I was digging around in my garage, scraping together what personal items I could before I move, when I came across a stack of CD’s. I was shocked to find my old collection of Humongous games.
You might remember Humongous (founded by Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert) for their mediocre Backyard Sports games, but adventure games like Putt-Putt, Fatty Bear, Freddi Fish, Pajama Sam, and Spy Fox were their real claim to fame. I absolutely loved them as a kid even though I had far more ‘mature’ games at the time like Earthbound and StarFox. It didn’t specifically teach numbers or colors or any of that crap that you get in pre-school or from the Jumpstart series, it trained key skills like problem solving, memory, and it encouraged you to investigate every part of the scene.
All of these skills were achieved through point-and-click adventure gameplay. Instead of loosely tied together mini-games, these titles took the formula used by games like Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion and toned it down to an elementary level. The music was fantastic and memorable, the art assets were colorful and smooth and the characters really popped from the background.
There’s something that enables these games to be replayed countless times: random item placement. Similar to how the original Resident Evil had multiple configurations for where items would appear, these games would mix things up as far as where your items were and what you had to do to obtain them each time you played.
For example, at the beginning of Pajama Sam you have to find his lunchbox, mask, and flashlight in order to go through your closet door and delve into the land of Darkness. One play-through the lunchbox might be under the bed, and the next it would be in a totally different place. It really kept the game fresh much longer than it probably should have, considering the game can easily be completed in an hour (longer if you are in the target age group).
Some of these games had problems running on my ‘futuristic’ Windows 7 64-bit OS such as missing sound, corrupted graphics and so on. Luckily the popular ScummVM program emulates them all perfectly, I’d highly recommend it if you plan on seeking out any of these games and replaying them for yourself.