There is something incredibly charming about products that are oozing with 90s vibes, isn’t it? How cheesy it can be, a complete sellout just to be “cool”, and over the top for the sake of being “edgy”. They are especially adorable when you try to make them PG. The Adventures of Willy Beamish is a game that has everything silly from the 90s and has gotten a cult following in recent times. While playing some Castlevania games, I had this itch to play something more cringeworthy and remind me of how it was to be a kid when summer vacation started. Is this trip worth it though?
A weird, but “rad” start of summer vacation
As you might have expected from the title, the game stars Willy Beamish, a stereotypical kid from the 90s who has gotten detention on the last day of school. However, this is only the beginning of plenty of weird adventures that will unfold. As you might have seen from my other reviews, I try to keep spoilers to a minimum, and with this game, it is incredibly hard to do so. You meet so many bizarre situations and plot-elements that barely connect to each other. Your father struggles with work, there is a plumber-strike, a frog- and a gaming competition, and even a subplot dealing with a vampire babysitter.
It can all feel quite rushed, as the game only takes place in a couple of days, barely over half a week. Because of this, many elements and events are cramped in a short time-period and it almost feels like the game is afraid to bore you, which is an unfortunate thought. It becomes a mess instead, and few characters are memorable because of the short amount of time the game offers. Speaking of characters, this is where it can be cringeworthy and either annoying or hilarious, depending on your taste. Willy Beamish is a brat of a kid, that can do some decent deeds for others, but always complains and thinks too highly of himself. It is like a less likable Bart Simpson before the more modern iterations of him. He does represent a stereotype quite well, but is not a likable protagonist, with uncharming quotes like “I don’t like you, you are still a girl”. The rest also don’t get much screentime, so they can come of as dull.
Although, there are these bizarre events that will be entertaining. While the humor can be quite hit and miss, with poor jokes and hilarious events only a kid can imagine, it is entertaining for all the wrong reasons when your macaroni starts moving or the voice-acting becomes quite sexual, without it even being the purpose. It is dumb, and it doesn’t seem like it knows what it is, so it can be at times heartless to laugh at it instead of with it. At least, the sugar-rushed imaginations are something to praise it for, despite it all being rushed.
Story score: 4.5/10
Creativity that doesn’t get to grow
Like most Sierra-titles, this is a point & click game with puzzles and deaths being common. While there are a couple of puzzles, they usually are either quite easy to figure out or can become infuriating when you easily screw yourself over, especially when they must be activated quickly. There is a save-feature at all times, which indicates you should save often.
However, it is not as simple as just that. The game has a clock that moves constantly, making it so you have to be sure to do certain things before it is too late. Sure, you can move time forward so you don’t have to wait, but if you forgot to do something, sorry, you can’t rewind or start the day over, creating a game over, and you will have to start from the beginning of the game. This is incredibly frustrating, as it is not always clear what to do, and when time is of the essence, it becomes close to unfair. Even by saving multiple times, you might not be sure which save-data is the safest to start with. Why not have time move as you clear puzzles instead as a gimmick, when it can easily kill you. It is a cool idea, executed incredibly poorly.
The same can be said for the trouble-meter. While there are some certain deaths that can be triggered by simply doing the wrong choice or by not keeping track of the clock, there is also this trouble-meter, which will decrease with every good choice and increase with every negative choice you make. It is a decent mechanic that can give you a game over and keep you on your toes, but you have to go out of your way to even fill this meter. Choices you have in the game are often delusional, as they present different events in the beginning, but later become the choice between the right answer or the one to give you a game over. It is simply underdeveloped.
I think this underdeveloped aspect, is also due to how short the game is. It ends after 4 days, and since it can be beaten within 3 hours, none of the unique concepts in this game gets to be expanded upon. If I can praise anything, it is that the game is not delusional with what you should do. Most puzzles are sensible enough to figure out, and with your cursor only showing what you can interact with, look at, or mix an item with, it is easy to get a grasp on. However, even this is not perfect, as some items can be hard to see and there is even one part, that changed my cursor if I right-clicked one more time, without it ever telling me. With this said: this is a perfect example of a game having neat ideas, but not enough time or dedication to make them work.
Gameplay score: 3/10
This is really hard to comment on as The Adventures of Willy Beamish has a bunch of strong and weak elements to the presentation. The style is neat, with expressive and stretchy animations, making it really have a good cartoon aesthetic. The environments represent a suburban neighborhood well, with schools, restaurants, parks, and of course your home, to name a few.
The creative death-scenes and cutscenes with bizarre events and characters are quite memorable visually, which is nice. However, the areas aren’t pleasing to look at, due to some parts having off linings to them, making them almost feel cut out. The style for the backgrounds also change, being either more realistic with minor details or overly cartoony. It’s not bad, but it feels inconsistent with both quality and style. The animations for the characters are also choppy on the PC-version and skip frames, which is quite a shame as it is a very intriguing artstyle. The tons of graphical glitches, such as duplication of characters or the item-menu being chopped off, do not help.
The voice-acting is very good however, with over-the-top performances that are quite the treat. Willy’s mom sounds calm and almost on her breaking-point at any time, the sisters are annoying as they are supposed to sound, and the teacher still creeps me out to this day. The voice-direction can be off, however, as some can sound quite misguided. It was odd to hear a job-interview almost sounding like dialogue from a B-porn flick. The volume for the voices is also inconsistent, making it quite jarring when the volume must be adjusted. What is consistent at least, is the cheesy music that oozes 90s from punk-rock, chill-pop, and even some 70s dance. It is a creative and enjoyable soundtrack.
Presentation score: 5/10
The Adventures of Willy Beamish is almost a “so bad, it is good” kind of game, as it is an admirable attempt to create something unique and oozing with nostalgic parts of the 90s and how it was to be a kid again. It does stumble, unfortunately, with Sierra-deaths being quite common, and some interesting mechanics not being well developed. It is like a molded cheese. It is cringeworthy, not good or visually appealing, and has definitely aged. But if you can get through that, you will find minor parts to enjoy if you love cheese. Cause Willy Beamish does have some lovely cheesiness to it.