Genre: Click-em-up | Developer: Burst Studios | Year: 1996

There are a small handful of game mechanics that I have an illogically adverse, practically allergic, reaction to whenever I see them. Three off the top of my head:

  1. Card metaphors and deck-building/drafting mechanics.
  2. I-frame dodgerolls in 2D games.
  3. Slidey tile puzzles.

The others can be discussed another time, but the reason I don’t like slidey tiles isn’t from the university degree necessary to understand the uncaring truth of numbers – some configurations of slidey tile puzzles could simply be mathematically impossible to solve, and you’d never actually know until it’s too late.

It’s because Toonstruck was one of the first PC games I ever played. A real-world-meets-toon-world point-and-click adventure starring Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry, Dan Castellaneta, Ben Stein and Jim Cummings, among others – no wonder the game was a financial failure for the time. Well-realized, though not especially funny, it’s regardless a game forever etched in my memory – and not just for the undeniable erotic tension between Christopher Lloyd and a fortune teller cat.

There are two types of point-and-click adventure games – there are the normal ones like Torin’s Passage, where about half the things you can do at any particular time will kill you and make fun of you, and then there are the really sadistic ones that won’t ever kill you. Toonstruck falls in the latter camp – get caught out by the bad guy’s henchmen, and it’s off to jail for you.

Escaping from jail requires shorting a lock with the use of a carpet and static electricity – but getting all your stuff back afterwards requires the completion of a not-even-particularly-hard slidey tile puzzle. But when you’re seven years old and mostly still enjoying shapes and colours, you only need to be told once how static electricity works. Beating the ole’ slidey tiles, on the other hand, is a lifeskill that would only come to me years down the line. And so, the sisyphean pain of watching tiles grind against each other, simply waiting for success or death, is forever etched in my mind.