In a marketplace awash with computer games, getting noticed can depend more on attracting big name actors to play voice roles than the game itself.
Given that, consider the coup by “Creature Crunch,” which landed Martin Short to breathe life into a cast of wacky cartoon characters.
It’s a classic computer adventure quest with a comic twist. Tailored for younger players, it tells the story of Wesley, a boy turned into a monster by the neighborhood evil scientist, Dr. Drod.
Wesley (Short) must search through the doctor’s eerie mansion for a way to turn himself back to normal. Joining him is the disembodied brain of an unlucky pizza delivery boy, Brian, played by Short’s longtime friend and comedy cohort Eugene Levy.
“Creature Crunch” (Class6 Interactive, CD-ROM for Windows 95, $39.95) gets its name from the bizarre method Monster Wesley must use to defeat enemy monsters in the spooky house, namely eating.
It’s nothing as simple and humorless as devouring opponents though. He has to eat odd items he collects along the way, which alter him into lethal weapons, to crunch creatures blocking his path to needed clues.
In the game’s first example, Wesley has to gobble a candlestick, yum-yum, to turn into a 6-foot blowtorch and clear the way.
Beware Mr. Punishment, an ugly brute who drops in to evict Wesley and Brian from whatever room they’re in whenever they dawdle too long.
Foraging and menu planning become essential for the intrepid lad, although at times all he really wants is something to soothe an extremely upset tummy.
Short and Levy got together in a recording studio to create and perform voices for nearly 40 different characters, finishing the job in a single session.
“It reminded me of my days starting out when I used to do a lot of weird voices for radio ads,” Short said, speaking by phone from the Toronto set of his latest film, “A Simple Wish.”
“The atmosphere was very loose, relaxed and open to exploration,” he said. “We each did, like, 19 voices, making them up as we went along. There was a script, but there was a lot of room for improvisation too, so it was fun.”
Short, who uses a laptop computer for work-related chores only and has never surfed the Internet, said bringing entertainment to cyberspace was an eye-opener.
“It was a relatively harmless, goofball kind of thing, but I learned a lot because it’s my first computer project,” Short said. “Now I know what the fuss is all about.”
“Creature Crunch” boasts more than 16,000 drawings for virtually seamless animation. Twenty-two rooms, where at least half of everything seen is interactive, await exploration.
Every room has various animated gags, activated by mouse-clicks, to lighten the mood during the search. Some even play differently the second and third times around.
The humor is largely juvenile, but that’s nothing new to the man whose signature character is greasy-haired, hyperactive nerd Ed Grimley.
“Adults and kids laugh at the same kinds of things really,” Short said. “Some grown-ups just won’t admit it.”
Short began his career in his native Canada with the famed Second City improvisation troupe, where he met Levy as the group flourished and went on to do the series, “SCTV Comedy Network.”
He caught fire in the United States as a “Saturday Night Live” cast member in 1984 and went on to appear in such movies as “The Three Amigos,” “Armed and Dangerous” and the “Father of the Bride” films.
Coming face to face with the new computer media for the first time, Short didn’t see anything to make him fear the future.
“I don’t worry too much about computers taking over everything, at least in my lifetime,” Short said. “When television came out everyone said, ‘Oh no, this will kill the movies.’ Which it didn’t. Movies just changed with the times. Computers will change things, providing more choices, which is fabulous, but they have their limits, too.
“Until home PCs start spitting out bags of buttered popcorn, I think movie theaters are safe.”
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