Guilty Party – Grandslam Interactive

Crime – thinking that gamers would want to play a level that involves painting a wall

Redress – play said level to help explain why we don’t want to play a level about painting a wall

The Flintstones, published for the Master System in 1988, is notorious with Master System obsessives for being boring. Not just uneventful, but absolutely tedious. I’d actually forgotten about The Flintstones, until I was painting some fences last week.

If you’re reading this and wondering what my thought process was, well….I was painting some fences and remembered that The Flintstones has a level where you paint a wall. That’s right, Fred Flintstone paints a wall. There’s no wacky goings on, no bright colours, no excitement. Fred has to paint a grey wall a different shade of grey.

…and if that didn’t inspire you to read on, I’m really not sure what will. I’m gonna try this painting level though, so show why painting a wall is a terrible idea for a level in a game.

1

The title screen itself should be a warning to the unsuspecting player. It’s not the worse game art on the Master System, but look at Fred’s eyes. There is a nervous fear there, like someone is pointing a gun at him off screen. I’m convinced that Betty is pointing at the gunman, not because she’s scared, but because she’s reminding Fred that if he doesn’t participate in this wretched game, he’s eating lead. I’ve thought about this too much, haven’t I? The Master System’s horrific version of The Flintstones’ theme is something I never want to think about again. Imagine a dreadful 80’s synth band playing the theme far too slowly and you’ve got it.

2

That’s actually quite thoughtful of Grandslam and surely an admission of how bad the music is. Can you imagine Streets of Rage or Crazy Taxi giving you that option? Maybe those games do have that option; the point is I would never think of using it.  I personally find painting a dull job and definitely a job that needs good music/podcasts to keep me motivated, so Grandslam’s already off to a bad start. On a positive note I do like the cartoony graphics thus far, I just can’t get excited about them as I know we have to paint a wall next. One thing I wasn’t expecting was a digitized “Yabba Dabba Doo!” sample from the Master System. I’m impressed, even if the sample is pretty compressed and cuts off during the “Doo!”

3

Anyway, let’s help Fred paint his wall. Actually, let’s help Fred as he must paint the wall. I don’t like the implied threat here or the fact that a nervous looking Fred is forced to paint a wall under the glare of the sun. Why does that remind me of a prison? I’ve not seen The Flintstones cartoon for over twenty years, but I remember Fred being more carefree than this.  I have played this section of The Flintstones many times, but can’t remember if I actually finished painting the wall. I’m hoping I can get the wall painted though as I’m starting to worry about Fred’s safety. 

4

Look at Fred’s face. The glum expression, the five ‘o’clock shadow. Is this the Fred Flintstone you remember from the cartoons? I certainly don’t remember Wilma being so direct in the cartoons. Fred states he’s going bowling once he’s completed the painting…I dread to think what will happen if he doesn’t finish painting the wall in time. I feel the game could have done with an intro screen giving some more explanation of the story, i.e. Fred is in trouble with Wilma so he needs to complete this household chores before he can go bowling. However, Grandslam probably knew that no one would want to stick around after an intro sequence that dull.

5

So, the painting…Fred has to paint the entire wall a light grey colour before time runs out while dealing with 1) a dinosaur brush that keeps running away 2)the need to keep to adding paint to the brush 3) a ladder that manually needs moving and 4) Pebbles escaping her cot and drawing on the newly painted wall. I’m surprised Wilma left Fred to mind Pebbles while he had to paint…it sees kinda irresponsible. I’m getting the feeling that Wilma is really annoyed with Fred and wants him to fail. I personally think the game where we find out why Wilma is angry with Fred would be a much better game. This game has you painting a wall while dealing with distractions, which isn’t fun at all.

6

Look at that crazy grin Fred has while painting. That’s some proper ‘hate painting’ that. I bet there are dents in that stone wall where Fred is grinding that paintbrush and working through some issues. The game itself isn’t as sluggish as I remember it being, though Fred doesn’t always respond to your imputs…which is not what you need when playing a game that involves such a precise activity as painting. Once you remember that you drag the ladder with direction and Button 1 and paint with Button 2, The Flintstones isn’t too hard to play. It’s not fun to play, but at least it’s playable.

7

Dang…out of time. There always feels like there is some awkward spots that you miss on the wall. Pebbles is doing my head in too – she always seems to time her escapes as I’m on a ladder. However, I have a plan. Pebbles can’t reach the top of the wall, so I’ll paint there first and then paint the bottom of the wall while dumping her back in her cot. If Pebbles draws on the unpainted bottom portion of the wall, it doesn’t matter because I’m going to paint over it. Again, this is another situation that adds more stress to painting…painting should be relaxing, not like a military exercise.

8

Nooo! With seconds to spare I’ve failed, simply because I couldn’t get the final few little spots on the wall. There are always little segments of the wall that it feels like I can’t reach. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m standing out of position or because Fred ran out of paint when painting that section. I think I’m on the right lines with this strategy though, so I’ll try again. The game has been realistic in that, you will always miss spots when painting, but it is not improving my enjoyment of The Flintstones. Why would you want a reminder of the most irritating part of painting? Bar Grandslam giving you a paint covered Master System pad and asking you to clean it at the end of your gaming sessions.

9

So we start again, with Wilma tearing Fred down. In the meantime I’m confused by the wall – it looks like it’s meant to be The Flintstones’ living room, but has no ceiling above. I’m sure that the Flintstones had a roof in the cartoons. Also, the scale of the graphics seems off – the wall is nearly twice the size of Fred, how big is it meant to be? Wilma also looks tiny to me, like a child. It’s hard to unsee once you’ve noticed it.

10

I’ve done worse on the second attempt. Pebbles keeps charging into me, forcing me to drop the paintbrush, dump her in her cot then chase the paintbrush again, I wish you didn’t have to pick her up – for example if you’re climbing down from the ladder and bump into Pebbles, this means that you automatically have to pick Pebbles up. The brush keeps jumping away from me too, which combined with Pebbles, means that I can’t paint this wall. Why does no one want Fred to paint this wall? Why did Grandslam think it would be fun to paint a wall and look after a child? Who wants to do one of those things in a game, never mind both of them at the same time?

11

If that’s the case, why doesn’t Wilma get Pebbles to paint the wall? This is Fred’s last life (see the smiley/grimacing faces) and my last go as well; Flintstones is starting to bore me to tears and Wilma is doing my head in. I wish there was a cheat where Fred could just flip Wilma off, stroll out the house and head down to the bowling, but that might make The Flintstones exciting and I’m sure Grandslam didn’t want that. If Fred has had three attempts to paint this wall previously, wouldn’t it still be partially painted? Is Wilma forcing Fred to go outside so she can paint the wall dark grey and make Fred do the whole thing again?

12

Screw you Wilma! Once I realised how picky the game is with painting the wall (i.e. it wants every inch of the wall painting) I focused on the big patches of wall first, then spent the last hour glass just painting over the gaps and missed stretches. As a result, I finish the level, Fred gets to go bowling and Wilma…probably painted the wall dark grey again so Fred has to paint it when he gets back from bowling. I’m really starting to distrust Wilma, in case you couldn’t tell…I’m also appreciating that video game painting is not fun, due to the distractions, patchy controls and nightmare blind spots on the wall. 

The next level involves driving to the bowling alley, fixing the tyre with a dinosaur car jack if you hit any rocks. I’m not playing it. I’ve had enough of The Flintstones for a lifetime. As long as Fred is safe, I’m happy.

Verdict – By torturing myself playing that awful wall painting level, I feel that I’ve highlighted the danger of games trying to turn life into games. Sure, The Sims made it work but that’s because the Sims in the game are like me and you, everyday, realistic characters. If I’m playing a game with characters from a cartoon or a fantasy setting, I don’t want them doing everyday things, I want to experience their world. Imagine if there was a Superman game where you were Clark Kent, typing stories up on Word? Imagine a Mario game where you had to actually arrange a quote on some plumbing repairs? The whole point of a cartoon like The Flintstones is it is entertainment and we want to experience what that show is about. The Flintstones I remember is about Fred’s schemes and always trying to get ahead, not doing things I do in my everyday life. Why Grandslam thought that is a good idea is beyond me. Avoid The Flintstones on the Master System like the plague and stick to the Master System’s most colourful, exciting games.