Monday, November 19, 2012

Ghost's Angry Reviews - Pink Panther's Passport to Peril

I’m going to forgo the spoiler warning here because I doubt anyone really cares about spoilers for this game.

Ghost here, thanks for joining!

Technology changes culture and ideologies.  As an example, if you look to the older generation, many of them don’t understand the impact and benefits of video games.  They hear the word “game” and think that it’s generally a useless waste of our time, not taking into account the research showing that playing these games is helpful on many levels to the development of reactions, interactions, and being allowed to play out curiosity in a way that will never cause them physical harm.

That being said, there are some people who have taken notice and began shaping the love of video games into a learning experience and that’s where today’s game comes from that desolate wasteland known as the Educational Video Game!
 Now before you go to some other website and stop reading this, I promise not to turn this into a school lesson.  Educational Games are the way that many of the current generation were introduced to video games as a whole and some are good enough to stick with us for the rest of our lives.  The problem with Educational Games is not the fact that they are trying to teach something; it’s the fact that many companies take the stand that children are idiots and that they will gobble up any old garbage just because it’s a video game.  You and I both know that is incorrect but it doesn’t stop the onslaught of turds being shoved into the market.

This is where Pink Panther’s Passport to Peril steps in.  “Quad P” as I called it was released in 1996 by Wanderlust Interactive for Windows 3 or Higher and I was happy to see that it still played perfectly well on my Windows XP machine.  Obviously the graphics of the game are not up to current High Definition standard but for a game of this age I’m fairly impressed at how clear everything is and how smooth things move in the world.  Now to the big question you may be wondering… is this actually a good game or is it a terrible game?  I’ll let you be the judge.

Generally when it comes to Educational games, the plot of the game is either so simplistic that a 3 year old with a crayon could do better or it’s as useless as a condom machine at the Vatican.  However it’s not exactly the case with this one.  Sure it’s still simplistic enough for smaller children to understand but it’s not throwaway material either.
The Pink Panther is some sort of secret agent.  He is being sent to a summer camp, Camp Chilly Wa Wa, because there are several important children there.  All are very gifted and some are the sons of diplomats and other such important people.  The Detective informs Pink that it is vital to keep them safe and happy because there could be potential terrorist threats and extremist groups after them.  When we get to the camp we meet the head of the camp, the children, and a Doc Brown wannabe called Doctor Von Smarty.  It’s during this that we figure out how to play the game;  a simple point and click game where you investigate and speak to people, but you also have an inventory so you can use items and give items to others.

But the Inspector mentioned potential threats and it’s not long before we meet this game’s threat.  What sort of terrorist group do we find?  Three anthropomorphic dogs disguised as Camp Inspectors with obvious villain music.  
 Subtle!  What are these dogs’ plans?  We’ll get to that later

As Day 2 of the game arrives, Pink notices a robotic hand crawling around in the basement but is then called to check on Nigel, the boy from England.  The boy is very unhappy and is getting homesick so Pink decides to travel to England and retrieve something from his home.  After running around England Pink finds not only a keepsake, but a letter sent to his parents about how he hates it at camp with the timestamp before camp even started.  He then gets a call from Von Smarty and is informed that the girl from Egypt is missing.  So Pink gets on a Jet and searches Egypt to not find the girl but find a letter she had written in hieroglyphics to a friend saying how great camp was.  As soon as Pink finds this the Doc calls him back to say that the girl had returned but kept talking about how she hated camp.  So pink returns to the camp to investigate more.

As soon as Pink gets there, Lee, the boy from China starts shouting in Chinese constantly, so the Doc sends him to China to get lessons in Chinese because obviously there’s NOONE in the United States knows Chinese.  Eventually Pink finds the boy’s father who says that Lee usually only speaks English and that the Chinese he was speaking was gibberish.  It is at this point Pink is contacted by the girl from India and asks him to take flowers to her grandfather’s grave.  As he is flying to India, the dogs have taken over the jet, so Pink parachutes out and lands in Bhutan.

In Bhutan he finds the mother of the boy from Bhutan who mentions he has an allergy to dogs.  Pink calls the doctor to ask about the boy, and finds out that the boy has been walking around with the dogs and not sneezing.  Eventually Pink gets to India and finds out that there is no Hindu graveyard, they are all tossed in Shiva’s River.  So, Pink returns to the camp.

When Pink gets there, the doctor is acting very strange and there are weird footprints heading to the jets.  So Pink follows the footprints and gets on a jet to Austrailia.  Once again the dogs have hijacked the plane so Pink parachutes out and is picked up by an Aboriginal.  This man happens to be the boy from Austraia’s father and the weird foot prints are from the boy’s animal spirit signaling danger. 
REALLY?  You throw all this normal stuff at us then at the end… OH here’s an alligator spirit that can manifest itself physically???  Bullcrap!

So Pink heads back to the Camp to find all of the kids are actually robots and they are falling apart.  Pink also finds out the dog’s plan.  What is this plan?  International war?  Ransom?  Weapons of Mass Destruction?  Violence against the Children? Nope it’s something even more evil than that.  Something only the blackest of hearts could have ever imagined!  He wants to tear down the camp to make a burger restaurant.
Really?  All that talk about keeping the kids safe because of potential international threat and this turns out to be nothing more than business ethics?

So Pink confronts them and then they partake in a Scooby Doo style chase scene and ending with Pink using a Poltergust 3000 knockoff to suck up the bad guys and save the day

Over the course of this game you visit six different countries across the world.  It’s interesting how in the course of the game each country can easily be visited in full in less than a day.  Let’s look at what all you do in each of them.
It was a good idea I think to have England be first.  England’s culture is extremely similar to ours and basically all children know something about it even if it’s just the fact that it exists.  While in England you meet rugby players, meet a member of parliament, visit a standard pub, visit a countryside estate, and even visit Stonehenge.  The Pub is a fairly interesting place where you learn about all the different terminology they use “across the pond.”  The Countryside Estate portion is a little difficult because you have to keep checking pictures over and over till it eventually lets you pull it back to reveal the secret passage way.  Nothing is really out of the ordinary here except for the usual oddies like…
Cross dressing
Pink Panther without any pants on
And of course random aliens in limousines.

Egypt was also a good inclusion to have early on.  If the rest of society is anything like me (God help us if they are) then they also had a slight fascination with Ancient Egypt with their pyramids and mummies.  Most children will know of Egypt but not much about it.  In Egypt you have to haggle with a camel owner to take you to the mouth of the Nile River…over and over and over.  This guy is extremely annoying and has a very used car salesman type of personality.  You also get to go to Cairo but the novelty of Cairo wears out after having to travel back and forth from the sales doofus to the city.  Eventually you end up in a small farming village and trick the dogs into being buried alive only to spring up again as flowers and get carried away by a bird.
And here I thought the Mother Series was weird.


........I hate running gags

Now we start into the lesser known countries.  If you think back to 1996 when this came out, most children haven’t heard a whole lot about china that didn’t involve the words “made in”, “rice”, or “Great Wall of”.  So this was a good country to hit, though strangely enough the Great Wall isn’t even visited.  Instead we start out at a Chinese opera of all things where Pink gets mistaken as an opera singer and after stepping on a cat’s tail his screams of pain are confused for Opera singing which Pink then imitates for the rest of the performance.

 I know this is played for laughs but I’m sure someone out there is offended.

The rest of the time is spent at the home of a family, and at a rice farm out in the country.  Somehow I feel that this could have been done a little better with some ancient teachings or something rather than spending a large chunk of time on an opera gag but at least we got some interesting dialog with the family.

Now let’s all be honest with ourselves.  How many people actually know where Bhutan is or have ever heard of it?  I know I sure hadn’t and unless you are the type of individual who is greatly in tune with the world around them and knowing every portion of this planet we inhabit then I guarantee you have never heard of this place before either.  I’ve never even seen anything on the travel channel or any sort of specials about this place.  I honestly looked it up on Google to see if this place still even existed and it does! 

The only reason I can think that you would know it is if you happened to memorize Yakko’s Countries of the World song from the Animaniacs.
There isn’t really a whole lot that happens in Bhutan.  You compete in an archery contest to get an audience with the king and then you find the missing rotor to the helicopter so you can get to India and… that’s about it.  But honestly what can you expect from a country that’s smaller than the state of West Virginia.  But I really have to hand it to them to include something that most people will have never heard of otherwise!

Modern Children will be more familiar with India than back in the mid 90’s.  Seeing as what a large player in the world India has quickly become it was great insight to include it here.  Of all the countries you visit in this game this one seems like it had the most thought and care put into it.  It only has three sections to it but rather than being an annoying fetch quest like Egypt, you have a reason to go back and forth across places often.  The really weird thing is that this country is the only one that doesn’t show an overhead map, it instead has cutscenes of him riding a typical overly packed train to somewhat comedic effect.

In this country you run around a marketplace, recover a man’s cobra from a nearby village, fall off the train back in that village and have to get to Varanasi where you learn about the Shiva’s river (very interesting actually) and of course toss marigolds into the river for the girl in India. It’s also during this country that the humor takes a bizarre turn towards the adult as it includes a marijuana joke, a breast milk joke, and a “charming the snake” joke.

There’s also quite a bit of bizarre things in here as well such as

A fortune telling canary
Whatever the heck this is
And an impromptu rap by an old man with a pitchfork.
And while I’m on the topic of the worst rap ever created, this man raps about how in India, shaking your head up and down means no, and shaking your head side to side means yes.  That’s very interesting and all but the problem I have with this is that IT’S NOT TRUE!!!  Yup and Educational Video game presenting misinformation!  Now I see several articles out there on the web stating the same thing however in the comments there is always someone from India who reports this as false.  So good job on doing your due diligence guys!  I spent 16 years of my life believing a lie… of course that wouldn’t be the first time either
Don’t get me started!

When you get to Australia you get picked up by an aboriginal in a man-made boat and get dumped in the middle of the outback.  The only places you can go are the outback with all the animals and a very eccentric naturist, and the Aboriginal camp where the man who picked you up plays a didgeridoo. 

Honestly… it’s disappointing.  You do get to see a bunch of really cool animals from that region as well as listen to a didgeridoo being played but other than that there’s not much else going on.  At one point the  aboriginal man mentions that their people didn’t write down the history but I feel that’s just a bandaid excuse to not do much of anything.  It’s a yawn fest.

….*sigh*  I had been neglecting this so far.  I really didn’t want to talk about this but here it is.  There are songs in this game; educational songs to be exact.  Oh goodie of course there are.  I can barely contain my excitement.
 Songs for children are nothing new and it’s scientifically proven that if the song is catchy the kids will learn it much easier and will retain the information.  I can vouch for this entirely as my fourth grade teacher taught us a song naming all the presidents of the United States (up to Clinton) to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy, and it’s something I can still do today.

However, when corporate America hears this information they believe that ANY information when put to ANY song will stick with kids and teach them to learn.  This is not the case at all.  You have to have something catchy, something meaningful, and something that’s not washed out corporate bologna.  Songs for children can be three different varieties in all reality.

Excellent choices all around
 Bad choices in one area or two (or all around)

Let’s find out which these are shall we?

England – Guy Fawkes
This is a Blues Song about how Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament.  The story is far more interesting than the song and it’s entirely forgettable.

Egypt – Mummification
This is a kind of pop/disco song about why the Ancient Egyptians mummified the dead.  The visuals associated with it are far more interesting than the song but the song isn’t that bad.  I can actually remember part of the chorus to this one.

China – Over 1 Billion People
This is a lame piano pop song about population control in China.  The information is interesting within if you just listen to the words but the song is unbelievably lame and repetitive.  Also of all the great things you could talk about in Chinese culture you end up making a song about fining people for having more than one baby?

Bhutan – In Time
This is a Soft Rock song about how Bhutan wants to keep with their traditions and not modernize as much as the rest of the world; that their focus is on their traditions and that maybe one day they will open the doors fully to the rest of the world.  And judging by google images of the place they’ve done that a little so this one fits even though it’s effectively a musical version of  “You can’t make me”

India – Caste System
It’s a disco song about the caste system and how Ghandi took in an untouchable child.  Just wrap your mind around that and I’m sure you’ll come to the obvious conclusion

India – Taj Mahal
India is so kind to us that they give us TWO songs.  At least the first one comes up in the context of what’s going on… this one comes right out of nowhere.  This is a love ballad about why the Taj Mahal was built and the love story behind it.  The story once again is FAR more interesting that the ridiculous love ballad they put to it.  Even as a kid I watched this song once just to learn the history of the building but from that point on I skipped it cause it was just bad.

Australia – The Dreaming
This is a pop-ish song about how the aboriginals pass their stories down in tongue rather than on paper.  This could have been a good song because the song starts with Pink playing a didgeridoo.  But the payoff is abysmal.  They passed up the chance to have native drums and didgeridoos or a real native feel to it but instead give us this washed out trash.

Camp Chilly Wa Wa – We’re Free
…UGH this is by far the worst of the worst.  This isn’t even an educational song it’s just a song that the kids randomly shout into after they are freed from the bad guys.  This one is just awful.  Even as a kid I at least listened to all the others once.  I get one verse in and I’m DONE.  They have all the kid voice actors sing and not a single one of them actually can sing.  It’s what I imagine Simon Cowell hears when he listens to 90% of people singing.

It kind of seems silly for me to say whether I recommend this game or not because I doubt ANY of you will actually find this game to play it, especially with its 5-6 hour gameplay only.  However I shall do my civil duty.

Playing this game as a child, this was really enjoyable and I loved sitting with my dad as we solved the clues together for the first time.  The adult humor went over my head but was there to keep my dad chuckling if not bewildered by it, and the adventure was rather engaging for an educational game.  I was playing the likes of Star Wars Dark Forces around this time so for this to still keep my interest says a lot.

Playing this as an adult however I do see the flaws.  The weak payoff of the villains makes it seem like you’re doing a lot of this for no real purpose at times.  The songs are generally awful and even some of the educational information presented is incorrect.  However I still found myself having fun in the process strangely enough.  I’m not sure if it’s because of the nostalgia or because of true enjoyment.

This game hits that really bizarre sweet spot where it’s altogether slightly above mediocre.  Nothing is so bad, information heavy, or offensive that it takes away from the fun, but also nothing stands out as fantastic about it either that would make you really want to play it again for the fun I just mentioned.  It’s a solid game with a decent overall payoff, just don’t take every bit of information it provides as 100% fact.

This is Ghost fading into the darkness
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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!

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