Written By: Steven 'Westlake' Carter
Game Over Online - http://www.game-over.com
Ok, everybody, it’s time to crank up the Way Back Machine and travel to the 1970s, back to the time when college kids were first getting their grubby little hands on computers and where -- of course -- they were producing and playing games. Some of the first computer games to appear were text adventures, where -- if you’re under, say, the age of 25 and have never heard of such things -- you’d use one or two word commands to do things. For example, you might type “north” to move to a new room and then “look” to see what the room looked like and then “get wrench” when you noticed such a tool on the ground. If a gargoyle then approached you, you might type “use wrench,” to which the computer might respond “On what?” and then you’d type “on gargoyle” only to have the computer say “I don’t understand,” and then you’d have to figure out how to defeat the gargoyle with a wrench, a pencil, and a piece of string. In other words, text adventures were fun and frustrating and a good way to improve your vocabulary, and they didn’t hurt your typing skills, either.
Now please board the Way Back Machine again so we can return to modern times, where we now have the game Future Boy! from The General Coffee Company. As you might have guessed, it’s a text adventure, but unlike the text adventures of old, Future Boy! includes pictures and sound and animation -- or, at least, it can include those things, depending on the system you’re using to play it. Future Boy! appears to work on just about anything, including Windows machines, Macintosh machines, Linux machines, Palm Pilots, pocket PC’s and even something called BeOS, which I’ve never heard of. I played the game using Windows, and so I got to see it with all of its bells and whistles.
In Future Boy! you don’t actually play Future Boy; you’re his roommate, you drive a laundry truck, and so “exciting” isn’t typically an adjective that describes your day. But one night you make a delivery to the local prison, just in time to witness supervillain Eno Clayton making his escape. Then, quicker than you can say Mystery Men, Future Boy is captured, and it’s up to you to save him. You even get to wear a superhero outfit for a while, although, sadly, your superhero skills are somewhat lacking.
As text adventures go, Future Boy seems to work well enough. Nobody at The General Coffee Company is likely to be confused with Douglass Adams or Steve Meretzky, but the writing is casual and offbeat, and the situations you find yourself in are often pretty bizarre (like when you get transported into the body of a giant eyeball), and so Future Boy! provides a humorous ride. I didn’t guffaw or laugh out loud at anything, but I smiled a lot.
The interface is also effective. The top of the screen is where the game displays images and animations, and the bottom of the screen is where you type commands and read the descriptive text. There are also some friendly point-and-click menus you can use. For example, there is a “compass rose” you can cause to appear on the screen, and then instead of typing the direction you want to move, you can just click on the compass. Similarly, instead of typing “ask so-and-so about such-and-such” over and over again as you try to squeeze as much information as possible out of the other characters in the game, you can just type “talk to so-and-so” and then a menu will come up listing the topics you can ask about. That is, while a certain amount of typing is required for Future Boy!, there are numerous ways to get around it or reduce it, and so even you hunt-and-peck typers out there should be able to play the game successfully.
Really, the only part of Future Boy! that I didn’t like were the puzzles. To say that people aren’t very likely to solve most of them is, I think, to put it mildly. Some require huge leaps of intuition, some shouldn’t even work (I wonder what a robot suit would really do to aspirin tablets), and for others it’s difficult to figure out what the command is to make them work (like in a puzzle where “jump to” works but “jump on” doesn’t). In a few places, not only did I not know how to solve the puzzles, I didn’t even know what the puzzles were or what I was supposed to be doing. Fortunately, Future Boy! comes with an in-game hint system, and so you should be able to finish the game, one way or the other. I just found it annoying to have to stop and look for help on every other puzzle.
Thus, Future Boy! is a nice but perhaps overly difficult adventure game. The presentation is effective, the writing is humorous, the voice acting is credible (although the actors aren’t asked to do a whole lot), and the puzzles, if next to impossible to solve without help, at least show that somebody put some effort into them. It’s just that, while many parts of the game were nice, nothing about it knocked me out, and coupled with my frustration with the puzzles, Future Boy! only earns a borderline recommendation from me.