Monday 14 May 2018

Inspector Gadget - Deja-Vu in London, Too

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back! We’ve been traveling around the world so much we will soon need to hire Rockapella. (What? Is that reference too dated?) In the last two weeks, we’ve rescued one U.N. environmental ambassador from a life making “secret sauce” for a fast-food restaurant in Los Angeles and another from a similar life creating toothpicks down in Rio de Janeiro. Thus far, the game has been fun, if a bit simple and aimed at children. The humor has been well-done and the animation is better than I expected, but all the same the plots are feeling a bit repetitive. This week, I am crossing the Atlantic to rescue another U.N. representative in London.

What do I mean by “repetitive”? Last week, I discovered that this game appears to follow a set pattern for each episode: Penny and Brain are kidnapped, Brain escapes, Penny discovers where she’s been taken, Brain rescues her, they go to a final puzzle at a different location to rescue the U.N. ambassador. I’m going to see if that holds up a third time.

“But that reminds of me another story…”

Step 1: Penny and Brain Kidnapped

The start of each case has Penny, Brain, and Gadget arriving to a new location. In the first case, Gadget convinced them to enter a limo driven by a M.A.D. driver. In the second, they were tricked by a robotic (more robotic than usual?) doppelganger of Inspector Gadget and tricked into riding in the Gadgetmobile. This time, we land at the London airport where Gadget and Penny are met at the gate by Sir Wensley Blowsmoke. Penny recognizes him immediately and claims to know about all his exploits. Even so, there’s nothing to do but talk to him and he starts to tell a long and boring story about an adventure in near the Crimea River, modern-day Ukraine. As he talks and talks, Penny and Brain gradually fall asleep. Gadget starts to fidget and leans against the wall before deciding that he… er… needs to make a phone call and walks away. The scene fades to black and we find ourselves...

At least the steering wheel is on the correct side!

Kidnapped! Penny and Brain shake themselves awake as we find ourselves in a taxi. Inspector Gadget is nowhere to be found. Penny asks the driver where she and Brain are being taken, but he says that they do not need to worry about that. Penny insists and he reveals that he is a professional kidnapper for M.A.D., but he actually seems a rather nice working-class sort of fellow. He doesn’t really want to kidnap them but needs to make ends meet. It just a job after all. He makes some small talk and asks what breed of dog Brain is. I honestly have no idea so I pick “mongrel”. That doesn’t help as he doesn’t believe her. I pick “collie”, “chihuahua”, and “pit bull”, but none of them elicits very much of a response. Finally, when I say that Brain is a “wolf”, Penny says that he doesn’t travel well and that Brain is going to be sick. The cab driver stops the cab and tosses him out on the street. Brain has escaped! The kidnapper reveals that he only needed to bring in Penny and that we have just arrived at the castle.

I spent an hour failing to learn if that shield design meant anything in English heraldry.

Step 2: Penny Discovers Where She Is

If previous episodes are to be any indication, the next step is for Penny to discover where she is located. In L.A., this consisted of fixing a security camera system so that she could see the outside of the building. In Rio, she had to use the Gadgetmobile to get to an office inconveniently located on a catwalk. Will the same hold true now?

We arrive in our prison and-- this is pretty neat!-- Penny is wearing a suit of armor! That is such a near inversion of Brain being the one to wear costumes in this game. In this case, the armor is heavy, so heavy that she cannot climb the stairs to leave the dungeon. Worse, there is no obvious way to take it off. We are also unable to use her computer book as it is on the inside of the armor. Exploring just a bit, we discover that the shield on the wall is more than just decorative: it is hiding an alcove containing a Gadget drill and Gadget binoculars, I pick both of them up, then use the drill on myself. That allows Penny to get the armor off and we can climb the stairs, only to discover a locked door. At least now I can use the book to call Brain and tell him where we are. Penny only knows that she’s in a “castle dungeon somewhere”, of which there are hundreds in the United Kingdom, but that’s enough for Brain. Shame they don’t have GPS in common use back then, that would make the game much easier.

This is a bit of a different case than before: we still have to tell Brain where we are (in the dungeon), but Brain was let out of the car right at the castle itself. I think my pattern still mostly fits.

I love museums!

Step 3: Brain Rescues Penny

Switching to our loyal canine friend, we find Brain standing outside the castle gate with the drawbridge down. Unlike previous episodes, we didn’t have to navigate a map to get here; I suppose that Brain was thrown out of the car closer to the castle than the airport. Surprisingly, there is no puzzle or disguise here, we can just go in.

Reminds me of that tourist family from Willy Beamish...

Inside, we discover that the catlee is filled with tourists and they are blocking the way to something in the back corner. Exploring a bit, I find that the portrait is from the famous “Duke of Earl (1597-1637)”. Now, this is some great obscure referencing! The “Duke of Earl” from the 1962 song is the musician Gene Chandler, born in 1937. The dates seem too similar to be coincidence, but that is such an obscure reference that it might be. Heck, it’s just as likely that designers were thinking of the 1991 John Goodman film, King Ralph, which featured Goodman’s character singing that song after he was made a Duke. Have I thought too much about an obscure line in an obscure adventure game? Yes. Yes, I have.

As usual, we find the components for a costume scattered around the room, this time the discarded remains of a tour guide uniform. Putting it on causes the crowd to immediately swarm around Brain, but we can move past them now to see a locked door into a dungeon. There is no obvious way to open it, so I keep poking around. Eventually, I discover that the battle axe on the wall is hiding a secret switch. Pulling it opens up the dungeon door and Penny can escape!

Holy heck! Gadget got here on his own!

Step 4: Rescue the U.N. Ambassador

Now that Penny and Brain are reunited, we have to go to the only other location on the map and rescue the ambassador. In our previous episodes, these were the tofu burger restaurant and the toothpick factory. This time around, Penny discovers a discarded piece of coal just outside the castle so we know to go to England’s only working coal mine. Hey, if Brain can figure out what castle it was in one try, I trust Penny to figure out which mine to go to.

We arrive at the mine to discover that Inspector Gadget has (shockingly!) beat us here. Of course, he came here because of the mistaken impression that you can find diamonds in coal mines like this and M.A.D. might be interested in the diamonds. Penny reminds him that it takes tremendous pressure to turn coal into diamonds, but Gadget seems unperturbed. In any event, we cannot get into the mine because it says “Authorized Personnel Only”. What do we do? There is a miner’s costume here, but Brain cannot put it on as long as Gadget is around. I work out that the trick is that we have to give Gadget back his gadgets, the drill and the binoculars. Once he has those, he goes into the mine to investigate further. Brain can then put on the costume and we can proceed deeper.

This is the least convincing costume yet.

Once inside, Gadget proceeds to interview coal-miner Brain to see if he knows about any diamonds, That leaves Penny to explore, but we don’t have to look very far. There’s a hidden button in the wall that opens up a secret door. Wonder where it leads?

Uncle Gadget was right!

It leads to the missing ambassador, of course! We also discover that Gadget was correct: M.A.D. has a machine to convert coal into diamonds! Our ambassador this time is Thomas Chang and he too has been hypnotised. Gadget remarks that he is working very hard and that maybe he should cool off. What to do? When I talk to him, all he will repeat over and over again is, “Workin’ in a coal mine, goin’ down, down, down.” Of course, these are the lyrics to the song of the same name by Allen Toussaint and recorded by Lee Dorsey and others. This episode is big on musical trivia! I do not have any way for him to “cool off”, but we take the direct approach and Gadget is able to disassemble the machine using his Gadget drill. Once the machine stops working, Mr. Chang emerges from his hypnosis and we have saved our third ambassador.

With another case cracked, Gadget and I will be off to Kenya next. Will it continue the pattern? I am not sure. We have Kenya, Moscow, and Hong Kong left to do before all of the ambassadors have been saved. Should I do them in a post each or try to speed up the game? The repetition isn’t too distracting since there are unique puzzles each time and the writing is fun, but there’s not a high degree of challenge here. If I wasn’t keeping notes (and playing every area at least twice), I am sure I could zip through the rest of the game quickly.

Time played: 1 hr
Total time: 3 hr 40 min
Gadget Inventory: Flashlight, Bandsaw, Binoculars, Drill

Penny’s Computer Book

This week’s environmental message is a bit different than previous weeks. Penny’s computer book gives us information about the history of London, the United Kingdom, and the English language, but only a single entry on the dangers of mining coal. It talks about how strip mining destroys the environment and that burning coal can lead to acid raid.

I know very little about coal mining itself, although I remember as a kid that my father did some hauling for coal companies. For several years, we had a giant pile of coal in the back of our house, so close that you could reach it through a second-story window. Some of our outdoor cats used that otherwise inaccessible window to enter and leave our house, although I know there was at least one case where a cat was injured when the pile was removed and he fell two stories out the window. That wasn’t a particularly nice day. I got to visit one of the mines that he worked with once, but I do not recall much about it. In retrospect, all of that coal right out our kitchen window couldn’t have been that healthy. My brother and I even used to play on the piles, although our grandparents were very unhappy with the laundry they had to do afterwards.


  1. "Should I do them in a post each or try to speed up the game?"

    The size and pace of these single-episode posts are good, I think.

    1. Agreed. Perfect length posts, no adjustment necessary.

  2. Yeah, just continue the way you've been doing.

    This chapter seemed a lot sloppier written than the other two, though. "Penny discovers a random piece of coal and immediately deduces the ambassador is in this one particular coal mine, then immediately locates a random hidden switch in a random wall of what has to be a several miles long mine" is a bit too much even for Inspector Gadget. They could've at least added in a bit about this being the only M.A.D.-owned coal mine in the area.

    1. There is a leap of logic for Penny (and Gadget!) to find the correct mine, but this is a children's cartoon so I'm not sure how unusual that would be. You are right though that they did a better job of that in the previous missions: In LA, the tofu-burger place was frequented by the scientist creating the robots (and we found his trash from the place) and in Brazil we found Dr. Claw's event calendar with the address of the toothpick factory in it. (Of course, all of these locations were easily found on the overworld map of each city, so they weren't exactly hiding that is where you had to go later.)

    2. The format of the cartoon was, from what I remember, that Gadget would bumble around and end up going to the right place for the wrong reason, making M.A.D. assume he was on to them, while Penny would use her logic and detective skills to figure out what was actually going on. So Gadget randomly going to the correct mine because he thinks there might be diamonds there is perfectly in the spirit of the show. Penny making some random leap of logic and going to the correct place in the correct mine because she stumbled upon a piece of coal... not so much.