Gilbert Goodmate and the Mushroom of Phungoria
Long, long ago in a land far, far away lived Karn, an evil wizard with an appetite to take over the world. Now Karn was very powerful and he sneered as he peered into his crystal ball and watched the next in the long line of courageous knights marching toward him from the nearby village of Phungoria. It was Marvin, just a boy, and as he approached he waved his mighty sword, tripped over, picked himself up and waved his mighty sword some more. Karn closed in for the kill and Marvin got such a fright he fell and dropped his sword again. Defenceless, and facing certain doom he noticed a silvery mushroom at his side. He grasped it and dispatched the wicked wizard with a single blow. In triumph the mushroom was ensconced on a pedestal in the village square and the people of Phungoria lived happily ever after ... until ...
It was Gilbert's Grandpa, Abraham Goodmate's turn to tend the village saviour. Unfortunately, this particular saviour wasn't Excalibur; it wasn't embedded in stone. All it took was a quick snatch by a hooded figure to spirit it away after Grandpa was knocked on the head. Now Gilbert is left with the task of finding the mushroom or the thief so his Grandpa won't be punished for his negligence, and in this delightful third-person perspective adventure game it is your task to give Gilbert all the help you can.
You (and Gilbert) set out from the Goodmate cottage. What a treat there is in store! I felt just like a kid in a lolly shop with so many things to do. In this first location there's a dozen or more active items to investigate: plates of food, a pillow, cooking pot, cupboard, clock and ... time to stop lest I spoil your fun. The numerous possibilities are just so tantalising, so much so that the game seems to invite you right in and say: "Look around. Make yourself at home".
Or maybe "Welcome home" or "Welcome back" is closer to what I felt. It's been a while now since I've had the opportunity to play a good traditional point and click adventure and it's so comforting with lots of items to inspect and collect and lots of intertwined mini quests just waiting to be sorted out. And everything is so intuitive. Simply move the cursor around to look; all active items are tagged just waiting for your attention. You can examine things and note clues from Gilbert's comments, pick them up, open or close them, eat, taste, bite, talk and the list goes on. The verb options appear in a cute mushroom-shaped icon when you hold down the left mouse button over a tagged item, very similar to the Curse of Monkey Island interface. And this game is reminiscent of the classic LucasArts titles as well as other humorous adventures such as the Discworld and the Simon the Sorcerer games. Like these much loved games it's heaps of fun and, hopefully, Gilbert will also get some encores in the future.
As with all mouse driven games you just left click to tell Gilbert where to go. He walks a little slowly, but he's very easy to control and you can double click on an exit to jump him to the next screen. The game also has a map for zapping from one discrete location to another. Of course not everywhere is accessible until you have opened the way.
Phungoria is a pleasant little place to explore and there are lots of friendly and some not so friendly folk around to engage in conversation. Indeed, conversation is an integral part of the game and it's a very good thing that you can talk to people to learn what's happening and, hopefully, pick up some useful hints in the process. Unfortunately though, you can have too much of a good thing and this is perhaps the major criticism I have of this otherwise very good game. Too many of the conversations seem to go on for too long. This is not a problem at the start of the game but as you progress it begins to take its toll. Now I know I can't speak for all players, some don't mind lengthy conversations but others feel it breaks up the momentum of the game. My advice is to read the subtitles and press the Esc key to skip through the spoken dialogue, especially if you feel the conversation is going on a bit.
Having said that, what a shame to miss too much of the dialogue! It's especially well written and delivered and often very clever and quite funny. Not uproariously funny, but I had a lot of chuckles and much of the time I was smiling as I played. The characters, like the story and like Phungoria itself, are whimsical and quite entertaining. As well as Gilbert, of course, who has something to say about everything, there are many other characters who may help or hinder such as Madam Zyz the fortune teller who likes to smell nice; Glen the Genie who dislikes work; Arver the hypochondriac; Vandersteen the blacksmith; and Sock who is perhaps the real brain behind Phungoria's defences. And I mustn't forget the Spelling Bees who gave me a hearty laugh, but I won't say anymore about them here because it's better to meet them for yourself. If you don't get too impatient and skip through too much dialogue you'll recognise a few vaguely familiar voices now and again.
The puzzles are my favourite part of any game, I love to be challenged and intrigued, to consider the options, discover clues, even run into brick walls, and then feel good when the penny drops and it all works out. Though not exceptionally difficult Gilbert Goodmate satisfied all these cravings. Because it is a humorous game putting everything together can be fairly tricky, you do have to think in several dimensions sometimes and stretch your imagination to let in a little silliness. This is part of the fun. And so is solving the intermingling puzzles because achieving a particular goal might first mean sorting out several other problems to get a crucial item.
And speaking of items, this game is a kleptomaniac's dream. There are so many weird and wonderful things to pick up, and when you are really stuck the best advice I can give is to forget about your navel, right click to open your inventory and contemplate your collection instead. Every item is described and you can make use of the mushroom icon to further scrutinise, taste, eat or even use inventory items to pick up on clues. And don't forget to try combining things ... sometimes this can work wonders J.
Gilbert Goodmate really is a very entertaining game with bright and cheerful graphics, a host of fun characters, lots of things to do and a very good soundtrack. It is contained on two CDs and if you have enough hard drive space (approx one Gig) you can install most of the game and eliminate disk swapping.
The ending is a little abrupt and it seemed to come all too soon as I was having so much fun, but Prelusion's very first (as far as I know) effort at making an adventure game is quite exceptional. You can tell that it was made by people who love adventure games, it exudes enthusiasm and it was very likely over enthusiasm that encouraged so much dialogue. An independent editor may have helped. However, if you are feeling in the mood for a delightfully whimsical adventure invite Gilbert home for a while. I'm glad I did and I'm hoping he'll be back sometime in the future.
See the metzomagic.com Gilbert Goodmate walkthrough.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2001.
All rights reserved.
Windows 95/98/ME/2000/NT4.0 (with Service Pack 5), 100% DirectX compatible computer required, 2 MB PCI graphics card or better, Pentium 166 or faster (Pentium 266 or faster recommended) at least 32 MB RAM required (64 MB for optimal performance) 10 MB free space required (400 MB free space recommended) 100% DirectX compatible 16-bit sound card, 100% Windows compatible keyboard and mouse, Quad speed IDE or SCSI CD-ROM, Microsoft DirectX 6.0 or greater.