When every gamer was a pirate back in the late 90s, PC discs with a selection of 10 – 15 games were all the rage. Games were often missing things like cut-scenes and soundtracks but you got the bulk of the experience which was all you really cared about. A lot of the time they simply didn’t work but considering you just paid a couple of quid for illegal games, screw you for complaining. Well, Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon came on one of those discs, and out of curiosity in my puberty enduring years, I decided to give it a crack.
Playing like a bizarre amalgamation of Starship: Titanic, Monkey Island II, and the TV show Cheers, it’s an odd concoction of ideas based on the series of novels written by one Spider Robinson. Here’s an author who drummed up a odd collection of stories all revolving around a particular bar run by one Mike Callahan. His bar is a little different than your usual bar, for his is frequented by aliens, freak-show residents, time travelers, talking animals, the craziness never ends. To all who prop up the bar however, all is normal. So you playing as one Jake Stonebender are welcomed into the fray with open arms, where your story begins.
And what a story. Starting off in this bar where everything constantly feels ‘off’, you’ll endure an adventure which takes you time traveling across the world due to Jake’s insistence on helping the bar patrons with their troubles. You’ll enjoy plane rides, be strapped into an operating table, find yourself crawling round in vents blowing on a dog whistle, and enjoy the most psychedelic court room ever envisioned. There’s no way of guessing where Jake Stonebender will end up next, but you’ll revel in the wonder of seeing your next destination. You may even do a bit of space-hopping if you’re lucky.
The game is PUN-tastic. It’s relentless with them, and the humour comes thick and fast as a result. Beware though, it often misses the mark and will leave you feeling like the idiot who is the one person who doesn’t get the joke in a group of friends. The writing is on-point though, feeling very reminiscent of the novels of course, and if one thing stands out more than anything in this game, it’s the voice-acting which accompanies the dialogue because this is AWESOME voice acting work. It sounds like there’s a whole army of different actors working hard at establishing each character’s role within the game and it never gets boring or annoying. I particularly like it when the dog, Ralph, pipes up and he just reminds me so much of Billy Bob Thornton from the first season of Fargo.
It’s a typical point ‘n’ click game with the exception being that you do not physically control an on-screen character. Think of it as a first person clicker. A FPC if you will. You’ll be picking up a LOT of items to help complete the puzzles which can be a little tricky at times. In fact, the opening puzzle with the chalkboard word game could potentially be the only puzzle a lot of players see because they’re too nonplussed as to the answers. Persevere though and you’ll gain great satisfaction down the line once you get into the mindset of the game and what it is expecting of you.
The detail in the locations you visit is fantastic. You know those crappy ‘find the item’ games which plagued the DS and Steam a few years back? The backgrounds are very similar to that level of detail, but this was 1997. Nice! A lot of the times characters are animated which gives a lot of life to the scenes too, so there’s always something to keep an eye out for.
It’s just so damn weird. This is usually the point of the review / write-up of something weird where someone says, “But if you like Monty Python / Douglas Adams / Terry Pratchett, you’ll LOVE this!”, but I don’t know that I can. This is genuinely one of the most bizarre scenarios you’ll ever come across in point ‘n’ click gaming, and for some reason… it works. Such a welcoming location is rare to find in a video game, and for a while you’ll feel like it’s a real place. Welcome to Callahan’s, where you can drown your sorrows for a few hours and enjoy a plot unlike any you’ve experienced whilst clicking away at your left mouse button.
See me propping up the bar @auto2112