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Kids On Site (Sega CD) artwork

Kids On Site (Sega CD) review


"Digital Pictures produced a lot of not very good games, here is an FMV game that it seems has not gotten a lot of scrutiny. Is it a hidden gem? or is it more of the same? please read on to find out."


Recently I've been going through a collection of PC CD's from my childhood. A lot of them were late 90's crap from when computers were supposed to be the be all and end all for “fun” education and productivity...so basically no games. Hidden among the “Digital Workshops” and “Activity Zones” was a CD of a game called “Kids on Site”. Instantly images of hilarity and fun from when I was about 6 years old flooded back. Unfortunately the disc was rotted, curse my childish disregard for taking care of my stuff, the internet was suitably unhelpful, there's not even a wikipedia page on the game. Finally I found a working copy for the Mega CD for a decent price. Realizing that it was my only option I decided to give it a whirl. Oh the things we do for nostalgia.

Kids on Site was a game released by Digital Pictures Kids for DOS, Macintosh and the Mega CD sometime in 1994. Obviously being made by Digital Pictures it's an FMV game. 1994 was roughly around the time that people had gotten royally sick of FMV games (even more than before I mean) which probably accounts for the relative lack of information I found online. I had received my copy of the DOS version some time in 1999 and it was found in a bargain bin.

Boot the game and you are treated to a grainy, low colour depth video of heavy machinery doing their thing to some kind of generic sounding “goofy” music, music that's clearly designed to sound whimsical and slapstick...but composed by a guy on a cheapish synth. Then you're greeted by an overly enthusiastic young woman named Bertha who greets you with a jolly “Welcome to the pit kiddo”...unfortunately you're going to have to deal with being constantly being called kiddo throughout the game. The real stars of the game are “Dizzy” and “Nuts” and the first slightly-funny-but-not-quite-and-annoyingly-overused joke happens “I'm Nuts”, “He certainly is”. Uugh.

The premise of the game is that you are a kid on a building site and your job is to gain a merit badge showing that you have completed some objective on the 4 machines available. The 4 machines are an Excavator (named Eddie), A Steamroller (named melvin), a Bulldozer (named Billy) and a Wrecking Ball (named Ruby). Mercifully NONE of them are voiced or are alive in any way.

Every scenario has the same formula. First you see Bertha doing something like welding her sunglasses to fix them, digging or at the plunger of a (hopefully controlled) explosion before noticing your existence and explaining the basic principles of the machine you are about to use and abuse set over stock footage of that machine. Then Dizzy and Nuts will do a short skit mixed with exposition of just what you are supposed to be doing, each primary objective involves you doing something 3 times much like a Zelda boss, these objectives can be things like using the steamroller to press some fresh asphalt or using the Wrecking Ball to transport Miley Cyrus. Then you are sent to a random part of that scenario.

When the scenario starts you will be presented with a video cutscene introducing the concept of the part of the scenario you are in and you have 3 options, press A or C to move to another screen or press B to use the machine. The game is structured in nodes, for example in the wrecking ball scenario there are roughly 5 or 6 nodes, only one actually involves what you are meant to do, the others are just for fun. One for example is playing bowling with the wrecking ball which is not as fun as it sounds.

An interesting feature however is when you are performing an action it is possible to reverse that action by pressing B again and actually get a response, for example the ultimate goal of the excavator is to fill a dump truck up with 3 shovels of dirt. If you approach the dump truck with a shovel of dirt, start dumping it in and then reverse the video Nuts (who guards the truck and starts doing a happy dance and laughing as it goes in) facepalms so hard he falls over. It's not a big feature or anything I just think it's kinda cool

It may be a good idea to explain the dynamic Dizzy and Nuts have in the game as it's very central. Essentially Dizzy is the “fun” guy, instead of doing the actual work he just wants to have fun and good off. Nuts is...basically Squidward. He wants the job done and is in general quite cynical and thoroughly fed up with Dizzy's crap. He's obviously the main source of comedy in the game, usually by being undone by his own hubris or by Dizzy's unintended meddling. Through the game Nuts will have been: crushed by a wrecking ball, splashed in a torrent of watermelon, squished by a steamroller, been in a building demolished by a wrecking ball, have his car crushed by a runaway bulldozer and have his fluffy jammies “ironed” by a steamroller. Every scenario ends with something bad happening to nuts as he celebrates a job about to be well done. Things like doing a happy dance 2 metres in front of an advancing steamroller for instance. After this Bertha and Dizzy show up to congratulate you and being generally dismissive of Nuts' predicament.

Interspersed through these is the “Coffee break gang” who are there mainly as spectators but at least one scene of each machine is devoted to them, easily the most memorable being the excavator where you actually pick up a member of the gang and carry him around. Nuts' reaction is actually quite funny; “I asked for dirt, a dirty man is not the same as dirt”. The games slapstick nature kicks in especially hard when you drop him, his only reaction is “well at least I didn't spill my coffee”.

Getting all 4 merit badges means that you are “qualified” to do the ultimate job, push the plunger for demolishing a large building...it's just stock footage.

In general Kids on Site feels like a decently produced saturday morning live action entertainment/educational show, the kind that you may have seen on Discovery Kids. The humour is slapstick and occasionally actually pretty funny, Bertha and Dizzy are one note characters but fun for what they are and are overacted in the way only young children's television can be and Nuts is the unreasonable, reasonable authority figure. It's only when you are an adult you realize that he is actually the most sympathetic character even if sometimes it's his own hubris that dooms him and he shows himself to be as incompetent as the rest of the characters. What I'm trying to say is that for what they are, the acting and characters work.

Video quality on the Mega CD version is surprisingly decent. Because the characters wear very bright high visibility clothing and the props and machines are also painted in bright colours it means that they show up well against the mostly dirt brown of the building site. Obviously the PC version looks better simply due to the greater colour depth.

Overall Kids on site is interesting. I don't know if it's “good”, like any FMV game you have next to no interactivity, the writing isn't great and it was probably not shot for a lot of money but I and many others find FMV games interesting and for me nostalgia fills in the rest. The game was made for kids and it shows by the presentation, so I guess the game succeeds on that mark as the humour is mostly slapstick in a Tom and Jerry way so perfect for kids. My personal recommendation is to get a group of friends to hang around and enjoy it the way you may enjoy a decent B movie. You know it's not very good, you know it's cheesy and you know there's better out there. But this is nice.

4/5

maboroshi's avatar
Community review by maboroshi (July 13, 2015)

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