The World of Who Framed Roger Rabbit in Video Game Form
Close your eyes and imagine a world where animated characters interact with live action individuals. If you’re thinking about the classic film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, you’re on the right track. Picture the movie’s antagonist, the sinister Judge Doom. Now imagine him surrounded by a bulldog that sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger, a robot that sounds like Christopher Walken, an effeminate scarecrow, and dominatrix cows. If you’re confused, don’t be. This is just a fraction of Virgin Entertainment’s point-and-click animated adventure known as Toonstruck. Released in 1996, this game combines live action characters in animated environments to create a unique experience that could be seen to some as visually overwhelming, but challenging and fun to play for everyone.
An Engaging Story Told Through Unique Cutscenes
Once a new game is started, a wonderful film plays to serve as an introduction to this experience. Drew Blanc (Christopher Lloyd) works as an animator and creative director for the infantile Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show. The adorable and facile characters sicken him, but his boss Sam Schmaltz wants to see more content like Bun Bun, given that the show has been a huge success. In the middle of an all-night work shift, Drew gets pulled into his TV and into the world of the brightly-colored Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show. Within moments of his arrival, a sinister machine attacks Drew, who is saved by his beloved creation Flux Wildly. Flux takes Drew to meet King Hugh, who explains that the land of Cutopia is under attack by Count Nefarious, who seeks to corrupt everything adorable with his Malevolator. King Hugh strikes a deal with Drew: if he and Flux can build a Cutifier to reverse the Malevolator’s effects, then safe passage to the real world will be given to Drew.
The Ultimate Nostalgia Trip
Once these terms are agreed upon, the player can take control of Drew and start the adventure. Using a mouse, the player guides a live-action Drew through the cartoony kingdom of Cutopia, collecting items that are needed to solve puzzles and progress further in the story. Along the way, he and Flux meet various characters with famous voices (including those of Dom DeLuise, Jim Cummings, Rob Paulson, and April Winchell). If you’re someone who grew up with cartoons, you’ll most likely recognize these voices and feel a rush of nostalgia. I know I did!
But the voices aren’t the only things that may feel familiar. I couldn’t help but wonder if Warner Brothers Animation was involved with the visuals, given that some of the character designs felt reminiscent of Looney Tunes. I was wrong: all of the animation is done by Nelvana, the Canadian company responsible for the Care Bears series in the 1980’s. The animation style, although cheesy and of poor quality by today’s standards, still filled me with warmth whenever a cutscene played. And with such a great cast combined with the visuals, the game succeeds in creating an experience that I didn’t know I wanted or needed!
Overall, this is a fantastic, but very surreal game. Although the brightly colored visuals and Saturday morning cartoon designs make the game appear as if it were made for children, Toonstruck is definitely intended for older audiences. (This is one of the only games I can recall a character saying the word “retarded.”) It’s perfect for gamers who want to relive the cheesy point-and-click adventures from the 90’s and animation enthusiasts who’d get a kick out of a Roger Rabbit video game.