Saturday, 24 October 2015

Willy Beamish - Dinner at Willy’s

Written by Joe Pranevich

Casa del Beamish

William J. Beamish Journal #2 - Well, that didn’t go well. I guess I got cold feet because I gave dad my report card after all-- but I didn’t expect him to lock up my Nintari! Now how will I practice for the big competition? And I guess dad lost his job or something.

Where we last left the young Mr. Beamish, he had just returned from a final round of after-school detention. Through trial and error, we were able to find a way to sneak out early so that we could get home before any of his parents or siblings grabbed the mail and saw his report card. With the report card in hard, including its terrible “C” grade in “Music Appreciation”, we can cross the threshold into the Beamish household.

Immediately on entering, Willy’s dog, “Duffy” approaches and asks to be taken out for a walk, giving Willy his first choice of this play session: to take the dog for a walk, or not. Since I am never one to leave an animal to suffer, I decide that walking is our best course of action. Perhaps all that extra time I managed to snag in the last session is helping here? I honestly have no idea. Certainly better than cleaning up dog pee.

The commercial this is making fun of was already a decade old.

With the dog walking out of the way, I start to explore the house. The first thing I notice is that there is an answering machine on the desk (remember those?) and I can play back several of the messages that have queued up for my parents. The first call is for my sister, Tiffany, but the second one is from Mr. Frick: he wants Willy’s parents to call him before 6 PM to discuss my little discipline problem today. Well, good thing I erased that one! I also learn that my music lessons have been cancelled for the evening, that Cliff wants to take Tiffany to a concern, and that my dad has something he needs to discuss with the Employment Bureau. Other than the message from Mr. Frick, none of them seem that pertinent, but perhaps something will come up later.

With that out of the way, I do not find anything else in the foyer to do and I have three choices: doorway straight ahead, the doorway on the right, and the stairs. I pick straight ahead.

I’ve always wanted a kitchen with an island like this.

That way leads to the house’s well-equipped kitchen. Mom and my little sister Brianna are there, as well as my dog. Willy sits down at the counter and has some small talk with his mother, but she is overloaded and could use some help. That gives me a choice between taking Brianna out, chopping vegetables, or just refusing and saying that I have better things to do with my time. She is annoying, but I bet playing with my little sister is probably better than chopping vegetables.

Jackie Wilson, eat your heart out.

I escort Brianna to the backyard and push her on the swings for a bit. But that wasn’t good enough for her, she wanted to go higher. What’s a big brother to do? The decision is mine: should I push her higher and faster? or not? Since I am such a good brother, I push her faster. That seems like the right choice, doesn’t it?

Gravity sucks.

Despite my sincere desire to please my sister, it doesn’t end well. I give hr a great big push and she flies off the swing, breaking several bones in the process. My parents discuss it with the doctor and the school nurse (the only nurse in town?) and they decide that I need a more structured life, one only offered through advanced military education. The End.

I restore my game, but decide to do a bit more exploring before I help mom and Brianna in the kitchen. At the top of the stairs is a landing with several other doors, plus a hole in the ceiling leading to an attic. One door is clearly labeled as Willy’s room, but there are no clear labels on the others. I’ll just work the doors clockwise, starting at the top.

There is less potty humor in here than you would expect.

My first stop turns out to be the bathroom. The room offers plenty to see, but not all that much to do. The sink says I can bathe my frog here, but it doesn’t let me do that right now. The closet has been nailed shut which just seems like a programmer’s excuse, but who am I to judge? And despite the obvious potential for humor, neither the toilet nor the shower are usable. Time to check the next room.

On my way out, I hear mom calling to ask for help in the kitchen. The game clock says it’s 5:00 PM, so I bet that’s a timed event. Do I have to go help her now or can I explore some more? Since the worst thing that can happen is that I need to reload, I opt to keep exploring.

A teenage girl’s room: where angels fear to tread.

Tiffany’s room is next down the line. There’s a ton of girly stuff in there, but two key items stand out: a scale and her diary. Mucking around the the scale will allow you to make it show a higher weight, so naturally I do that. I hope this doesn’t bloom into a joke about eating disorders. When I try to pick up the diary, I am again visited by the ghost of Grandpa Beamish and he tells me that taking it is wrong. I ignore the pleas of the dead and pop it into my inventory instead.

Prepare for trouble. / Make it double.

As I’m leaving, mom calls up again from the kitchen and this is where I discover a new dynamic to the game: the trouble meter. This handy bar appears to be a way to determine whether what I’m about to do is going to land me in boot camp or not. Just being late to help with dinner makes it go up a bit, so I’ll have to be careful to not do too many bad things. Managing our trouble meter might be a big deal later. I can easily imagine some puzzles where you have to get in “trouble” to progress, but very carefully so as not to push things too far. Let’s see what happens in future sessions.

Willy’s dad might be a bit obsessed.

Up in the attic is Willy’s dead grandfather again, this time playing with Dad’s toy trains. He invited me to play with them, but warns me that they are important to Dad’s mental health. Since Ghost Beamish has been the voice of reason so far in the game and he didn’t exactly say “no”, I sit down and get to conducting.

All aboard!

The trains themselves seem to be something of a mini-game, albeit a simple one. Two trains facing in opposite directions are sitting on parallel loops of track with a track switch in the middle. The controls consist of a green and a red button which makes the trains go and stop, respectively. I play around and quickly find that the only real thing you can do is make the trains crash into each other. Willy panics and the trouble meter goes up again!

But before I can do much about that, Mom runs out of patience. I never came down for dinner and before I know it, I’m being packed off to military school again. The end. The punishment seems a bit severe for doing a bit of exploring, but no problem. I restore back and resume my trek around the house.

I spy, with my eye, something that begins with “USS-1701”.

Willy’s room is next and it’s exactly what you would expect a room for a kid his age would be like: lots of toys. There are some really cool toys, but the only features that seem to matter are the Nintari console and the bed. Trying to use the bed just tells you that it is too early to sleep, but Willy has no problem playing a bit of “Monster Squad” to pass the time.

My first relief is that “playing Nintari” is not a mini-game! At least, this bit isn’t. The game itself looks a bit like a mix of “Super Mario Brothers”, “Battletoads”, and “Monster Party” for a start. Your character beats up enemies using vegetables and that could be a reference to “Super Mario Brothers 2”. I’m pretty sure they are playing homage to some Atari games in there as well, but I was a Nintendo kid so am a bit lost when it comes to Atari references. Can you spot any other references to video games that I missed? Let me know!

Before I leave, I find one more item that I missed: a jar of flies. There’s also a note that says that they are just the thing for a hungry frog, so I am positive they will come in handy later. And even though it seems like I just got started, Mom has me sent off to military school again for not being helpful. The end. Can’t a guy catch a break and do some exploring?

I’m sensing a motif. And a hidden cat.

The final room on the second floor is Brianna’s room. The only thing of note in her room is her kitty, Mr. Snickers, but there is nothing obvious I can do with him right now. On my way out, I realize that I did miss one door on the landing, but Willy doesn’t get to go in there. My guess is that will be his parents’ room and we’re probably glad we can’t get in given the low-brow humor of the game so far. Let’s explore downstairs instead.

It’s actually a pretty nice house.

Just to the right of the stairs is the living room, but this one also appears to be pretty empty from an adventure game standpoint. There’s a nice painting of not-yet-Ghost Beamish above the fireplace, a book about the sex lives of computer programmers, and a note that Willy almost burned the house down by roasting marshmallows in the fireplace, but nothing to interact with. I keep going.

Does the fish sing?

The final room of the circuit is the dining room, but again there is very little to interact with. Nothing left to do but listen to my mother!

This time around, I don’t volunteer to take Brianna outside and pick the vegetables instead. Willy complains about the sharpness of the knives and that leads quickly to the knife slipping and injury. Mom doesn’t seem all that concerns and just sends us upstairs so that we don’t get blood on the food. In retrospect, maybe playing with Brianna was the better option.

Like everything else in this game, I am given a choice: live with the pain, put on the iodine and the band-aid, or just put on the band-aid. I take the more painful approach, just because I’m not sure I want to die of an infection a few posts from now and because it is the obvious choice. I can always try something else later, right?

After cleaning myself up, I head back downstairs and there is nothing there to do that’s new and mom doesn’t seem to need any more help. So I explore outside instead. Leaving the house gives me a view of the neighborhood, but the only place I can find to click on is a treehouse down the street. No sooner do I arrive at the treehouse than I am told that I have to return for dinner. I’ll have to head back there later.

The dinner scene is probably the most important part of the game so far. It’s well-written with a lot of neat character moments. I’ve capped the whole thing:

Oh, the joys of a family dinner together.

At dinner, I am scolded for being late, but dad is late too. Everyone is excited because we expect that Dad is going to be announcing his promotion. Willy’s going to use his good mood to ask for the money to get to the Nintari championships, while the other family members have things they want as well. Unfortunately, this is not Dad’s day: instead of being promoted, he’s been laid off. Worse, that means that there’s not enough money saved up for Willy to get to the Nintari championships. It’s a nightmare!

But then it gets worse: Dad asks if anyone has seen the mail. Grandpa’s ghost shows up and reminds me that I need to be honest, but is that the right call here? I never found a way to change my grade, so I lie and say that it hasn’t come in yet. That will buy me some time to figure out how to make it a better grade. Unfortunately, Brianna rats me out and Dad is very mad. Despite our tremendous financial hardships, it’s time for military school. The End!

I restore back to the beginning of the play session and put to use some of those lessons I learned playing “Mission: Asteroid” and “Questprobe Featuring the Human Torch and the Thing”: time to optimize my route. All in one go, I listen to the messages, tamper with Tiffany’s scale, collect her diary, and get the flies from my bedroom. I skip the trains and any obviously “bad” decisions, this time opting to push Brianna… but not that hard. At the end of playtime, she is unhappy but unbroken so I consider that a win. Mom still asks me to cut carrots and I let that scene play out exactly as before.

I tried to do better, but bribery didn’t work!

When Dad asks for the report card, I give it to him. He is unhappy and locks up the Nintari for a week, giving Tiffany the key. That’s a double whammy: not only can we not afford to go to the Nintari Championships, I also have no way to practice for them!

Our dinner is interrupted by a special news bulletin: the Plumbers Union is striking! Why do I care about that? I have no idea. The newscast is led by “Stan Lather”; for our international friends, this is a reference to veteran newscaster Dan Rather who was the anchor on the CBS Evening News from 1981 through 2005. The newscast is followed by a commercial for Slam Dunk Cola.

They call him Stan “The Exposition” Lather.

After the interruption, the dog begs for some scraps. I get the choice whether to give him some or not. Since Duffy really is a part of the family, I feel him off my plate but this makes Mom mad and she sends me away from the table. I try reloading and if I choose not to give him some food, he jumps up onto the table and takes some anyway. Either way, Mom gets mad at ME. That hardly seems fair. Dinner’s over and I can finally leave the table.

As I exit the room, we have a cut scene!

The least attractive hot tub in an adventure game?

The cut scene shows Louis, the head of the Plumbers Union, in a hot tub with Leona, the CEO (?) of Tootsweet. Tootsweet is the zero-calorie sweetener that has been referenced a few times in the game. Mom made our dessert with it. They are up to something that will somehow gain them control over the town. They are looking for a “gullible sap” to be the fall guy, and I fear that a recently unemployed father-figure might be just the guy they are looking for.

This seems like a good transition point to end this post. Most of this effort was exploring, but I have no idea what I’m going to need later and what I won’t. At least this time, I do not feel like I am “brute forcing” the game, trying every dialog option for the one I need to accomplish a goal.

I failed in my prediction about the report card, but let’s come up with something new:

  • Leona’s and Louis’s plot involves something bathroom related. The fact that “Tootsweet” is in all of the town’s food can’t be a coincidence! (And if that prediction is correct, the “toot” part of the name will have a whole new meaning…)
Terrible Joke of the Week:

Words cannot describe my feelings about this joke.

Time played: 2 hr
Total time: 3 hr 45 min

Inventory: dog tag chain, yo-yo, diary, jar of flies, Gamebuddy, Horny

Deaths / Reloads:
            4 “game overs” (8 total)
            1 restart to try different dialog options (17 total)

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one.


  1. The game certainly gives you a lot of options, but I'm not that keen on the time limits. It seems a harsh penalty when you want to explore the environment and figure out what you should do next.

    Vf gur ercbeg pneq n erq ureevat? Vg znxrf vg frrz yvxr gur erny chmmyr vf qrnyvat jvgu lbhe Avagnev orvat ybpxrq hc, naq univat gb trg gur xrl sebz lbhe fvfgre. Creuncf lbh pna genqr vg sbe ure qvnel?

    1. The thing is, I have no idea if I needed to press to explore or not. This could end up like "Quest for Glory 2" where you have a time limit, but if you rush and get everything done in the first days you can just get bored later... OR there could be a timed event that I really have to do now or it will be gone forever. I have no idea which so I am playing perhaps more cautiously than the writers intended.

      Because they STARTED the game with the timing-related detention puzzle, I was extra concerned. But as you see here, it doesn't seem to matter at all since I end up handing over the report card anyway. (Unless I missed something.)

  2. You know, I always always wanted this game when I was growing up, but never got around to convincing my dad to buy it. Now that I read this, I'm kind of glad it passed me by. It feels like the game has a lot of unreasonable "deaths" where what appear to be normal actions are punished by military school. What the?? Awful parenting across the board on display here.

    1. I am not sure that there are TOO many deaths, at least fewer in this post than in the previous one. The biggest problem is the pushing timeline. If you take too long to do things, you can "die" and have to restore, but it's pretty much impossible to see all the things that you can "do" before you run out of time.

  3. I'm fairly sure that it actually starts with an 'E', or even a 'U'. The 'NCC-1701' is like the license plate number.

    If you would like a tiny confidence booster in a VERY minor spoiler that I don't think will bother, lbh pnaabg vasyhrapr gur ercbeg pneq. Npghnyyl, lbh'er orggre bss abg rira vagreprcgvat gur ercbeg pneq gb ortva jvgu nf sne nf snvyherf orpnhfr vg qbrfa'g ybbx yvxr lbh'er gelvat gb uvqr vg.

    I'm fairly certain that this game always had tight timer issues, even played upon the hardware that was supposed to run it. I'm not sure whether or not running it on Dosbox is actually a positive or not. But yeah, you're 'doing it right' in regards to restoring often for the best resolution.

  4. I always found the Nintari game reminded me of Commander Keen - a pre-Wolfenstein/Doom shareware action game by id that was popular at the time.

  5. I'm not going to lie: I got a chuckle out of your "Terrible Joke of the Week."

    It seems like you had more fun with this post than with the last one. I hope "fun" is an adjective you get to use copiously while playing this game.

    1. I don't get it. They didn't manage to contact him? What's special about that? Or is his name a pun?

    2. Nevermind, that was answered further below.

  6. A 'hidden' cat? Somebody tell Mr. Snickers he's rubbish at hide-and-seek.

  7. Did any post about this yet?

  8. What kind of mother cooks in a tank-top?

  9. Yeah, I agree with your list of Nintari references.

    "a book about the sex lives of computer programmers"

    The boss of the plumber's union is "Louis Stoole"? GROAN

    I'd guess the conspiracy is going to be artificial sweeteners that Louis-en Stoole combined with no plumbers to repair toilets. Diabolical!

    1. Monster Squad could possibly also be a reference to the 1987 film of a similar name. Or maybe NES Monster in my Pocket?

    2. Might I ask what the meaning of "Louis Stoole" is? All that comes up are some actual people named that and a mention of this very game if I google it. Is it some kind of wordplay? Cause to me the terrible joke of the week seems to be that it's impossible to reach a union boss and while that can be funny maybe it isn't groan-level of funny.

    3. Niklas, it's some word play.

      Louis = Loose
      Stoole = Stool

      And a hint: "stool" is an unusual English word for feces.

    4. Wow, poor kids named that if that's the case.

    5. I got the stool bit, but I didn't catch the Louis bit until I read the comments because I was pronouncing it like Louie by default (maybe subconsciously influenced by Brianna's use of French).

  10. Can I just say that Willy's mom and elder sis look hot?

  11. I certainly remember Trouble Meter, but otherwise the details seem to have eluded me. I think that there were multiple possible roads through the game and you didn't have to get through it all perfectly, as long as you just managed to not cross into the danger zone.

  12. I played through the entire game yesterday. With MT-32 sound there were some neat sound effects they managed to do with the device (e.g. screaming). I don't know if there're digitised samples when using SoundBlaster.

    V tynaprq ng n jnyxguebhtu n srj gvzrf ba gur ynfg qnl, orpnhfr vg fgnegrq gb orpbzr ernyyl hapyrne jurer lbh jrer fhccbfrq gb tb arkg naq V jnf trggvat gverq bs gur tnzr.

    Also the cartoon drawings bother me because they look so sloppy. Despite being reasonably expressive, everybody looks like they're melting. It's possible that the artists drew them originally on paper but couldn't transfer them to pixel art properly.

    1. Ugh, yes, I really dislike the art style in this game too. It reminds me of Family Guy for some reason.