Dec 20, 2011

Remembering Willy Beamish

From all the games I have ever played, there is only one I have firmly associated with Christmas and the whole wintery festive period (I sadly don't seem to particularly care for this one much anymore, what with me being an apparently empty/logical shell of a gnome and all). Said game is none other than The Adventures of Willy Beamish; a game designed by Jeff Tunnell, developed by Dynamix and published by Sierra back in the too distant sounding 1991. A game I was reading about in every gaming mag of the era, an expensive VGA offering in a big box, and a most excellent Xmas present by my parents.

I distinctly remember being incredibly excited about it, yet somehow carefully opening its box to discover a ton of 5.25" disks, one of the best manuals ever designed, a Sierra catalog, some feelies of sorts and those amazing, colourful Willy Beamish stickers that ended up on my room's door. I also remember waiting impatiently for what felt like ages for the game to install itself on my 40MB hard-drive and playing it for hours to the sounds of an old Platters LP. Hmm, this must be why I also associate this kind of music with the holiday season and, apparently, why I was listening to 50s music while photographing my dearest of all game boxes:

Interestingly though, I have never played the game since finally beating it later in 1992, admittedly with the help of a learned, yet younger, friend who I am sure must have gotten his hands on some sort of rare at the times walkthrough. But, why haven't I played it again after all those years, then? Why have I abstained from its many charms? Well, truth is, I somehow feel I might just spoil its memory and have decided to only periodically re-read the manual. Besides, I do actually remember Willy Beamish pretty vividly.

I remember its fantastic Dragon's Lair-esque graphics; they were the first of their sort in a point-and-click adventure. I remember the stunning animations and (low-res, I'm afraid) cartoon quality cut-scenes. I remember the way it showcased the capabilities of my very first PC soundcard. I remember how the story of a nine year old boy trying to competitively play video games while avoiding parental troubles and getting the girl, somehow turned into a ghost infested attempt at foiling an evil corporation. I remember getting sent off to military school and dying a dozen lushly animated deaths. I remember cajoling my in-game parents and entering my frog into competitions. I remember exploring the sanitised darkness of 90s American suburbia and being both shocked and delighted. I remember enjoying the subtle humour. I remember getting hopelessly stuck, but, above all, I warmly remember loving it.

I also remember things I didn't quite notice back then. I remember that Willy Beamish sported an incredibly simple (or elegant if you prefer) interface, one of the first ones to feature a smart cursor, yet remaining incredibly difficult. I remember the dead ends and pointlessly punishing arcade sequences too. And the fact that the trouble-meter was a very smart way of letting players know whether they were on the right track.

Then again, that's enough with my memories. Anyone else care to reminiscent on the festive joys of gaming? Well, that's what comments are for I suppose.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:


  1. Willy Beamish was a great game. I still enjoyed some of the earlier Sierra products more, such as Conquests of Camelot, but you had to love the effort they put into the packaging presentation in the Sierra glory years...

  2. Absolutely. Sierra is the only company that could (consistently and to a point) match the Infocom box. As for Conquests of Camelot, I must really play it to its conclusion some day. 't was pretty excellent if I remember correctly.

  3. I actually have this for the Sega CD.

    I wonder if GOG or anywhere else online would ever have this game in stock.

  4. Hey Caleb. Lovely seeing you again around these places.

    A Mega CD version does sound most intriguing mind... Oh, and GOG hasn't sadly added any Dynamix games just yet.

  5. Willy Beamish is pretty incredible, but what I mostly remember is that for a game released in 1991, it had a ton of ways to render the game unwinnable. The one I remember most vividly (mild spoilers for a game nearly as old as I am inbound) is if you do not properly dress a paper cut (or some other sort of hand wound) you are unable to practice playing your NES Parody enough to win the giant video game competition at the end of the game.

    Oddly enough, it makes me think of the holidays as well, because it was one of my favorite games to watch my uncle (who is six or so years older than me) play when we saw him on our annual Christmas trip to Texas.

  6. The Sega CD version of this game is terrible! The loading is insufferable and the graphics are almost entirely ruined. It's how I first experienced it and hated it, but when I got a PC my dad bought a copy and I ended up sorta liking it, despite how annoying it was in spots.

    Rise of the Dragon, though, got an excellent Sega CD port with full voice acting. That will always be favorite Dynamix adventure game, even though looking back, there's nothing terribly standout other than its branching paths.

  7. @chronodnd: You too remember correctly and -above all- vividly! Not treating Willy's finger at the beginning or forgetting to use the painful antiseptic led to a nice, brutal dead end. And it really is lovely it reminds you of holidays too.

    @Discoalucard: That's the Sega CD mystery/craving sorted out then, isn't it? :) Oh, and I did love Rise of the Dragon myself. Was a bit easy, but one of the first properly atmospheric and actually first person point-and-clickers I ever played.

  8. Right, Cd version is totally a crap, but the game is really nice

  9. Nice short trip to memory lane.

    Didn't they release a CD version of this for PC as well, with voiceovers and FMV. I remember I played both and the voice and movies was a HUGE leap in gaming during those early-mid 90s.

    1. Hmmm... they could have. Truth be said I never thought of looking for the PC-CD Willy so, well, thanks anonymous!