>> Monday, May 7, 2007
As it was the case with a lot of 'new' software developers, some just didn't achieve what they promised to do. Apparently Down in the Dumps was going to be a base case title, without all the video sequences you see in this video, but they couldn't optimize the engine to run at least playable on cd-i. I'm not sure if this caused the cancellation, but Philips pulled the plug out of cd-i with or without it, so it was a bye-bye for Haiku... But, this spokeperson told me in-game material was presented on cd-i in some form, so it has been in development at least. Ofcourse he didn't have any material, but who knows what we'll run into in 2007... We have a look on what could have been a perfect game on CD-i.
While Philips cancelled the CD-i version of Down in the Dumps, the game eventually made it to PC-CD-ROM in 1997. The adventure style would be perfect on CD-i, and was originally designed for CD-i only. When CD-i went down and Philips expanded to other platforms, Down in the Dumps was brought to CD-ROM and Macintosh. Please note these screenshots are taken from the CD-ROM version!
First, let me show you some CD-i footage of this game, taken from original promotional material from Philips Media:
The game is all about the Blub family. They are no longer than your thumb, and quite different from the ordinary family next door. They have strange looking heads, and eccentric behaviour. In short: crazy. But still, they need your help to return to the place from where they originally came from. Getting them to their home won't be an easy task, as the spaceship of the Blubs is total-loss. The family is stranded on an unfortunate place on earth: The Dumps. That's why the title: Down in the Dumps!
Ofcourse this situation is absolutely not as how the Blubs had things in mind. They were going on a holiday, but it is all destiny which ends them on a different location than planned. For this trip, apparently they collided with another ship. After a disastrous fly both ships ended in the dumps. One other unfortunate event is that the people of the other ship (that also landed in the dumps) was crowded with a gang of nasty bad-guys. So for one thing they have to survive and find repair parts for their ship, they also have to deal (read: avoid) the members of this gang, led by a thug named Khan.
The game is developed by Haiku Studios, and originally intended for a CD-i release. Originally it was going to offer you the role of every family member during five episodes of the adventure. So you take on the role of each Blub every stage. According to Coming Soon: "In the first part entitled "The Blub, the Rat and the Bad Guy", you will play as the Son. Your goal will consist of retrieving one piece of the ship. The three other episodes, namely "The Hypnotic Machine", "The Abominable Robin Blub" and "The Bum", share similar goals, and feature original scenarios that will place you in hilarious situations. Except for the fourth and fifth scenarios, you control one character per episode, the Son in the first, the Mother in the second, and the Father in the third. The fourth part is by far the most difficult, as you will control simultaneously two characters (the Son and the Daughter)". The most of the time you'll be busy finding out what each character has to use in order to solve a problem. Every character has their own inventory, so it won't be easy to find out the solution to every problem. "Finally, the last episode will have you controlling the whole family, including the two grandparents and even Stinky the pet, in a scenario that is sure to keep you thrilled as it is time limited."
The fact you play as different characters in Down of the Dumps is quite original, but there is more that puts this game in a unique spot. There are loads of cinematic scenes, in fact every movement from one location to another initiates beautifully pre-rendered videos. The CD-i version was rumoured to be a base-case title, without these sequences so probaly this was added in a later stadium of the game. Of that time, the video sequences were of the best quality I've seen in videogames. They deserve bonus points because the start and finish of the video seamlessly goes into your start and end location of your trip. This looks like it all goes in one motion, which is a very clever implementation. The backgrounds are also pre-rendered and enhanced with animations to avoid having a static landscape. The overall impression of realism is outstanding, especially regarding the age of this game: This is all 1996 stuff. Textures are clear, living and colourful, and they all make up for an excellent realistic virtual world. The original developers took numerous poctures of garbage piles all over the world, just to make the scenery as good as possible. Excellent job done!
Down in the Dumps features a classic interface. The inventory is located at the bottom of the screen. The options are positioned at th etop and the view is in the middle, between two black strips. The panel moves over the screen once your mouse is located on the edges. Inventory is using the same places more than once so after it gets full, it can get very messy. You can save your game or load a game, turn off or on the subtitles, volume and more stuff like that. In fact this is a classic point-and-click adventure, not seen a lot on CD-i with the exception of Microids classic Secret Mission. So yes, you control this game by using the mouse. The hand icon will let you control the characters. When the cursor changes in a moving gear you can perform an action, when it changes into a mouth you can talk to someone, etcetera. During your exploration around the dumps you'll find plenty of items just like in an ordinary adventure. The interface is kept pretty simple which leaves is accessable to all kinds of gamers.
There are not a lot of dialogues in the games, which in my opinion is only a good thing; it leaves the larger part of attention to solving puzzles and exploration. Still, you need to talk to make progress in the game, and Haiku programmed different multiple choice answers, so different talks lead to different actions. Each characters offers an unique voice which fits very good. Haiku obviously put a lot of attention in the voice-overs of the characters. The game is full-packed with humour but still this is oriented to adults. The game package gives an age rating of 15 or older. I don't know why they did this because I hardly found any dialogue going over the edge. There is no violence or whatever, so it has to do with the difficulty of the game/puzzles and like that, in my opinion.
Down in the Dumps offers a long, fun and graphically outstanding experience. The setting and characters are unique, and gameplay of over 60 hours is packed on three cd's. This will certainly provide you a steady adventure full of jokes and puzzles. It's a great pity Haiku didn't get the chance to complete the CD-i version!
Credits: Coming Soon