The Adventures of Fatman: Toxic Revenge

Developer/Publisher:  Socko Entertainment
Year Released:  2003

Review by Gordon Aplin (May, 2003)
Successful super heroes need a steady supply of super villains so they can save society again and again and justify their existence. But what happens when a super hero is too successful and there is no serious crime to speak of, nothing to exercise his smug superior intellect and svelte physique? Why he goes to seed of course. He gets bored, overeats, and neglects to work out regularly. Pretty soon it shows. Let's face it; it's hard to hide flab inside a snug super hero costume. And worse, he becomes complacent about checking out potential trouble that may be brewing.

One night, just as masked vigilante and dispenser of justice, Fatman, is lamenting the fact that the city of Shadowlawn is boring now that major crime has been eliminated, a new super villain is about to be created. At that very moment, across town, in the offices of Mary Kate Cosmetics the CEO sends an underling to blow up the rival ACNE Labs. The game introduction follows the proceedings and reveals the genesis of Toxicman whose formidable lack of mutated super powers may tax even Fatman's crime fighting prowess.

To the rescue
Fortunately, Fatman is not alone on this adventure; he has you to help him in his investigations so that the trash-strewn streets may once more be safe for the, no doubt, grateful citizens of Shadowlawn to go about their business.

The Adventures of Fatman is a third-person, point and click adventure independently developed by Michael Doak at Socko Entertainment. Although the graphics lack the 'polish' of more commercial releases they are eminently suitable for this style of game and work absolutely fine. Fatman (the game) isn't simply a parody of Batman despite the obvious similarities, it is more a homage to the absurdities that once inspired the genre. And despite his super hero status Fatman himself is a likeable character who has that vulnerable innocence (naivete) that is so endearing and contributes to the gentle humour. Speaking of which, the game doesn't try too hard to be funny and so it largely succeeds without descending into juvenile or toilet humour.

It isn't a huge game and I would have appreciated more locations as it's an enjoyable romp but searching everywhere is important and there are a fair number of obstacles placed in Fatman's way. The puzzles are pure adventuring fare with a couple that require you to act quickly or die! Most of them aren't too difficult, especially if you slip right into Fatman's lycra outfit and think about his character and how he might handle the situation. Sometimes you may have to slip out of his outfit too, but he'll let you know if this is the case. I had a good laugh at some of the puzzle resolutions and a couple stand out for their simple silliness such as finding the pin number and attempting to deliver a hot pizza.

Those were the days
Fatman uses the popular AGS game engine courtesy of Chris Jones and many of you will know how intuitive the icon-based interface is. It has that 'old-time' feel with icons to walk and talk and interact, and others to save, load, quit and open the options screen. In this screen you can toggle subtitles on and off, adjust character and game speed, and music and dialogue volume. Navigation is fairly intuitive although there are no navigation arrows. Only once did I come across an elusive exit that tested my location finding instincts. Hotspots abound in the game and all items are accompanied by a text caption that may be descriptive or humorous, or both, and may even contain a vital clue, so read them carefully. With subtitles left on there is text for all the conversations and the omniscient narration.

Not only does Fatman have the look and feel of an older style of game but the music also provides the perfect accompaniment with its clever parody of the old PC sounds and echoes of themes from earlier games. The first few notes brought a smile to my face and I knew right then that I was going to enjoy the game ... it felt right. The voice acting isn't bad either considering that the Doak family and friends seem to have been co-opted to play the roles. There are some clever lines and the conversations aren't overly extended. Once again this reminded me of the older traditional adventures and I felt right at home. To top it all off, Fatman has a point system to really inject a note of nostalgia. Most of your significant actions are rewarded, talking to people, looking at things, as well solving problems. The point system lets you know you are on the right track and it adds an extra challenge to aim for the perfect score!

The game comprises 1 CD and it behaved perfectly and is very easy to slip into. When you begin you are given the choice of easy or hard mode. Although this doesn't change the difficulty of the puzzles, the easy mode gives you some hints if you run into trouble. This mode also gives you the chance to 'retry' if you fail in a life-threatening situation. Play on the hard mode and you'll have to restore so, need I say it, save often. Only six save slots are provided which I thought was a bit restrictive as I like to have lots of incremental 'saves' ... just in case.

So save a place on your shelf for this game if you like traditional cartoon-style adventures with a humorous touch. Michael has done a good job and I've done a lot of chuckling. You can buy The Adventures of Fatman from the Socko Website. And don't forget to check out the 'special features' on the disk, which include some out-takes as well as Michael's first game, Pizza Quest. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2003. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 or XP, Pentium 100 MHz or faster system with at least 32 Mb RAM. All DirectX sound cards are optionally supported. 320 x 200 VGA display. A mouse is essential.