"There are some games you just don’t want out there in the open in case someone accidentally plays it, gets hurt, and their destiny is forever altered."
Clint B, Lazy Game Reviews
"This was sold as a game?!"
I have to admit, I used to love watching review shows on YouTube, and even reading review articles on other websites. I thought it was cool when review people tore apart a piece of media so mercilessly, and that only cowards ran away from a good roasting session.
Then I realized that many of these reviewers had some pretty lousy biases…
Bigotry and lack of knowledge were one thing, but then there were the reviewers who seemed like they hated on something simply because it was the "theme
" of their show not to show any mercy to a piece of work, or even give any sense of dignity to its fabric or history. *cough*CHANNELAWESOME*cough*
I don’t blame these guys at all, save for something that was stuck in my throat
; after all, it’s apparently popular to look at childhood media with a disdainful eye. However, there’s a very wide gap between having an age-embittered opinion of something you grew up with long ago, and just hating upon something from a bygone era unfamiliar to you for YouTube money.
Above all, however, in spite of "majority" views, I actually really like The Adventures of Ninja Nanny & Sherrloch Sheltie
. Why? Because I actually read the damn thing from start to finish…
"Do they expect me to read all this? Guys, this isn’t a reading game, is it?"
Mike P, Panoots
"It’s just a bunch of scatteredness going on in-between occasional bits of story, and this other stuff is far more interesting!"
I think I opened myself up for trouble trying to understand this game as an actual piece of literature or a part of gaming history. However, I have my reasons for this. Using my Sherlockian skills of deduction, I’ve come to the hypothesis that the creators of this game, Silicon Alley, were possibly another startup software company that wanted to break out of their small farm town mold with a game drawn from their experiences that would appeal to children and start them well off in life. It really does feel like the sort of game that I would have made, had I had the resources and wherewithal at the time, and I have to commend them just for trying.
Yeah, I know, if I believe that…
It's clearly a second-rate game. It feels like a sorry attempt to create something easily in a known successful genre while also poorly initiating a brand new format (the DictioPedia NinjaNannica and other gimmicks) in order to break out in a competitive children's edutainment game market.
Actually, metatextually speaking, it feels like another Sherlock parody, Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr.
, in that it tries to do two things at once and expects to do justice to both
. In this case, it tries to be both the animated story of likeable characters on madcap misadventures and a text-heavy interactive encyclopedia of all knowledge the developers could stuff in there at the time. Like Buster's bumbling wannabe detective, it dreams of being something greater than it is, and ultimately suffers for its self-aggrandizing misconceptions.
However, let's weigh my personal pros and cons of this game before I become another one of those indignant internet ill-speakers.
(spoiler warning, in case you actually want to read it for yourself)
- I really liked the backbone of the story, the mysterious cow with strange talents seeking an honest career for laudable reasons. If it weren't for the strange directions the story took, it could have made a quaintly entertaining children's book series.
- In particular, Norbertina's trials and tribulations were a fascinating read, and though gratuitous in places, they gave a pathos that made me root for her to succeed in her mission. Is it okay if I adopt her?
- Many of the characters had interesting quirks to them that were satisfying to see in action time and again; it not only shows a care toward character development and continuity, but in some cases suggest where such behaviors could come from psychologically.
- Forgoing the samurai/ninja kerfuffle, a lot of the professions portrayed in the story seemed well-researched and realistic, at least in terms of the actions necessary within a job, not necessarily the requirements or skills necessary for them. Then again, could a cow really qualify for a nanny, or a moose for a postmaster?
- The punctuation is pretty solid, with unexpected uses of both semicolons and dashes in correct usage without overuse; the multiple question and exclamation points in places are gratuitous, but understandable.
- As unnecessary as they sometimes were in context, I like the flavor text and other supplemental materials given in certain places in the book, especially the vox pops from the very loquacious humans in certain parts of the game where they give their views into what's happening in the story, or even insights into the many characters in it. Too bad they were little more than exposition depositories; it would have been cool for them to have bearing in the story beyond just giving backstory. They're not 100% necessary, but I would have done something exceedingly similar if I had the chance, though maybe that's just my detail obsession.
- My favorite vox pop characters were Archie Livingston Pritchard and Sir Fabius Corpus. They had a lot to say on the happenings in the story and otherwise were interesting characters on their own.
- I have to give props to Emperor Norton XXXIII as well, just because I liked the real-life character he was based on. (EmperorNortonII, is this your kid?)
- I actually do like the integrated dictionary/encyclopedia that can be accessed at any point during the story. If only it could open up on an unfamiliar word by clicking on it instead of having to search for it, but it's better than flipping back and forth between the middle of a book and its glossary in the way-back or front.
- I also like the collection of eccentric words it collects and uses in its writing, though only a few times does it explain itself within the context of the story by using similes or other contextual clues.
And yet in spite of the overwhelming problems with the whole project, it was an enjoyable
experience to read and play. You could have given this to young me and I would not have known any better. That I enjoy this at the age I'm at, knowing very well how flawed it is and how it could have gone horribly wrong behind the scenes, likely shows how creative I am, or at least that's what people have said to me, and that's what I'm putting on my biography
It's just that I kept asking myself how it could go into this much detail if it just wanted to shill itself towards money and fame. Maybe it truly was the honest efforts of a writer that got caught up in the interactive storybook software trend of the time, and teamed up with a startup software company. Maybe the writer really wanted to have a part two, but didn't have enough money or disk space at the time. Maybe the company went bankrupt before they had a chance to complete the sequel, and it was either wiped completely or perhaps still somewhere in someone's old PC and/or storage locker.
Do I think it deserves a Part 2? Well, yes and no.
No, because it's a disagreeable product of its time that just seemed to want to make it big on as little effort as possible.
Yes, because the story itself begs further exploration into the weird world it sets up and the thrilling adventures within.
It would be neat to rewrite the whole thing—improve on its notable faults and expand on its strengths—and turn it into a graphic/visual novel, but it would be a pretty involved endeavor for something based on a cruddy CD-ROM game; wouldn't be hard to draw, though, since just about anything
would be better than the art it already has. I'd also like to see if I could contact the people behind the story to get their input or blessing, but finding out where are they now
would take a bit more detective work than I have the time or brainpower for right now.
Frankly, my brainpower is diverted to weird headcanons of a possible part two, from Norbertina flying or sailing off to Japan to learn her ninja skills, to her and Sherrloch looking through numerous records on his hard disks to find her Halfstein legacy, to finally facing off against Baron Von Moribund and his goons in an ultimate battle of nicies versus nasties to the bitter end!
Either way, it's 25 years to its release date, and there's no word whether there was a part two, even a prototype or first draft.
Could it still work after all these years? It's obviously notable for its mild memetic value alone if nothing else, but could it hold its own as one of many retro reboots of the new 10s and possibly 20s? Only time will tell, I suppose.
In case people are averse to playing the game and reading for themselves, I might do a game rip of the text and post it to some archive like sta.sh or Google Drive. I might do two versions, though: version one being the straight rip with appropriate links and formatting, and version two being an improved version with better grammar and syntax. It's going to be involved, though, since it is so very, very
Meanwhile, stop by my horribly unnecessary Pinterest mood/aesthetic board for the project
and gaze at my obsession with these not-so-fresh oats in some awkward mixture of envy and pity, most likely. Hey, I bloody did my research on this, don't kick me!