Beavis & Butt-Head: Do U

Beavis & Butt-Head: Do U
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Game Name: Beavis & Butt-Head: Do U
Platforms: Windows 98
Publisher(s): GT Interactive
Developer(s): Illusions Gaming Company
Genre(s): Point-and-Click Adventure
Release Date: Dec, 1998

I suppose I should start by saying that what you probably expect is true – if you don’t already like Beavis and Butt-head, this game won’t convert you. They were also wearing out their welcome a little by 1998, but this review won’t deduct points simply because they were growing tiresome at the time. If you can still find a good laugh or two from their antics in reruns or the box set, then this game offers some fairly funny scenarios and some pretty clever puzzles. Unfortunately, and probably where MTV failed with this game, the subset of people who like B&B and also like serious adventure games is probably… well… not enough to support the release of a CD-ROM.

As can be inferred from the title, Beavis & Butt-head Do U takes the duo to college. Before you start worrying about such a radical change in the series, they’re not actually in college. Instead, this another Van Driessen mind-expanding field trip, this time to local Highland State University. In his good-natured, hippie way, he wants the students to prepare for the coming years when they’re all (well, maybe not all) in college themselves. In the boys’ horndog, single-minded way, they want to take the opportunity to score with college sluts. And as Beavis will constantly remind you, they really, really think it might happen this time.

The catch is that the boys are forced to actually learn something about college in the process. They must collect signatures of eight faculty members before they can make it to a party at the end of the day, where the Promised Land awaits. The boys thus travel around campus, collecting items and information they can use to outsmart the various professors and earn the required signatures. It’s also an excuse to be put in radically different situations for each “class,” ranging from music to agriculture, biology to track. The comedic potential should be apparent, and luckily, it wasn’t lost on the design team either. You’ll cause, and get into, all kinds of trouble in your various attempts to cheat your way to the signatures, and the final solutions all display the trademark delinquency of the series.

For example, you must prove your mettle to an art teacher by drawing a bowl of fruit. Beavis won’t cooperate. He will, however, gladly draw a naked lady. Luckily, his rendition of the lady is so awful that the art teacher mistakes it for a beautifully stylized drawing of the fruit. The visual gag that accompanies this is perfect. If you enjoyed B&B’s shamelessness, and its shots at the equally-insipid establishment, then you’re well on your way to enjoying the storyline here.

As with Virtual Stupidity, the adventure game genre fits Beavis and Butt-head like a… heh… heh heh. It’s a perfect setup for mischief, and the strange, homemade solutions of Adventure Game Logic suit themselves quite well to B&B. The largest departure this sequel makes from the original is to drop the Sam & Max interface and come up with a game engine of its own. You interact with the world through the use of the left and right mouse buttons, which change their context based on the item your pointer is on. So instead of selecting “Look,” “Take,” and so on from a radial menu, you will always have two preselected options depending on the item. Typically, the right mouse button will default to “Look,” and the left mouse button will default to “Talk” or “Use.” Your actual choices are displayed as icons inside thought balloons, and all icons are fairly obvious.

Most of these actions can only be performed once, and will repeat themselves if tried again. It is a noticeably crippled system, and certainly saved programming and dialogue recording time by removing options from your control. It also eliminates most abilities to do strange things and get comical responses, like Leisure Suit Larry’s “unzipped fly” icon. Fortunately, it doesn’t feel as limiting as it could have. Noticeable, certainly, but not terribly limiting.

Butthead: "Excuse me. Can we like... 'leave it to the beaver'? And then 'be hard on the beaver'?"

The game is mostly saved by retaining some sense of challenge to its puzzles, despite stripping away most of your actual interaction. Do U is heavily inventory-based, so all puzzles will be solved through the collection and application of items. This prevents a simple “click everywhere” solution, and you’ll have a hard time haphazardly coming across a solution. Most of your accomplishments will be made because you know what you intend to do, and what you should do will be fairly obvious. They’re also not total pushovers. I was particularly amused by the puzzle where you hijack a girl’s answering machine, and through a combination of a pager number you learned earlier and a new Buttheadized recording, get directions to a party. The solutions all make sense, and don’t feel forced into B&B’s world.

The license is also well-used. The boys set up Stewart to take the blame for one of their actions, Van Driessen suffers grave bodily harm while crooning “Touch a Mountain,” and the quest for beer and chicks has never before been so focused. I complained about Virtual Stupidity dragging out a story that would have fit a standard five-minute episode, but this game seems to handle longform comedy with greater skill. There are also enjoyable little references to college life, like the dickweed taking up all the washing machines, and the very idea of an orientation day itself. If I had any complaint, it would be in the way some of the puzzles are set up. Too many of them begin with some kind of damage caused immediately by one, or both, of the boys. For example, Beavis freaks out and smashes a plastic heart in the Biology lab, creating the main puzzle for that professor (how to find a new heart). It’s mild, but still annoying, since you don’t have any direct control over these moments, or ability to prevent them from happening. Instead, the story is moved along by cleaning up an automatically-created mess. Sometimes it’s funny, other times you find yourself groaning “JESUS, Beavis, why’d you have to do THAT?” It tends to make the game more like babysitting than an irreverent romp you’re taking an active part in.

The new engine does a much better job at recreating the look of the show, with crisp and clean images. The cutscenes from the first game look like the regular animation here, and the style of the show is faithfully replicated, right down to the squiggly character animation. Both Beavis and Butthead do look a little strange at some angles, especially the underused front-on shot. This is likely due to different animators drawing the artwork. The rest of the time, B&B, returning characters, and new characters all accurately share the look of the show.

Mike Judge again provides the voices for all the main characters, further proving that the real humor from B&B’s lines comes from the delivery. They got a few legitimate laughs out of me, especially when Beavis mimes shooting a gun, complete with Beavis-esque effects and the proclamation “Take that, you commie buttholes!” The other character voices are a standard group of college kids and stuffy professors, none of which are particularly interesting. The only one worth noting is the dean, who you will naturally butt heads (har har) with through the course of your adventures. Whoever does his voice nails his arrogance perfectly. Like Principal McVicker in the show, you can really tell he’s straining to accommodate the two boys and their very presence at his college.

Sound effects are solid; mostly a lot of crashes and casual destruction noises. There are fewer minigames here than in the first (a paintball shooting gallery and a memory game involving food service), and the effects are only particularly repetitive in these sections. The show’s theme plays at the beginning and end, but otherwise, there’s no background music. The exception is a radio show section, where you must field calls to earn your Communications credit. The radio’s music is a selection of indie-label death metal from five artists you never have heard of, and never will again. You switch between “tracks” by using a console inside the radio booth. The use of such music, while it does fit the radio station idea, seems so casually thrown in that these labels must have paid to have these artists included as promotion, or they’re all owned by Viacom anyway. The good news is that you won’t have the game’s “original soundtrack” shoved down your throat. The bad news is that they replace the far more enjoyable Gwar and Primus videos from Virtual Stupidity.

Do U offers a lot of the same adventure and (potential) enjoyment as the first. The graphics look fantastic in terms of recreating the show, and the game retains about as much non-linearity as Virtual Stupidity. It’s a bit short, and the reduced interaction does hinder it from feeling like the free-roamin’ quest it could have been. Still, it’s solidly executed, despite what you may have heard, and the widely diverse classrooms serve to break the game into the shorter segments the show is best at. If you like the idea of roaming around the B&B universe, picking up stuff and causing trouble, this is a worthy continuation. Otherwise, of course, only fans need apply.

 

The Good

Much improved graphics look damn close to the show. The adventure game still integrates seamlessly into the show’s world.

The Bad

Reduced interaction, possibly because of the new graphics engine, or as a method to save development dollars. Still plenty to do, but you’ll only be doing one of two possible actions to a limited number of objects per scene.

“EnnnNGNGNGNGHHH!! There’s no beer or chicks!! This party SUCKS!” – Beavis

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