Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Spy Fox in "Dry Cereal" (PC)

Developer:Humongous Entertainment|Release Date:1997|Systems:Windows, Mac OS, Wii, iOS, Android, Linux

This week on Super Adventures, I'm taking a look at a Junior Adventure about a fox who does intelligence work, designed for 5-10 year olds! Because it appeared as a gift in my Steam library one day, and I want to know if I should be grateful.

Spy Fox in "Dry Cereal" is apparently the first of three Spy Fox adventure games, and I've never played any of them at any age, so I have zero nostalgia for the series. I've managed to go my entire life so far in blissful ignorance of what any of Humongous Entertainment's games are like, but I am very slightly optimistic because I know that it's where Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert disappeared to for a while after Monkey Island 2.

The Steam download comes with ScummVM so that it runs on modern systems, but I don't know if they've given me the US or the UK version. I've read that there's a few small differences between the versions, the main one being that the game was redubbed with British accents! Spy Fox sounds like a suave English agent in the UK dub, but in the original game he's more like Don Adams from Get Smart. I've no idea why they did this, half the cartoons on British TV come from America and we'd been listening to Don Adams' voice come out of Inspector Gadget's mouth for years, but I guess they were concerned some references would fly over young kids' heads. They'd have never heard of Get Smart for one thing.



Right after starting it up the game's immediately dropped me into this cutscene of a creature freaking out because he didn't realise he was out of milk.

Huh, is that meant to be a bowl of the actual dry cereal from the title? It looks more like spicy rice with peppers or something. It ain't Koala O's from that box back there, that much I'm sure of.

Cut to a sinister Bond villain watching him on a TV screen, which is really creepy. How much of a bastard do you have to be to rig up hidden cameras in people's houses just to watch them cry over their breakfast?

It turns out that he's responsible for the milk shortage, and soon the entire world will be without cow-related dairy products!


SOMEWHERE OVER THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA.


It took me a couple of seconds to figure out what was bothering me about this plane. I guess it must an advanced rocket plane that doesn't need engines or air intakes, for spies that like to travel in style (and sometimes space perhaps).

Inside there seems to be just one passenger and it's Spy Fox! Or maybe SPY Fox, I'm still not sure how that's supposed to be written. The way he looks and sounds I want to call him Smug Fox.

It turns out that I am playing the American version as he sounds a lot more like a suave Inspector Gadget than he does James Bond. And he looks like you could use his nose to land F-14 Tomcats on; there's a lot of deck space there and it's perfectly level.

The flight attendant offers him a choice of meals, but he finds reasons to turn them all down except for the 'Greek plate'.

Turns out that the attendant was his contact here to covertly pass across his mission briefing in the form of a TV dinner! And then he goes and starts a video chat on it with the volume turned up. It's fine, the attendant's the only other person here and they're on some kind of rocket spy plane anyway.

Monkey Penny explains that their spy operatives have discovered the factories and offices of Amalgamated Moo Juice, Inc. abandoned and drained of milk. This is really bad as they're apparently the one supplier of milk for the entire world right now, which makes sense as who could compete with a name like 'Moo Juice'?

We've got one clue: low-grade feta cheese photographed on the floor of the CEO's office, which has been traced back to the Greek island of Acidophilus. The CEO himself probably knows more but we can't ask him because he's gone missing too. There's a photo of the guy hidden in the mashed potatoes though in case we see him around down there.

Then the briefing ends and Spy Fox's chair falls out of the plane.

These artists really do suck at colouring inside the lines.

It's time for me to make a decision, as Spy Fox is hurtling towards the island without a parachute and all he can do is hope that one of the four spy pens he's carrying contains a gadget that can save him.

I chose pen #4, which transformed into...

...a whoopee cushion. Eh, it’ll do.

I was curious to see if the items are random, so I started again and they do actually seem to be different! This time around I got a safe, a tank, and then a fishing rod.

Fishing rod got the job done though. Plus it got me the line "If you thought that was impressive, you should've seen the one that got away.'

This whole sequence is actually a skippable cutscene, so there's no need for any pen selection at all. Which is good, I respect a game that respects my desire to not sit through the same jokes over and over.

Alright now I'm on the island and I've reached the adventure game part of this adventure game. Inside my tux I've got a photo of the CEO, a pocket with no spy gadgets in, a notepad with no notes in, and a fortune cookie containing the entrance code to Monkey Penny's mobile command centre. It looks more like a phone number though.

I've arrived unfashionably early so nothing's open yet, but there are a few things I can click on here. There's an empty trinket stand, a sailor, a phone booth, a locked door and a cantina (probably also locked). I'll see what the sailor bird has to say.

Whoa... that is some rough looking art on the phone booth to the right of him. It look like they resized the background art, drew over it, but didn't clean up the old pixels.

Badass tattoo though. Never trust mermaids who are also sirens, that's the moral of this story.

Okay, I'm going to go type this code into the phone and meet Monkey Penny. Though first I think I'd better pull up the menu and save all this progress I've made.

Huh, there's a 'fun' button on my watch menu? Why's there a fun button? Doesn't the rest of the game have fun in it?

I'm going to click it and see if it's a trick.

Spy Fox Happy Fun Sub title screen
Uh?

Okay it's taken me a while to figure out how to play this, but I think I've got the hang of it now.

It's a mouse controlled shoot 'em up and I'm in the submarine on the left, blowing up enemy submarines... with sandwiches. If there's a joke there I'm not getting it. Oh wait, sub sandwich, duh! This is like that time I played Day of the Tentacle before I knew what a hoagie was.

Though I'm not actually here to blow up enemy subs, I'm here to collect pods, like that yellow one down on the right. I've got all the way from surface to seabed to search though, so I could sail right past them and not know it. I figured the V meter on the left might be telling me if I'm getting closer to one, but nah it's actually my velocity.

But wait, there's more! One type of pod likes to float on the water and the other hangs around in the air, so I have to surface and transform to get to them. Trouble is that it’s really boring and I don’t want to. The only happy fun I got out of this minigame was when I sailed down to the seabed and lured a bunch of enemy subs to crash into the rocks. It's so rare that enemies are able to wreck themselves against the scenery in a shoot 'em up.

Oh man, I'm so glad to be playing Spy Fox again. Well, watching Spy Fox mostly, as now Monkey Penny's talking about the mobile command centre. It's hidden inside a sunken boat, just like the MI6 base in The Man with the Golden Gun! Except this one's sunken into the ground under town.

The gadget vending machine back on the right will be empty until Professor Quack comes by to fill it up, but until then I get to play with...

... a laser toothbrush!

She also gave me some drachmas and informed me that they're the currency here in Greece, so the game's also edutainment!

I tried to have a proper chat with Monkey Penny but there's no dialogue options to pick from. The two of them just say what they're going to say and my influence is limited to being able to make them say it again. Which is a shame really as I feel like I need to refresh my memory on what the plot is.

Okay so the milk CEO went missing, there was feta cheese left in his office, we traced it back to this island, so now I need to go check out that feta factory down by the docks. It all makes perfect sense when I see it written down. Except for the part where the kidnappers travelled all the way to Moo HQ from the Mediterranean without noticing that they were dripping with goat cheese.

Aww, my toothbrush exploded! Probably because he was spinning it around when it was on.

This is a lot like your typical point and click adventure in gameplay, except it's stripped down to its basics. There's no box of verbs, no cycling through commands, and I can't right-click to examine objects. I can't even walk around the screen!

All I can do is click the things on screen or drop items onto them. Though the game at least changes the cursor to let me know when someone's clickable.

Hey, I've found the missing CEO! He's dangling over a pit of piranhas for some reason. I agree with Spy Fox, that is an odd fixture for a feta factory.

By the way, did I mention that this guy's called Mr. Howard Hugh Heifer Udderly the Third? There's been three of them with that name! It's like they're challenging players to see how many jokes and references they can find in it. And considering the game's for 5-10 year olds I'm guessing most would get a low score.

This wasn't too hard to solve either. Two buttons and a winch didn't leave me much room to mess it up. I wasn't expecting him to suddenly start backflipping over to it though, that was awesome. More adventure game protagonists should do backflips.

I feel sorry for the poor guy with the spoon at the end though, shunned by his fellow piranhas for his goofy laugh, inferior cow awareness and lack of fish eyebrows.

I've edited out a couple things here to keep the filesize down by the way, including another button press and a shot of Udderly falling. Though I think the timing works better this way, going straight from Spy Fox pushing the lever to Udderly's ass slamming into the ice.

With the cow CEO rescued and brought to the mobile command centre, he's able to give us the whole story in an exposition presentation. Turns out the guy laughing manically in the intro, William the Kid, has kid-napped all the cows to create a milky weapon of destruction that can cover a city with sour milk. Then he can frame the cows for it, get them sent to cow jail, and leave the market wide open for goat milk.

There's something downright unsettling about cows and goats fighting over who gets to sell their own milk, especially when it escalates to false flag dairy terrorism.

I seem to be watching the game more than playing it so far, but now that it's given me control back I get to collect new gadgets from the vending machine... and then watch Professor Quack explain them all. Plus he eats the blueprints afterwards, which I guess is a thing that ducks do? Or maybe it's just the eccentric genius ducks, I don't know.

With my new beef-flavoured X-ray gum I was able to scan Udderly for the weapon disarm code he swallowed, so that's good. Now I just need to find the weapon. There must be someone in town who knows where it is.

A miserable rabbit's appeared to run the trinket stall, but I can't ask him if he's seen a Bond villain fortress around because I have no dialogue options. I can ask him to get me something from the back wall though and keep him occupied for ages while he tries to jump up and get it, before he finally gives up and comes up with a bullshit reason why it's not for sale.

It seems like this is an opportunity to do something sneaky, but what? I tried clicking everything on screen, but it mostly triggers weirdness. Every area in the game has stuff like this scattered around, to keep the 5 year olds entertained while the 10 year olds try to figure out what they need to do next. So many birds, bugs, fish and mice around doing wacky stuff.

I ended up leaving him with some drachma for the Jar -o- Trinkets, then went off to check in with tattoo bird. Maybe he's got something new to say now.

What the shit, sailor bird? You shouldn't be flashing that in the street, young kids are playing this game!

The cantina's open now too, so I get to play Go Fish against a pig with tiny arms and a love for trinkets. Trouble is that I've honestly forgotten how to play Go Fish. I must have replaced those childhood memories with all the crap I've learned while writing for this site.

I can also chat with him during the game, except I can't because I've still got nothing in my notebook to talk about. C'mon Spy, ask him if he's seen any strange fortresses around. Maybe he noticed trucks full of cows being driven some place. Maybe he's an actual Bond villain himself, he sure looks like one. If there's one thing I've learned from the Bond movies it's that spies have to give away their cover right away and fish for information as well as cards.

The first two games were a disaster, but I eventually got a win. Didn't get anything for it though, except a new trinket for my infinite trinket jar, and you can tell how much Spy Fox cares about that by the way he leaves it on the table when he exits the cantina.

Hey there's some new folks over at the docks on the way to the feta factory: a snooty doorman and a guy doing a William Shatner impersonation called Captain Drydock. Is no one Greek on this Greek island?

The doorman won't let me into the ship without an invitation to the deck party, so that's something I need to look out for. I bet I could duplicate it with my new spy putty gadget if I ever found one. I've no idea why I'd want to get onto the other guy's boat, but I suppose I could ask him as well.

Aha, I think I've figured out Captain Drydock's deal now. This is an epic meeting between a James Bond fox and a Captain Kirk raccoon! Though it's 1997, shouldn't that be Captain Janeway?

I got utterly embarrassingly stuck here I ran into more dead ends wherever I went, so I phoned up Monkey Penny for advice. She said that her informant suggested that I "try to get on the ship". Thanks Monkey Penny, that's a real help.

So I checked a walkthrough and it told me to try to get on the ship. Not talk my way onto it, literally walk up the steps and get stopped by the doorman. I can look at signs and talk to people all I want, but I have to physically attempt to get on board before I get the necessary dialogue option added to my notebook. Same with Kirk's vessel.

See, now that's added two speech bubbles to my notebook that I can use on people like items. So I had a chat with people and it turns out that I have to win a good luck charm by playing Go Fish to get onto Kirk's ship (superstition is one of his defining traits now apparently), and miserable rabbit here has the invitation I need to get up to the deck party on the ship.

So I got him to show me the invitation, distracted him by asking to buy a bear, then used my spy putty gadget to clone it. By the way, the voice acting on this rabbit is fantastic; he's got that Simpsons Comic Book Guy thing going on and he seems really frustrated by my existence. The game was worth playing just to annoy him.

Right, first I'm going to check in with tattoo bird again, then I'm going to win a lucky charm.

Oh no, infinite tattoo recursion! This is like, the worst thing that can happen to a tattoo.

It's happening to his voice as well! "Wanna see my tattoo? See my tattoo? Too? Too? Too? Too?"

Anyway I won Go Fish again, got the lucky charm, and convinced Captain Kirk to take me across the ocean to find William the Kid's secret fortress! Now I'm making real progress.

Or not. It seems that I've skipped an important step here.

Plus that's a lot of longitude for a trip around the Mediterranean. I think sailing to the bottom right would put me in New Zealand.

Okay, I'll use the invitation to get onto the ship then. I'm not quitting this game until I reach a proper Bond villain fortress.

A frog suit huh? I'll grab that.

Now that I think about it, this is probably the only thing I've stolen in the game so far. I didn't even need to take the rabbit's invitation. I tried to use it with a sailor hat I bought from the miserable rabbit to make a sailor frog costume, but it doesn't seem like I can combine inventory objects.

The timekeeper device behind me seems important too, but I have no reason to change any shifts yet so I'll leave it be for now.

Upstairs I found this poor sailor stuck pushing a button over and over. But he's also guarding the ship's charts which show where the vessel's been, so I need to get rid of him somehow.

He's really keen to be gotten rid of himself, as he's dying for a piss (and to get to the cantina for happy hour), but it's not the end of his shift yet. Hmmmmmmm.

So I ran back down to the shift changer and started pressing buttons, trying to get it to make the whistle, horse, toaster sound combination that he's listening out for, but trial and error didn't work out. Ages I stood there pressing buttons until I finally gave in and checked the walkthrough again.

It's all set up to seem like a sound puzzle, but it turns out that the sounds are actually irrelevant. All I had to do was check at the cantina and ask what time he usually comes in after his shift ends.

With the coordinates from the charts I was able to sail off with Captain Kirk (or whatever his name is) and discover the fortress! Well I've discovered a pipe anyway.

I’m getting real Monkey Island 2 vibes from this part of the game. Thunderball too.

After spending a while trying to get into the pipe and failing, I decided to see if I could tie the fishing boats' hooks together and failed at that too. But I can pick one of the lines up and carry it off screen with me for some reason.

I can use the fishing hook on the sentries guarding the pipe and have them reeled in to clear the route to the fortress! Man, I was worried Spy Fox would be a total Inspector Clouseau after the 'left my parachute in my other tuxedo' incident at the start, but no he's an actual badass... in a goofy frog costume.

There's one last puzzle to solve before the fortress though. I have to slot in these fuses into a crashed jet plane to use its missile to blast open the door. It's a bit hard though, as I can barely see what the bottom edge of the fuses looks like. I'm taking them out one by one just to get a good look at the pattern.

And with that done I finally got inside the fortress... where I immediately ran into a door with a voice activated lock. I'm really starting to miss my laser toothbrush right about now. Monkey Penny called up and told me to get back out into the water to meet an informant with the device I need to get in, so I did that, came back, and plugged it into the lock.

Then it asked me to today's in-game date to get the device to say the correct password! Fortunately I remember where to find it and I even memorised what it is... because it's written on the back wall of that room I spent ages in trying to get the shift change machine to make the right noises! So that worked out.

And I'm in. Looks like a really scruffy version of Blofeld's volcano lair in You Only Live Twice, except with a giant milk carton missile in the middle.

But apparently this isn't the only way to get to the fortress, as there's a chance that things between the Udderly's rescue and here play out differently, sending you on an alternate path with different puzzles and locations. So I guess that if I ever play this again I've got a 50/50 chance of seeing that, but right now I'm done with the game.


CONCLUSION

I figured that Spy Fox in "Dry Cereal" would be a very basic graphic adventure game with a kiddier sense of humour than your typical LucasArts game and a few jokes sprinkled in for the parents. And I was pretty much right, except I massively underestimated the amount of puns. I was mentally and emotionally unprepared for the sustained onslaught, most of it coming from Spy Fox himself. And I've seen Batman & Robin and Die Another Day, I've heard some puns man.

I'm not sure what I think about it as a game yet though as I don't feel like I've really done much, and that's a bit of a concern seeing as I'm maybe halfway through. It's like an episodic game in length as it seems that you can finish it in around an hour if you know what you're doing. And that includes time spent playing Happy Fun Sub and Go Fish. But it does have the extra replay value due to the alternate path, even if there's no alternate dialogue to choose from in the other 75% of the game that comes before and after it.

It's a very focused game so far that opens up slowly instead of giving me a maze of screens to hunt for puzzles in, and I appreciate that. It does mean that there aren't a lot of things you can work on solving simultaneously, but you're never far from where you need to be or what you need to pick up. There's no item descriptions for objects under the cursor, but I didn't find it a struggle to find the usable objects in each room, because there barely are any. Sure there's a lot to click on, but most of it basically triggers animated mice and fish to jump around to entertain younger children.

I'm surprised at how decent the animation is though. Sure it looks a bit like a Flash cartoon, especially compared to Curse of Monkey Island from the same year, but it still looks like a cartoon and for what it is it's not unappealing. Plus the clean sharp pixelly artwork kept the file sizes down on my elaborate GIFs, and I can't complain about that. I've no complaints about the jazzy soundtrack either, though I won't be humming it. The voice acting on the other hand... was pretty decent too, aside from when it wasn't.

In fact I think I prefer the US voices over the UK dub for the most part, aside from Monkey Penny, and Spy Fox himself works pretty well with a Maxwell Smart voice even if he's not playing him as a bumbling idiot. Sure he's a show off, but from what I've seen he's actually suave, competent, acrobatic and if he beats you at Go Fish he'll straight up tell you that it's because he's the superior player. I found him likeable even after all the puns and I wasn't expecting that.

But would I voluntary continue playing this? Sure, probably. Because it's really short and I could get it over with in half an hour, but also because there's been moments that genuinely made me smile. Plus it's less of a pain than the The Stealth Affair, which makes it the best James Bond adventure game I've ever played!



Thanks for reading!

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8 comments:

  1. Do you think Spy Fox is related to Star and Psycho?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, because Star Fox is a team led by Fox McCloud from the Lylat Star System, and Psycho Fox is, uh... wow, he's from a Master System game? How I have not heard of this before?

      Delete
    2. It was sort of overshadowed by the Alex Kidd series even though it's better and then Sonic came along and that was that.

      Delete
  2. I used to play the demo for this and Humungous' other point-and-click games (Pajama Sam, Freddi Fish, and Putt-Putt) that came with Backyard Baseball and Backyard Soccer. I'd have ranked Spy Fox second behind Pajama Sam among those demos, none quite appealing enough to get me to buy and tear me away from Where In Time Is Carmen San Diego?, which I played through multiple times.

    ReplyDelete
  3. When I was maybe seven years old I remember playing the demo version of this game and I was a big fan of the Humungous´ games I mainly played Pajama Sam (All of them) and most of the Putt Putt and Freddi Fish I am fourteen now and I still love those games. I was wondering if you could check out my blog I do PC games but I just started. My URL is http://videogamesreviewstm24.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  4. When I was maybe seven years old I remember playing the demo version of this game and I was a big fan of the Humungous´ games I mainly played Pajama Sam (All of them) and most of the Putt Putt and Freddi Fish I am fourteen now and I still love those games. I was wondering if you could check out my blog I do PC games but I just started. My URL is http://videogamesreviewstm24.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete

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