The Three Stooges Review
Posted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:54 pm
The Three Stooges
*My video review for The Three Stooges
*Thanks to Intric8 of AmigaLove for pics of the games manual
*Game best played in NTSC mode with a 4:3 aspect ratio
*As a thank you to Intric8 for providing me pictures of the games manual, I wanted to post my written review for the game here on Amigalove. It first appeared on my blog.
When I decided to cover The Three Stooges on the Amiga, I wondered if it might be best to simply hit record, play the game, and talk as it came to me. I could see humor in doing it all live versus more of an in-depth coverage where heavy research goes into it all and I take pains to defeat the game. I think I could have made that funny, but there's enough funny when it comes to people showing off this game. I quickly decided that the Stooges would be funny enough on their own, and to properly respect them would be to play the straight man. There was nearly 50 years of the Stooges, almost two hundred short films as well as movies and cartoons. It's a rich history deserving of equally rich coverage for this 1987 Cinemaware gem.
^You is trolling! I am not trolling! An introduction
Printed proudly on their boxes, Cinemaware described many of their games not as games at all, but as interactive movies. This was long before CD-ROM games like Wing Commander III would make interactive movies an official game genre. They advertised Defender of the Crown with a man buying a ticket at a theater. These games were all easy enough to pick up and enjoy, but mastering them took a little bit of effort.
Like all of their most well known titles, Cinemaware designed The Three Stooges on the Commodore Amiga, where it would later see ports to a host of computers and consoles. The graphics shine, an early Amiga game that showed off what the system was capable of. Full color images taken directly from The Three Stooges shorts. Featured is the most classic Stooge lineup of Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard (Shemp don't get no respect). The main action scenes are very colorful and feature a zoomed out 3rd person perspective that still manages to accurately depict their facial expressions. Familiar musical tunes are done quite nicely with a huge atmospheric bonus featured in digitized audio samples of the Three Stooges voices.
^First 30 spaces of the game "board" from manual, main game screen
Story wise; An evil banker wants to foreclose on the towns orphanage, but Moe, Larry, and Curly offer their help to collect the money needed to save said orphanage. Time for a series of side jobs! The main game consists of the Stooges performing various mini games in an attempt to make money. The main screen features a tile view in the same vein as a board game. A hand will move somewhat randomly along six tiles. Eventually it will stop and you'll be forced to go to the space it stops on, but you can stop the hand at any time by pressing the fire button. As the game goes on the hand will move faster to the point it may be impossible to selectively choose your next destination. To combat this there is a special stage where you can beat your companions into slowing down.
^Play us that weasel tune!
Inspired from the Stooge short "Punch Drunks", the group attempts to make money putting Curly in boxing gloves. Usually he's not the greatest fighter, but play him Pop Goes The Weasel and he transforms into a hitting machine! Larry's violin gets busted and Moe sends him out on the street to get another one. This scene very much unfolds much like its film counterpart. Running down the street in a side scrolling view, Larry must avoid many obstacles in his way. I find this the most difficult of the mini games, although I've gotten good enough to make somewhat decent money playing it. You're essentially on a timer to go from the left of the screen to the right, where you grab a radio. You must then make your way back to the left before the end of 6 rounds. At times going to the right is no problem for me, but I always seem to have issues going back to the left, I could never quite master this event, but I still find it fun.
^Calling Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine, Doctor Howard
The hospital mini game takes influence from the Stooge film Men In Black, in which they were nominated for an Academy Award. It's actually a very small piece of the actual film, where they drive go-carts from a storage closet to a hospital room. It's very funny when you see it, but it lasts about 10 seconds so it makes for a curious but fun addition to the game. I think that shows you just how much love the designers of the game had for the Stooges. They really must have known these films inside and out in order to pick 10 seconds from a film to build this mini game out of. Your goal is to get to the operating room as fast as possible, while collecting as many items as you can that are dropped from the nurse you're following. Many patients stand in your way and you don't want to hit too many of them. Get good at this game and you could make a cool grand playing it.
I find the pie throwing mini game to be my favorite, as well as the game with the potential to earn the most money from. It does not seem to be based on any particular Stooge film, but the Stooge's were not at all shy about throwing a pie or two in their many films. On a technical note I'd like to point out that many of the disk images available for this game won't give you any control of this one scene, making the game nearly impossible to defeat. Be careful of those cracked games, and try out quite a few of them. This scene took quite awhile to for me to master, but once you get the feel for it, you might find this to be your ticket to defeating the game. Throw pies at the guests while avoiding their throws, if you happen to serve all of the pies the money you receive will get doubled. You'll need a quality micro-switched joystick for this event as there is a lot of prevision involved.
From the short film Dutiful But Dumb, this cracker eating mini game is perhaps the most accurate to the original film. Curly sits down to enjoy a bowl of oyster stew only to find out the oysters are quite fresh indeed. It's a fight with the oysters to get your crackers. This is a game that will take quite a bit of practice to get good at, but once mastered will also go right along with the pie mini game as one that can make you the most money. The digital voice samples of Curly in this mini game will no doubt have you cracking up, and it also features some great still images of Curly from the film.
^Banker stands in our way, a safe brings us fortune
Besides the mini games there are several other spaces you can land on in the game. Fall on a cash tile and you'll get some free cash. These seem to range from around $200-$600. The game board itself is always the same, so I imagine there is a strategic element in knowing the spaces to land on when in order to get the best spaces on another turn. I don't happen to know the game well enough to know what's headed my way except for the first few days. If the banker is landed on he might simply taunt you or he might take some of your money for taxes, which can be quite a bummer. If landing on a spot marked "safe" you might receive quite a heavy prize of over two thousand dollars, or perhaps a hospital bill for Curly's bruised head.
^Trivia questions and a history from the manual
There are quite a few trivia questions to try your hand at, offering you a cool $500 for the correct answer. The questions are not just involving the Three Stooges canon, they can cross into the reality of the actors involved as well. Many of the answers to these questions can be found inside of the games manual, which is a wonderfully put together history of the trio as well as an excellent game mechanic guide, another labor of love. In my video review I ended up getting the games best ending on the final day by answering a trivia question correctly. I was just guessing at the time and got quite lucky in that instance.
^Review from Computer Gaming World
Reviews at the time seemed generally positive. Of the magazines that ranked games with scores The Three Stooges got many 90% and above scores or A+ ratings. The lowest I happened to find was in the high 70% range which still noted that fans of the show would probably find delight in the game, but criticized its repetitive nature and lack of replayability. Most seemed to find it a joy to play, especially the American magazines which normally seemed to cater to adults that were more likely to be into more detailed genres, strategy for example. But perhaps detailed is the key word there. The Three Stooges is an incredibly detailed game actually. From the wonderfully colorful stills, the artwork and voice samples, the mini games taken directly from films. I'm not sure how many trivia questions there are but I never happened to see a repeat question while I went about mastering the game. While certainly a game full of lots of little games, the overall detail is incredible. Compute's Gazette named the game one of the best of 1988.
^The bad, the okay, the good, and the best ending
There are a total of four endings in the game. A bad ending where the banker will foreclose on the orphanage, a good ending where you pay off the homes bills but it remains in shambles, a good ending where you also pay to fix up the home, and finally the best ending where you have enough money left to marry the three daughters at the home. The good endings require you to make $5,000, $10,000, and $20,000 respectfully. The games best ending can be quite difficult to achieve, but offers you a couple of nice pictures of Larry, Moe, and Curly with their brides.
I had a load of fun checking out this game. I'm sure I could have just popped it on, talked over everything, and poked fun at it all... But it deserved better than that. It really does deserve to be a part of Stooges fandom, an absolute labor of love from the Cinemaware designers. Wanting to see how accurate the game was to the films it was inspired by, I checked out all of those films... And then I watched even more of them. I could have finished this review a couple weeks ago but I kept wanting to watch more of the Stooge's films. The game inspired me to seek out films I hadn't seen since I was a kid, and I loved them. I'm not usually a fan of slapstick comedy, but these guys were the first, they were the best, and I honestly think its all done rather intelligently. Any fan should get a kick out of this game, and its without a doubt one of the best licensed games ever put onto the Amiga, and perhaps any computer or console. It's a certain type of game, in that it is more action orientated, but even if you're bad at the game I do believe you're going to chuckling at your failures. And just perhaps you might be inspired enough to keep on it and get better. I'd certainly recommend looking into this one.
As is typical for me, I love highlighting the many North American Amiga games that far too often, due to a large European love for the machine, either don't receive the coverage they deserve or people don't even look into the games they say they love enough to know that the game in question came from America. As with most American games, this one can be found all over the internet displayed on real machines or emulators in PAL mode, which in the case of this game stretches the graphics into a widescreen look, slows down the music, and slows done the overall gameplay. You'll find any game made in America will look and play its best in NTSC mode filling a complete 4:3 screen. This review with its screenshots as well as my video review may be the only examples of this game being shown as it was originally designed on the entirety of the internet. Don't let that continue, try showing these games off in NTSC mode yourself.
Please be sure to check out my video review where I show off many more extras, magazine reviews, exerts from the manual, an odd personal memory of the game from Lethal Weapon 3, and hopefully a lot of great commentary. Thanks to Intric8 from AmigaLove who provided me the pictures of the games manual, and thanks to Stygian Phoenix for requesting the game in the first place.
For more Amiga Cinemaware titles I've also covered:
TV Sports Football
Defender Of The Crown
Full alphabetical list of my video and written reviews