Stay Tooned

a game by Sierra
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 1 review
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Overview

You're a couch potato ... but maybe you already knew that.

But I mean in Stay Tooned, the new cartoon adventure game from Sierra and Funnybone Interactive. You're a couch potato and you're surfing the channels on your big screen TV one night when suddenly all, ah, mayhem breaks loose. The cartoons you were watching unfold inside your TV burst through the screen in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of electricity. You sit helpless as your whole world -- the apartment building you live in and your own flat -- is transformed into a cartoon world, a world that obeys the unnatural laws of cartoons instead of the natural laws you were taught in school. To put things back in order -- and that is your mission, so pay attention -- you've got to find the fugitive cartoons and zap them back into their TV world using the remote control. One problem, though: Before you can zap anyone, you have to find the remote. The cartoons took it.

Gameplay

Sierra seems to have been of two minds about Stay Tooned. On the one hand this is a standard adventure game, complete with the requisite quest. Players wander from room to room, floor to floor in the apartment building searching for hidden objects to add to their collection. But the game also contains what you might call arcade-style games, games you play outside the context of the quest adventure. You can engage in a shoot-out with one of the cartoon characters, play a Centipede-like fighter in the refrigerator (bugs drop food, you shoot catsup and mustard) or try to piece together an image that's been broken into nine pieces.

Sierra advertises the game for players ages eight and up, and it's probably for those younger players and their shorter attention spans that most of the sideline games are included. Stay Tooned's documentation explains that some of the sideline pursuits yield clues to finding the remote as well as other hidden objects, but for the most part they're just entertainment. It would have been nice if Sierra had integrated the games within the game more closely with the overall plot of Stay Tooned. As it is, it's difficult to know when one of these sideline games is integral to the solution of the remote control search and when it's just a mild amusement. I tried to keep in mind that these sideline games really weren't intended for me. As games for eight-year-olds, they're good; they're challenging and silly enough in many cases to appeal to a kid's goofy outlook. But Sierra does say that those of us who are no longer eight years old also fit within the intended audience of Stay Tooned, and for many of us, I think the sideline games need to be more meaningful if we're to remain interested.

The presence of these sideline games -- as well as the sheer number of them (there are at least 30) -- can be distracting if you want to concentrate on the central plot of finding the remote control. Having said that, I don't want to overlook the general quality and level of cleverness inherent in the sideline games. Many focus on basic puzzle-, problem-solving skills and some can be frustratingly challenging. They could keep an eight-year-old up well past bedtime ... they kept me up past mine.

In the end, though, Stay Tooned's developers have devoted so much energy to the games within the game that the adventure side of Stay Tooned never gets very interesting. The plot is set in motion in the opening moments of the game and never develops beyond a basic framework for introducing various occasions of zaniness. By choosing to create a game in the cartoon genre, Sierra invites comparisons to the great cartoons that have made us all fans at one time or another. One of the things that makes classic cartoons classic is the presence of a strong central story to propel the action. There's real plot development in Disney's productions; there's real conflict and complication in the old Warner Brothers Bugs Bunny stuff. But in Stay Tooned you just move in circles; the various cartoon characters alternately jump out in front of you to hit you with a pie, or to steal your cursor, but you never really get a chance to engage them. Ironically, this adventure that bills itself as three-dimensional is, at the story level, no better than one-dimensional.

Graphics

From the opening moments of Stay Tooned the graphics are impressive. Because this is a game that centers around cartoons, it was imperative for Sierra to create graphics that capture the same effortless look of Saturday morning classics. They had to know we'd be comparing the game to what we're all familiar with. This isn't Disney animation, but it's good. Graphics stream by quickly and smoothly and the colors are rich to look at. Stay Tooned is designed to run in 256 colors; Sierra reminds you of this during set-up. But don't take that to mean that you need to add the cost of a new video card to the cost of this game. I played in 256 color as well as 16 bit high color and enjoyed the display in both.

One odd point relating to graphics: Included in the box with the CD-ROM is a pair of cardboard 3D glasses—the kind people used to wear to watch the old monster-from-outer-space 3D movies in the '50s. The idea is that you wear these glasses while you play and enjoy a truly 3D cartoon misadventure. Blue cats throw bombs your way and with your glasses on you really see them coming at you. That's the idea. In practice I found the 3D glasses about as effective as those 3D posters people are always staring at in the shopping mall. I didn't see it. It was my experience that the glasses were really unnecessary. The graphics were interesting enough without them, the animation good enough.

Audio

Here again the question of audience arises: Kids will probably love the sounds in Stay Tooned; it's full of all those splats and explosions and zoop-zoop-zoops you'd expect from a cartoon. It's hard to fault the quality of them too; nothing muddled, no fading in and out. They work well with the animations and I think to a kid they'd be entertaining.

On the other hand, Stay Tooned is full of all those splats and explosions and zoop-zoop-zoops you'd expect from a cartoon—and man, they get annoying after a while.

System Requirements

WINDOWS: Windows 3.1 or Windows 95, 486-DX 33Mhz (486-DX 66Mhz recommended), 8 MB RAM, QuickTime for Windows (included), 13 inch, 256 color monitor (SVGA graphics), 2X CD-ROM drive, Windows compatible sound card, mouse

MACINTOSH: Performa 575, Quadra, or Power Mac, 13 inch color monitor, 8 MB RAM (12 MB RAM Power Mac), 2X CD-ROM drive, QuickTime (included)

Bottom Line

I liked Stay Tooned. It's an entertaining, high-quality game with a lot of interesting things thrown in. All in all it's a fun twist on the adventure format and I'd love to give it to an eight-year-old, just sit back and watch them laugh; it's the kind of goofy pun humor I loved when I was eight. But a few exceptions aside, Stay Tooned really isn't suitable for adults. The adventure, the search for the remote control, gets lost somewhere and in the end it exists only as a vehicle to tie together a tapestry of arcade games. Unless you're one of those people -- and I know you're out there -- who just can't get enough cartoons, you might want to pass on Stay Tooned. If you're a big adventure player and fan, then no question about it: Pass on Stay Tooned.

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