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Stay Tooned! (PC) artwork

Stay Tooned! (PC) review

"I'd bet you've never seen Stay Tooned! before, and I'd also bet why: it's a decade-old graphic adventure that gets wrongly marked as edutainment. A game with a worse rep there may be, but I haven't heard of it."

A few years ago, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, Saturday morning was a hallowed time for the preteen pack. Batman: The Animated Series! Ghostbusters! Freakazoid! Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! People lucky enough to remember those shows can recall what unadulterated, adult-free entertainment Saturday once brought. Legs crossed and eyes locked on the TV screen, mesmerized by the cheap laughs, the tight action, the quickie plots that fit oh-so nicely in a thirty-minute time slot. Good times.

Saturday morning cartoons have sunken in recent years, and they're not far from rock bottom; filling up with bad animes, American cartoons trying to be bad animes, and girly shows. Yu-Gi-Oh? Xiaolin Showdown? The Winx Club? The next generation's destined to be a bunch of card-slinging, wannabe-otaku ninnies.

How do you appease the disease? Me, I'd suggest Stay Tooned!

I'd bet you've never seen Stay Tooned! before, and I'd also bet why: It's a decade-old graphic adventure that gets wrongly marked as edutainment. A game with a worse rep there may be, but I haven't heard of it.

Pity. While it may not have the boring deep puzzles of Monkey's Island or some other graphic adventure I don't care to play, Stay Tooned! is a fun experience. That's enough.

It all starts when your remote control breaks. However, instead of just fritzing and forcing you to do the unthinkable act of walking over to the TV, the remote control bends reality, turning your apartment complex into a cartoon-world that breaks every law science ever made. Apparently, it was a magical remote or…something. It’s never explained and it doesn’t need to be. The important thing is that the time-space continuum is getting a new hole ripped and the apartment complex is filled with dozens of crazed creatures, all lead by two dogs, three cats, and an irratated penguin.

WARNING: Do NOT mess with the penguin. ->

Now, as any Saturday morning soldier will tell you, the only thing that fixes stuff like this is what broke it in the first place: The remote control. Fortunately, it’s not far away…at least, it wasn’t until one of the cartoons sucker-punched you and hid with the blasted thing. Now you’ve got to venture out into the Looney Tuned world that was once reality, finding keys to open doors to search every apartment, looking for the instrument of their demise.

Harder done than said; Stay Tooned! drags you all over the place, hunting down keys, finding the doors they open. Some lead to dead ends, some lead to more keys, all of them lead to weird parallel worlds, but one and only one leads to the remote control. You have to run a gauntlet of tomfoolery and bally-ho to get there.

Take the time machine.

You could end up in the Wild West. Build a brick barricade to save Fiddle the Cat from getting flattened by a train. Shave Fiddle the Cat down to his birthday suit with a barber's razor. Engage in a barroom, point-and-click shoot-out that doesn't involve Fiddle the Cat and is all the better for of it.

Better yet, go to the future, the far future, the farthest future. Apocalypse has come; the world lies in ashes, wasted. So what do the toons do? What else: They dress up in Mortal Kombat outfits, find an arena, and throw down as only talking cats with a taste for violent-yet-crappy arcade games can do. Granted, there are only four characters to choose from and the keyboard sucks for fighting games, but it’s not like you need the key victory gives you.

And that’s the best thing about Stay Tooned!: It rarely forces anything on you. Yeah, there are events you have to trigger to win. But how you find these events is your own business. Certain keys pop up in different places, random places. You could find them under a couch, inside a light bulb, under someone’s hat…while that particular someone is still wearing it. You could even exit one of the apartments and find a random toon waiting for you, snatching your cursor and running off before you can do a damn thing, leaving you clicker-less. Stay Tooned! loves a good surprise.

Still, even with the randomness, Stay Tooned! can be a short game; it won't take more than two hours if you know what to do and when to do it. But that would defeat the game's point. It's all about pleasurable business.

It’s about turning on the TV and watching the XXX Files.

It’s about looking out the window and seeing a dog, a mad scientist, a weightlifter and a burglar all coming together, donning striped suits, and singing in a harmonized barbershop quartet.

It’s about walking into a diner, hitting the jukebox, and finding yourself in the middle of a rap session that would put most modern MCs to shame, watching as the whole crew gets down, gets rhythmic, gets more wikkaty wikkaty whack than the Beastie Boys.

"Look at me, my stomach’s colossal!
Bigger than a mammoth or a dinosaur fossil!"

It’s about going back to the golden days. You’re eight years old. You’re going to grow up to be like Batman and win the lottery before college and have lots of money and never have to work and its going to be sweet. You watch cartoons until your mom tells you to stop. You get selective hearing and keep watching anyway.

Stay Tooned! forces the world to make sense again. For a moment.

lasthero's avatar
Staff review by Zack Little (January 13, 2006)

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