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The Three Stooges

Year released: 1989
Company: Activision
Genre: Mini-game Mélange

Somehow, I don't think I'm alone, but the mystique of the Three Stooges has always been lost on me. I dunno, maybe it's the time differential, or the fact that slapstick for the sake of slapstick never really did anything for me, but the exploits of Larry, Moe, and Curly (and Schemp, and Curly Joe) was not something I made an appointment to watch, or even lingered on when I was channel-surfing. However, a chance occurance with the Commodore Amiga made me very interested in finding this game. When I managed to track this game down, I came away reasonably satisfied. This isn't the be-all-end-all of video games, but it does what it sets out to do.

Basically, you control the trio of Larry, Moe, and Curly as they try to raise enough money to save a dilapidated orphanage. The way you do it is through several different ventures: For instance, you may be asked to serve pies to a group of socialites. In another situation, Curly takes part in a boxing match, while Larry searches for a radio that will send Curly into a punching frenzy. You might be called upon to answer trivia questions about the Stooges, and sometimes you'll find money lying on the street.

What it basically boils down to is an array of mini-games, each worth differing sums of money. You need at least $5000 in 30 days to keep the orphanage running, but accumulating even more can mean being able to fix the place up or even marrying one of the residents (who is at the legal age of consent, I'm assuming.) The orphanage element is a decent enough thread to keep the whole premise together, and since many of the jobs and contests revolve around the Stooges' mannerisms, it works fairly well for a game of this nature.

What really attracted me to this game in the first place was the graphical and audial quality of the Amiga game. It was rife with digitized images and sounds that seemed to have been plucked right from the shorts themselves. The NES format means that some sacrifices had to have been made for the sake of graphics - while the close-up pictures of the characters look decent, the coloring of them is a little wacky. Then again, I just can't get enough of Curly's zany facial expressions during the cracker eating contests. The sounds are also quite good considering the technical constraints of the console, and they've managed to find suitable places to drop them into gameplay, but the music strikes me as being quite mundane - it's always a no-no to use the triangle wave as your melody.

Obviously, since you're dealing with so many different play environments, play control is a major issue. They seem to have done quite well with what they've got - none of the mini-games are too complicated to control and the response is quite solid. My one gripe has to do with the boxing game. The hit detection there is a little touchy, and it seems that you have to be completely in the middle to avoid obstacles in the front and back of the sidewalk. The hand that selects the next task speeds up as you go through the game, but you have opportunities to slow it down throughout the game.

I'm giving the game relatively generous marks in the realm of challenge, because even though saving the orphanage and even fixing it up are quite easily accomplished (provided you know how to make the big bucks), reaching the $20,000 pinnacle is another matter entirely. You basically have to average over $650 a day in order to pull it off. There's really only one mini-game where that sort of thing can be realistically accomplished, and if you happen upon a stretch where that game isn't available, you're out of luck. The mini-games themselves vary in challenge, from incredibly easy (the Doctor job) to incredibly hard (the Waiter job), and some depend on simple luck.

As far as the fun factor is concerned, it's not too bad. Even though I'm not a Stooge fan, I found this game to be a nice diversion, if a little frustrating at points (especially during the Boxing and Trivia games). It's not a game I routinely play, though, and sometimes I wish there was a way to play each of the mini-games in an autonomous form. I haven't managed to reach the $20K mark, but I don't honestly feel compelled to keep trying once I've turned off the deck.

Although I'm not really a devotee of the film shorts, the NES rendition of The Three Stooges is a fairly good game despite that. It's got just enough going for it that I give it a small recommendation, whether you like them or not.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 13
Challenge: (Easy)
Thrill: (Boring)
Aesthetic Score: 17
Overall Score: 71%