talk about “the golden age of pc adventures”, i always remember the cdrom years. Those years of obscure but great pieces of independent-feeling games with lots of budget (Obsidian, Lighthouse, Mission Critical) that showed storytelling in a unique fashion.

  9. Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

    Yeah it is a shame it’s such a bastard to get running (last time I tried I couldn’t get the sound working).

    It’s an absolutely brilliant game and one I always like to bring up in discussions of the great adventure games.

  10. Premium User Badge phlebas says:

    I picked up a copy from a charity shop a few weeks ago. Sounds as though it’s worth the bother to get it running then?

  11. Tunips says:

    Wait wait. Wait. Syberia isn’t a dimly remembered jewel from distant childhood. I play it about once a year, and the music is always on my playlist. Current graphics cards can antialias the jagged models and make it come out smooth and bracingly crisp.
    On that note, can any of you clever journalists work out whether Syberia III is actually in development, or just last year’s April fool’s joke that got a bit out of hand?

  12. Reverend Speed says:

    Played this, many many moons ago. Remember the anticipation, reading and re-reading previews.

    Played it, enjoyed it, have ENTIRELY FORGOTTEN THE CONTENT OF THE GAME.

    I do recall feeling it was trying a little too hard. Must install that again some day…

  13. Rob Merritt says:

    Toonstruck was a great adventure game. You want to know what is heart breaking? The sequel is pretty much done but unreleased. Everything was animated and all film shot. most of the game was done as well when the curtan fell.

  14. LionsPhil says:

    Hooray, Toonstruck! BALLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON?

    I seem to remember reviews of the time, damn their stupidity, lambasting it for being a LucasArts clone, as if this were somehow a bad standard to aspire to. And then Burst went belly-up or something and never released the second half of the game. :/

  15. LionsPhil says:

    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.

    Having your plot tokens based on puns and such wordplay introduced an interesting internationalisation issue: the Malevolator plan has to be different for each language.

    I had to use a combination of Dosbox, alchemy, special copy-and-pasted code in frightening files, and animal sacrifices.

    Um. DOSBox should be the only thing you need. Your mention of using Windows 7′s XP mode is particularly worrying—DOSBox is already a full VM; if DOSBox runs at all, the environment it’s running under no longer matters one jot. If it’s too fast, tell DOSBox to run slower. I believe I used cycles=33000 or thereabouts, but you can tweak it at runtime with Ctrl-F11/F12 (then write back the value in the title bar to config file to make it permanent).

    Regarding ScummVM, MobyGames’ trivial alledges that it’s actually a variant of the Legend of Kyrandia engine, which SVM supports (although that must be quite a variant, given LoK didn’t even have multiple cursors). So you never know. Maybe the devs need a copy or three.

    • John Walker says:

      I never mention using Windows 7′s XP mode.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Bleh, sorry, I misparsed:

      It really doesn’t like anything from XP onward (although at least with XP instead of 7 you can use Virtual Machine without Microsoft trying to charge you a million pounds).

  16. Ed from Brazil says:

    I just went on a stroll down memory lane when I read Legend of Kyrandia.
    I loved that game so much.

  17. Sobchak says:

    I believe you mean “Legend of Kyrandia.” Good game, notable music and art for its time.

  18. DMJ says:

    Flux Wildly is my personal hero.

  19. a says:

    I liked Space Jam too, John. Then again, I was like 8.

  20. Sucram says:

    As I recall a large part of this games budget went into making incredibly expensive sandwiches for Christopher Lloyd.

    No idea why they were so expensive and presume Quintin would make they for less.

  21. Wulf says:

    My memories of ToonStruck make me smile, it had so much humour, and so many well-handled cartoon cliches. For some reason, whenever I think of I think of ToonStruck I also think of the Neverhood, it might be because I believe I played them at around the same time, and both of them were absolutely marvellous little things that gladdened the heart. Good times, good times. And so many other good memories mentioned here, too.

    And ToonStruck on GoG?! I’d buy that!!! I’m going to rush off and vote, now, so I’m wrapping up this post in a really speedy and excited way, making more typos than I’d care to admit. BYE! *scoots off to somewhere else on the Internet.*