The Adventures of Willy Beamish
Sometimes Nostalgia doesn’t shine so Brightly!
I played Willy Beamish many years ago, when I was the same age as Willy in what I believe to be the year 1994. This game came out in 1991, so at that time it was only three years old, but it was considered to be modern because I played the CD-ROM version, and it was my first CD-ROM Game. I remember kids at CompUSA either watching the demo or playing the game, but the box was directed towards adults having nostalgia about childhood. I am not sure if any adults back then wanted to buy Willy Beamish to re-experience the nostalgia of childhood. I am an adult now, and I had nostalgia for this game. I always wonder if I would enjoy it replaying it again 20 years later. All I can say is Thank God for DOSBox. If it wasn’t for DOSBox, I would not have been able to play this game. I played this game walking on the Computer Desk over Treadmill also known as the C-DOT. Playing this game while walking on the treadmill is a great experience, I forgot that I was walking and I was focusing on The Adventures of Willy Beamish.
At the time, this game for was a landmark in playing Adventure Games. It was the first CD-ROM game that I played, I heard a character talk, I was floored because I never heard a character talked before. Almost all Adventure games were on 3.5 disks and there was no voice acting at all; this was a transitional stage of Adventure Games going from 3.5 disk to CD-ROM from 1990-1993, and voice acting was the main reason to buy a CD-ROM drive. Seriously, if you play this game on 3.5 disk, you are missing a lot that the voice actors bring to the table. I highly recommend playing the CD-ROM version over the 3.5 disk version because of the addition of voice acting, and the voice actors do an awesome job. It’s amazing that this game was a technical marvel at the time, but now there are many things in this game that do not hold up very well such as the very clunky style of gameplay, lack of interactivity, and timed puzzles.
Willy Beamish is perhaps a strange Adventure game, one that feels more like an interactive movie with some twitch action elements to it, and a bad animated movie feel. This game is somewhere between a guilty pleasure, and it is at times, so bad, it is so good, but fortunately it leans closer towards the guilty pleasure territory. It is a very frustrating game at times with the timed puzzles, and numerous death/failure scenes. Most of the time, the plot is going through the motions, this game takes place over 4 days, and at times could have been made tighter if the many vignettes/sub-plots that have nothing to do with the main plot were eliminated and/or integrated with the main plot.
Many of the vignettes/sub-plots situations are just strange and bizarre, examples include parents getting upset and overreacting that their child got a C in Music Appreciation, a Vampire Babysitter, and Japanese tourists who happen to be Ninjas. Then there are silly mature juvenile humor such as fart jokes, and sexual innuendos, but most will go over the heads of kids. And to top it all off, the humor in this game is not funny, and the makers of this game just try too hard to get laughs.
It’s not all bad, this game has some redeeming features, the best parts of this game is the superb voice acting, and using the look icon throughout the game especially in Willy’s House, the narrator brings color, life, and humor to the descriptions, while it is not part of the story, it adds to some of the charm and flavor of the world that Willy Beamish inhabits. It’s too bad Dynamix didn’t channel some of that energy everywhere else with in the game. It’s too bad that this game is overly wrought, unfocused, and events happen at random, there are too many cut scenes with talking heads, and not enough gameplay and exploration. Thankfully, the game has a decent ending considering all the frustrations and trials just to get through it.
The player controls Willy, this game takes place in third person perspective, the player sees Willy on screen, and thus like all third person point of view games are out of body. There are times when the game switches to a first person perspective (in Willy’s body) to get a closer look at some objects like Willy’s Desk, the Water Fountain, the Phone Booth, and his Jet-ski. The Interface is unlike other Sierra games since this is a Dynamix game.
There are two icons one is an white arrow cursor similar to the one in windows, and the the other one is a magnifying glass icon, both can be switched by using the right mouse click button. There is no walk icon to make Willy walk to a certain part of the scene. In order to make Willy walk to another scene, a Green Exit icon at the edge of the screen indicates that Willy can walk over to enter the new scene. This is the easiest part of the interface.
The other problem is with picking up inventory objects is very cumbersome with the pixel hunting. Using the white arrow cursor to to comb through the scene so that it turns into a red arrow. Click on the Red Arrow, and drag the object on top of Willy to put it in his inventory bag. In order to get an inventory item in Willy’s backpack, click on Willy, and select the item, and drop it, and then apply it toward somewhere in the scene. Sometimes the red arrow is just an action attribute to do something in the scene. It can be confusing at the times, the interface. It’s simple, but yet at the same time all depends on the context within the scene.
There isn’t much interactivity in the game, Willy Beamish is a linear game, the game world is not huge, it’s great that there isn’t a lot of backtracking, but I felt constricted in the sense that this game doesn’t give me as a player the opportunity to experiment because there isn’t a good feedback system. I can try something, and Willy will not make a response “that doesn’t work”, so there’s no feedback. In the beginning of the game, there are multiple solutions to many of the obstacles and problems that Willy encounters, and it can be fun to replay the game, and try to experience it all, but it has no bearing on the overall main plot. Sadly, all the multiple solutions merge into a one way solution street, but ironically the game gets more non-linear on Day 4. It get worse with the extremely frustrating and aggravating timed puzzles, and more excessive death/failure scenes.
I am not oppose to having danger in my Adventure Games, or having the character possibly die in the game, but in Willy Beamish it is excessive. I would not recommend this game toward someone who is new to games and toward Adventure Games in general. There are better Adventure Games that I would direct someone new to the genre.
Another thing to worry about in the game, but this mostly in the first three days of the game is that there is a Trouble Meter to worry about and to keep your eye on it. It’s when Willy doesn’t do his chores, he gets in trouble, but he can go so far that his parents will send him to military school which is another death/failure scene, and it is over the top as well. It’s a bit of a pity, but it seems to me that military school would have been more fun that putting up with his crazy family, and would have made a much better game.
There are too many cut scenes in this game and especially the “Meanwhile” scenes that don’t have anything to do with Willy further distancing the character from the player. Also getting Willy to do his chores is incredibly boring and tedious, and the main reason that I play games is to have fun, and not to be reminded that I have to walk the dog, feed the dog, play with sister on swings, wash the car, and mow the lawn. This part of the game is just too realistic, thankfully, the game didn’t require Willy to make his bed, knowing his parents they would have sent him to military school if he didn’t. I play games because I get to do activities that I can’t do in real-life, and don’t want to be reminded to real-life tedium.
The puzzles make sense some of the time, especially in the beginning, but most are typical standard Adventure Game flair. Willy has to pick up inventory objects and put them in his bag. Sometimes an inventory item is used somewhere in an environment with in the scene, but most of the time, it is to give a character an item. Within Willy’s bag, sometimes inventory items can be combined, and then sometimes, if you are stuck somewhere in the game, you will just start by combining one object with another object and try every permutation in Willy’s bag. I know whenever I do that in an Adventure Game, it means that I am desperate, and that I should just resort to the hint book rather than just be stuck.
Most of the time, the player is given very little directions on what to do in certain situations, and most of the puzzles in this game are timed, and have to be done right away or else Willy is a goner. The puzzle difficulty is easy in the beginning, but it gets much harder near towards the end. Unfortunately, if you hate mazes, this game is not for you, this game has a maze towards the end, and most Adventure Game players may not be a fan or crazy about mazes. Some puzzles are bit ludicrous and are silly, and require the help of a walkthrough, even having a walkthrough doesn’t sometimes help with it at all, and a trip to YouTube to see someone else play this game just to get through it.
This game also has the most boring quest ever in Adventure Game history; it happens on the day 3, Willy has to go over to West Frumpton which is not the most trendy part of town, and has to pick up an entry blank to enter into the Tootsweet Frog Jump Contest on day 4. It is the most pointless part of the game, but it is there, just so that Willy enters into the Tootsweet Frog Jump Contest, and then Willy gets stuck in West Frumpton there because the ferry is stuck on a sandbar, and as the player, you have to do something random just to get the plot to move forward.
Willy Beamish is about Willy Beamish, but that redundant by the way. This game takes place over 4 days, and it is the Adventure or maybe Misadventures of Willy Beamish. The first day the player is introduced to Willy, his school, and his family, and the town of Frumpton where Willy lives. Willy is a 9 year old boy who attends Carbuncle Elementary School, and his pet frog Horny, jumps out of his backpack, and on top of Principle Frick who looses his fake hair causing Willy to be stuck in detention of the last day of school. He is a troublemaker by the way, and has discipline problems, but who could blame Willy for his discipline problems. His family is crazy, with a stay at home Mom, and a Dad that brings home the bacon, a Valley Girl Teenager Older Sister, and a Super Brat Know it-all gifted preschooler younger sister, and Willy is sandwiched as the middle child. He even has the ghost of his grandfather offering advice as his conscious, but he doesn’t pop-up much in the game. Overall, Willy’s family is a typical upper middle class family with crazy issues and misguided priorities.
Willy Beamish loves to play Nintari, a portmanteau of Nintendo and Atari. His goal is to enter into the Nintari Championship, but it costs $2,500 and his parents have to cough up the dough or so he thinks until his Dad looses his job, and he has to think of a way to get the money.
Willy is a very likable character, but I could see why he would act up and have discipline problems considering his crazy family that loves him, but seem to misunderstand him, and somehow not very good at disciplining him. I wonder why Willy would be scared of Military School in the first place since it would be a relief to be away from his crazy family. Since this is the first day of the game, there isn’t much overall main plot or main goal that Willy has. He is stuck on detention on the last day of school, Willy’s main goal is to pick up his report card in the main slot, and he has to get home early enough to do it, but he is stuck in detention. The main reason is that he got a C in Music Appreciation.
The game takes place during the early 90’s about consumerism, and has a way of satirizing and parodying life. It is suppose to be funny, but truth to be told, this game is not funny at all, it tries too hard to be funny, and most situations and events are just bizarre and strange and do not fit in with the overall main plot whatever that may be. Many situations seems unbelievable and stretch the credibility of the characters and story. The plot feels like it is just going through the motions, and it doesn’t get interesting and exciting until the last day of the game. The first 3 days are just vignettes and strange situations that have nothing to do with one another, and do not enhance the main plot.
An example is the dinner scene sequence with the family talking and Willy is worried about the C he has in music appreciation, his parents and sister make a hullabaloo about this, but he did well in the rest of his subjects, and they take away his Nintari Key, so he can’t play with it for this weekend, but it is silly and a crazy punishment, and it seems as if this situation was just created for the sake of creating conflict. Willy needs to play Nintari, so that he can win the tournament, but that cost $2,500 to enter into it, and his father has lost his job, so he has no money to enter in the contest. The next day, a commercial on the air appears and he can win the money by entering his pet frog through a frog jump contest.
This game also has meanwhile sequences showing the story of the main villains in the game, and sometimes members of Willy’s family during the “meanwhile” scenes. A mean corporate lady name Leona Humpton, and the head of the plumbers union Louie Stoole. They both have an agenda, and I wonder what that is. I always wonder why these two would be together as they are strange bedfellows. Willy’s Dad is let go from his job of Public Relations, he was suppose to be promoted to Vice President, and he is going through a mid-life crisis, he feels he is a failure, but somehow, he finds a job in the newspaper. Willy’s Dad gets an interview the day after losing his job, and is hired on the spot. There is more to this job than meets the eye.
To sum it all up, I enjoyed playing Willy Beamish as a kid, I love using the look icon and hearing the narrator read funny descriptions about the history and purpose of each item in Willy’s House. Nostalgia got to me, and I wanted to play this game first mainly because this was the first CD-ROM game that I ever played. Truth to be told, this game has not aged very well, it has themes that only people who grew up in the 90’s would understand. Willy’s Dad Gordon trying to find a job in the newspaper is outdated, we all find jobs online, and on LinkedIn, and Willy using a payphone, we don’t use payphones anymore especially a phone in a booth, we all have cell phones now. It’s style of gameplay is very limited and restrictive even for an Adventure Game of it’s era. It feels more like an animated movie masquerading as a game. The story is all over the place, events just happen at random, and most of the game is just needless filler. The puzzles are not creative nor are they are cleaver, and most solutions are something one would never think of.
I really cannot believe that I liked this game, it is part of my childhood, and I do still like this game, and I enjoyed playing it. I know that it is not the best Adventure Game of all time, but it does not need to be, but it is fun to play despite the frustrations, hard to believe despite me just criticizing it and being nitpicking every detail. I would only recommend more experience Adventure Game players to play. This game despite the unwieldy plot does have a good satisfying ending to reward the play for hardwork. I consider this game to be a guilty pleasure.
For Nostalgic Value.
Superb Voice Acting.
Very good rewarding ending considering all the frustration that went to play this game, and the bad ending isn’t so bad either.
Why NOT Play?
Limited interactivity, timed puzzles, and too many excessive over the top death scenes.
If you are looking for an animated adventure game similar to Saturday Morning Cartoons, and a whole lot better story than Willy Beamish.
Day of the Tentacle
Sam and Max: Hit the Road
Then again this game is unique in the sense that it is nothing like the Alternatives above, few Adventure games other than educational Adventure Games also known as edutainment have young protagonists.
Better Adventure Games for kids would be,
Ecoquest 1: The Search for Cetus
Ecoquest 2: Lost Secrets of the Rainforest
Pepper’s Adventure in Time