Thursday, December 13, 2012

#14 Sid & Al's Incredible Toons

Back in 1994 or 1995, the hard drive of our 386 started making weird buzzing noises one morning while I was playing Quest for Glory III. I walked in to speak to the oracle atop of Tarna and within a few seconds the computer shut down and would not power on again. While it was tough being without a newer computer for a few months, the best thing that came out of this crash was that we got a new computer: the Compact Presario 586. For months, I had be reading Sierra Interaction magazines and longing for a variety of CD ROM adventure games, like King’s Quest VI or Quest for Glory IV, that I could play if only we had a CD ROM drive. The adventure games would all have voice acting and even videos. It would open up a whole new world of gaming that would not be constrained by the handful of megabytes that would fit onto a few (or sometimes more than a few) floppy disks.

The first few times booting up the Compact Presario was like opening up a window to a whole world you didn’t know existed. It had videos with grainy women who served as our guide to the new computer living in some sort of strange lobby area that showed us all of the functions of our new computer. More importantly though, it came with games that had talking, animated characters. Somehow, even though the graphics and gameplay really weren’t any better, it felt like our gaming had taken a huge leap forward.

Around this same time, my mom and dad decided to start a weekly date night. This meant that I got paid  to babysit Tommy every Saturday night. My philosophy on babysitting was that if I was being paid to watch someone then I was going to spend the entire time doing activities together with them. This meant that Tommy and I would play with legos or watch tv or, most often, play computer games together, taking a break only to heat up and eat a tombstone pizza usually with sausages and little cubes of pepperoni and ham.

Tommy was about 4 or 5 years at this time and played mostly educational kids games on the computer through a launcher program that came with the Compact Presario called Kids’ Desk. There were a few games that were Tommy’s favorites at this time, including the interactive storybook Slater and Charlie Go Camping and the politically incorrect Spelling Jungle. However, the game that left me with the best memories of us playing together was Dynamax’s Sid and Al’s Incredible Toons.

Sid and Al’s Incredible Toons was a contraption puzzle game starring Sid the tiny yellow and Al the fat blue cat in the spirit of The Incredible Machine, but more cartoony. It has a series of increasingly difficult puzzles where you have to combine various strange objects including sneezing tea kettles, elephants that were scared of mice, but sucked any nearby peanuts and little wooden men who ate raw eggs, to achieve some preset goal.

But what Tommy and I ended up spending the most time doing, was constructing our own levels out for our own devious desires. Our favorite world to create was where numerous Sids and Als surrounded by bombs falling from the sky. We’d start the puzzle, unleashing the carnage to see if any of them would survive. Sure this wasn’t the purpose of the puzzle designer, but we found it incredibly amusing repeating basically the same idea over and over to slightly different effect.

Sid and Al was a derivative game that didn’t break new ground or win any awards, but damn if it wasn’t fun to discover all of the zany animations through combining different objects. The classy cartoony charm of Sid and Al feels just like watching roadrunner and coyote cartoons in you footy pajamas on Saturday mornings. And who really cares about puzzles when you can feel like that all week long?

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