Dumbow & Cool
For some reason, playing Dumbow & Cool for the first time took me way back to 1987 when I was wasting many hours that I should have been studying before and after school, sitting in front of my Commodore 64 playing a game called Head over Heels. Now I don't mean to get all retro and nostalgic on you, but it did prompt me to ponder on just how the much the beloved video game has improved exponentially over the last thirty years. It would logically follow then, that Dumbow & Cool should be about ten times better a game than Head over Heels was, would it not? Ah, dear reader, if that were the case there would be no need for the humble reviewer such as I, and Bytten.com would not exist. Sit back, grab a beverage of choice and allow me to introduce this weeks game.
The cute creatures to the right are called Schmumps. They live in Happy Valley, away from the cares and stresses of life in the big city. Happy Valley is an idyllic place with lush green grass, and crystal blue waterfalls. The Schmumps are contented in their home doing whatever it is that Schmumps do all day.
That is until the fateful day when the Studes arrive to carry away all of the Schmumps to work as slave labour in King Lectures oil rig. Studes are like Schmumps, but are thin and brown with buggy eyes and talk in raspy voices all the time and this is primarily because they smoke cigars continuously throughout the game. By a twist of fate, Dumbow and Cool escape capture and the scene is set for a daring rescue mission in which our playable characters must make their way through rain, snow and shine to liberate all their friends and ultimately set up a confrontation with the big Stude himself, King Lecture.
It turns out that Schmumps have special powers that are only active in their childhood years. In the case of our characters, Dumbow can swim, whilst Cool is a wizard on roller skates. Some goals will only be achievable by one or the other character, and some goals will need a degree of co-operation between the two of them.
Initial builds of the game featured control by keyboard only, and whilst this was adequate, the newly implemented mouse control is a great improvement in this area. The mouse is used to rotate the characters as well as jump (left click) and toggle swim gear or roller skates on and off (right click). Forward and backward movement is controlled by the 'w' and 's' keys on the keyboard. This setup works well for me, however I note that there is no feature to change key bindings if this configuation is not the best one for you. I don't own a game controller for my PC, but there is support for those as well.
The option to play split screen mulitiplayer is great fun. My 11 year-old daughter enjoyed playing through the story mode with me. It makes me wonder why more platformers do not implement split screen modes. Certainly the game is more fun when played like this even if elbow room at the keyboard is at a premium.
Aside from the story mode there is a time attack mode as well, where the goal is to take either Dumbow or Cool through a series of courses designed specifically for them in the shortest time possible. These are really tricky to acomplish in the allotted time limit, and will have you pulling hair out by the latter stages.
The game is full of colour and the textures are clean and crisp. Animations are done well, and although models are a bit blocky, kids especially will be drawn to this game immediately. There's some great voice acting. King Lecture could well be James Earl Jones - no kidding, the resemblance is uncanny. With my doubt that Drewsgames.com budget would stretch to hire such Hollywood stars as voice actors notwithstanding, the music and sound are top notch.
By now you're probably sitting there thinking something along the lines of: "This is the game I've been waiting for! My life is now complete!". Before you head off to Drewsgames.com to get yourself a copy of it, be wary of a few things. Technically, the game seems to have a couple of gliches. It refuses to be ALT-TABBED on either of my test rigs, crashing to the desktop with the standard Windows XP error message. The load times between levels seem to be inexplicably random and sometimes it will take forever for a level or cut scene to load. The secret here is just to wait it out and not be tempted to hit the escape key which will usually see you dumped back at the desktop. The story mode whilst being well presented with movie-like cut scenes, is too short and seems to end just as I was getting good at things. From memory there are 6 levels in the story mode, as well as 12 time attack levels. A minor gripe is that the beforementioned movie files are in quite low resolution, presumably to reduce the download size of the package, but it would have been nice to have an option of a high resolution movie pack download for those who desired it.
Children are going to love Dumbow & Cool. The difficulty level is such that even the younger ones will see significant progress through the earlier levels of the game. Be mindful that the Studes do shoot generic guns (Dumbow and Cool yell "Ow! Ow!" when hit), encourage slave labour and chain smoke cigars. The game may or may not be for your child. My daughter loves it. The price tag of $9.95 sits this game at the budget end of even the indie game scale, and I cannot help but to recommend it as some good old fashioned platforming fun. Not quite as much fun as Head over Heels was, but good fun nonetheless.
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