The Residents' Bad Day on the Midway
Windows 3.x - 1995
Also available on: Mac
Description of The Residents' Bad Day on the Midway
Bargain or not a bargain?
Titles in the bargain bins, some are hot and others not. Searching through the piles of leftover titles for half or even a quarter of the price of new releases is not an easy task and more times than not one comes up with a real loser. Something that just doesn't run on today's machines or was relegated to the bargain pile because it lacked anything of quality. Looking through the list of titles to be had for $15 or less, I saw one that stood out from the others and which it seems Games Domain was unable to pick up for review at the time of its release. Back in 1995, The Residents: Bad Day on the Midway collected several awards, despite the weird descriptions used to promote it. It won the People's Choice Award for Best Entertainment Title and Most Innovative Use of Multimedia at the Macromedia International User Conference. Also, it got a 4 star rating from PC Entertainment , 4 and 1/2 stars from CD-ROM Today, and 80% from PC Gamer and a Gold award for Adventure/Role-Playing Game Title from New Media's 1996 Invision Awards.
Now, the value of either star and awards systems as an indicator for whether a game is good or bad is certainly questionable, given that two people can have entirely different views on a particular game. But sometimes, where there's smoke there's fire, and the game must have caught the attention of these people for some reason. Given its low price and the attention it received, I thought that it was high-time to give the game a once over.
What's this about weird? Well, weird is weird, and it seems of late I have somehow been destined to review very surreal games with the dark side running through them. The setting of Bad Day on the Midway is, unsurprisingly, the Midway: an old, decrepit amusement park with a serious set of problems. You begin your journey through this point and click adventure game as Timmy, a 'sweet and innocent young boy' who has gone to this horrible, retched park against his parent's wishes.
While in the park there are areas to explore and people to meet, each of whom relate to Timmy their sordid pasts and motivations using cut-scenes which are a mixture of Macromedia and Quick Time animations. One cannot stay with Timmy forever though, the object of the game being to jump from one character to another as two characters meet. If the player remains with Timmy, much of the information to be discovered will not be found and the game will end. There are several endings, and it is important to not remain in one character for too long a time. This amusement park is full of awful luck that will catch up with you if you're not careful and are staying with a character can be the cause of doom. If the character you are playing is struck with disaster, the game will end and must be restarted again.
Adding depth to the animations, the thoughts of each character appear as white text in the black space beneath the viewing screen in Tolstoi-like fashion. In other words, broken sentences of single thoughts appear and disappear at different locations in the black space. An example would be, 'Nice boy...he reminds me....it's weird to be here...again.' This gives the game an eerie first-person atmosphere, as if being in the brain of a different person. One may jump from Timmy into another character at almost every encounter. And Timmy will run into other characters for more than a few times during the game.
To tease out the juicy info hidden in rooms which certain characters can access, the gamer must replay the game several times. The reason is that the plague or the serial killer usually get you before you've gotten very far. That doesn't mean you won't solve the game (since there are several endings), and I managed to get to one of the happy endings in less than an hour after installation! The problem was, I had not seen most of the game and so had to go back and replay it over and over again to discover new areas and endings. Since the opening is pretty much the same each time, this gets a bit repetitive and annoying.
First off, let's just say...this ain't for no kids, baby. The amusement park's exhibits only add to the dark nature of the characters. As Timmy, or any other character, you can visit the "Kill a Commie Shooting Gallery" or the "Sperm Whale Giving Birth to an Electric Eel" exhibits, or how about "Tortures of the Top Ten" which shows Monty Python-style drawn images of wacky tortures like "Eaten by Unknown Self." I mean, who wouldn't go screaming out of such a place!
The graphics are quite good for 1995, and were created by Jim Ludtke, a 3D artist who also worked with The Resident's (who wrote the story) on another game entitled Freak Show. While Bad Day on the Midway is similar to Of Light and Darkness in the sense that the player is limited to a specific area of the park, and it has rooms you can enter and explore with somewhat similar lighting, it is not nearly as beautiful as OLAD nor as subtle. Also, you are limited to the usual "point and click on an object and hope it does something" style of play. There is no inventory or other actions you can perform. Of course it's more traditional in movement, however as you stand at a certain location, shadows of people flit about going from one direction to another in the park and when characters approach you they do so with movement and do not just pop up when you enter a certain location.
One possible way to understand the origins of the game is to understand The Residents . Sadly, they seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth as their URL is no longer active. The same goes for iNSCAPE the publishers of the game and also their 'front face' or The Cryptic Corp, who supposedly made a boon of money during the 1970's property price escalation and then managed The Residents . On the blurb at the back of the small doc that came with the game The Residents are described as "inhabiting the space between fantasy and reality, the anonymous Residents have occupied virtual reality for almost 25 years." It goes on to state that they were once a virtual rock-band now turned game creators. "With watchful eyes on the future and affection for the past, The Residents can only welcome the coming AGE OF VIRTUALITY with the first words they ever wrote: 'Om is where the art is, God is where a fart is.' Thank you."
Running the game was no problem. With today's machines and more memory and faster CD-ROMs, the game ran smoothly and I only encountered the usual NT sound problems. And despite its strangeness, Bad Day on the Midway 's atmosphere and gameplay does encourage the gamer to explore and keep restarting the game. The reason is that with each additional piece of information more pieces come together, and yet others are still missing and therefore curiosity usually got the better of me. The characters have relationships and as the game progresses, the AI (yes it has AI...!) kicks in and therefore they speak and act as if certain events have come to light and thus behave in a logical way. Only once did I see an error with this, when Ted, the melancholy son of Lotty the Log Woman, spoke to Timmy as if he knew him, telling Timmy about his childhood although they had not met before. And, later, at the spot where usually Timmy meets Ted for the first time, Ted behaved as if he didn't know Timmy and introduced himself.
In all honesty, I have to say that I understand the convolutions that the award givers, mentioned in the opening paragraph, were going through at the time. There is a lot of movement and Monty Python-style humor, although in the end, I think much of the humor misses the mark, and rather it's more a bizzaro adventure game which had fantastic graphics at the time it was released. The adult themes and presentation didn't offend me even though the context is often viewed through the eyes of a young boy who just plain doesn't understand it all. The internal character thoughts were the most revealing, funny, and thought-provoking, although their novelty wears off after the first couple of run throughs.
Hmm..well, who can I recommend this to? Adventure gamers with a twisted mind, or those adventurers who like other people's twisted minds and better than average 1995 graphics for the low price of $15. It will keep one busy for an afternoon or two and may actually become a collector's item one day for the cult crowd. And all those awards? Umm...maybe The Resident's held a 'smoke-in' and invited all the reviewers and judges and let them play 'stoned', that might answer it.
Review By GamesDomain
Comments and reviews
Pat 2016-10-29 1 point Windows 3.x version
I downloaded the "Windows 3.x" version and it's in french (version francais)
Please be aware of this if you are going to download it!
SoSo 2015-11-01 0 point
You're welcome "Marky Mark" Markus!
The best solutions for old games are:
- DOSbox 0.74
- a Win98 emulation under your OS (or better, a real Win98 installed on another PC)
"Marky Mark" Markus 2015-09-21 0 point Windows 3.x version
It was only in French and didn't seem to work, when I tried to run it, all I got was a bunch of code and white shapes going 'round the screen, I'll try downloading from some other website, and see if that works, thanks for the help.
SoSo 2015-08-24 0 point
"Marky Mark" Markus
- perhaps with DOSbox 0.74
& check this link - http://www.myabandonware.com/howto/
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Windows 3.x Version
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