Inspector Gadget - Send in the Clones

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back! Last week, we successfully helped Inspector Gadget rescue our first UN diplomat, Caroline M’Bega, who was trapped in a life of making secret sauce for an tofu-but-evil fast-food corporation. We also learned an important lesson about… er… polystyrene containers? Smog? Fast food? Something? I’m pretty sure we learned an important lesson, but I can’t remember what it was now. I ended last week saying that my next stop would be New York, proceeding on the map from west to east. When I arrived, I was essentially told that there was nothing going on there (yet) so I picked my next destination instead, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! For the soundtrack to this post, I recommend that you stick with my childhood memories: “Welcome to Rio” from the 1979 album, “Mickey Mouse Disco”. For no discernable reason, the tracks on this album have stuck with me for nearly four decades despite only hearing it a few times while sleeping over at a friend’s house. You can listen to this enjoyable tune while reading here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3rcmrRtnIQ

Last week, a reader asked if Caroline M’Bega was a reference to… wait. Hold on a second. I just noticed the signs. The first sign is “Aero Puerto” which you are probably thinking is just fine, but no. That is the Spanish word for “airport” and here in Brazil, they speak Portuguese. The correct spelling should be “aeroporto”. Do the developers not know the difference between Spanish and Portuguese? Or is this the real way it is spelled in Brazilian Portuguese? Even worse is the “U No Parko” that is just an offensive parody of the language. I believe in Brazil they used a crossed-out “E” symbol for “proibido estacionar”. Will we have to deal with offensive caricatures of language in every country we visit? Sorry. Maybe no one cares about this stuff, especially in a kids game, but this is practically offensive.

Há espaço para apenas um médico na Enterprise...

Where was I? Last week, it was asked if Caroline M’Benga was a reference to Dr. M’Benga from Star Trek. Unless you are a super-fan, you probably have no idea who that is: he’s the second-in-command doctor under Dr. McCoy on the Enterprise, appearing in two episodes. There are surprisingly few recurring characters on the original Star Trek, but I didn’t remember him. The opening scene to the game showed the Chief dressed as Captain Kirk, so I am going to guess that someone was a fan. As I have been unable to track down any of the original developers, I doubt we will ever know for sure.

With my quick detour to New York out of the way, we arrive at the airport in Rio and immediately discover Gadget’s stolen Gadgetmobile. He did remark that his “gadgets” were stolen, but I didn’t expect that to include his car. Gadget leaves, but he quickly returns… and again… and again. In moments, there are three Gadget duplicates. Which of them, if any, is the real one? What am I supposed to do?

Socorro! Estou preso em um carro com meu falso tio!

We talk to each of the “Inspector Gadgets” in turn. The first doesn’t recognize Penny, so he’s right out. The second can just say “Of course I am, Penny.” over and over again. That’s not very convincing. The third one is much more convincing: he knows Penny and Brain and even has Gadget’s sense of ego. He lets us into the car and we drive away.

Once in the car, we make small talk with Uncle Gadget. He says that the case is doing well and that only “delivery” remains. We ask what he is delivering and he reveals that he’s delivering the “niece and canine”. That’s us! We’ve been bamboozled! Now that we are captives, he no longer needs to pretend to be Uncle Gadget. That opens up more dialog options. I can try saying that I need to pee, or even that I am going to be sick, but neither do the trick. I try telling him that Brain usually sits in the front seat and “Gadget” agrees that would be okay. It doesn’t matter where we sit as long as we are trapped in the car.

With Brain in the front seat, we get a new option: we can “use” the “ejector seat”. When we do, Penny opens up her computer book and (with a sly wink to the camera), triggers the car’s computer to eject the occupant. Brain goes flying. Moments later, we arrive at yet another M.A.D. prison for Penny, this time looking like a mechanic’s garage. The Gadgetmobile is parked here, but Brain is nowhere to be seen.

Eu estou preso em uma garagem estranha! Pelo menos, meu cachorro escapou.

Searching through the room, there is not too much that I can do. There’s a wrench in the tool cabinet and I can use it to raise and lower the Gadgetmobile. I am also blocked by a locked cabinet and garage door, plus a strange door on a catwalk above that I cannot reach. I switch to Brain, but he cannot do anything until Penny tells him where she is. I call the Chief and he tells me that the door above is to the office, but it’s too high to reach. Knowing that is where I should focus, I discover that if Penny “uses” the car, she can climb onto the hood. From there, she can use the wrench on the switch to cause the car to rise up like an elevator. We can reach the catwalk!

Olha, é um mapa!

Once in Dr. Claw’s office, I start searching. There’s a key on the desk which I snatch, only to find that it unlocks the filing cabinet on the left. That is an insecure place to leave that! Inside the drawer is a file and a second key. Actually picking them up is harder than it should be because we cannot see either object through the metal of the drawer, yet we have to mouse over exactly the right spots. It’s pixel-hunting but without any visual clues. It sucks, but I get both soon enough. Reading the file, I find that Dr. Claw will be at a toothpick factory today. That seems useful, but not immediately. I use the new key and find that it opens a different cabinet across the room. That one contains a map, conveniently labeling our current location, as well as another key. There are no more filing cabinets so I assume that the last key is used for something else? I try to go and check if that opens the tool chest, but Penny refuses to budge until Brain arrives. She really should be more assertive… I call up Brain and tell him where we are. That lets him access the Rio map, revealing both the the repair shop and a toothpick factory. We hit the shop first.

M.A.D. Oficina de Reparação Automóvel

Outside the “M.A.D. Auto-Repair” shop, Brain discovers another Gadget robot-- or could it be the real one? We also find a wig and a trench coat so it’s no problem for him to disguise himself as yet another (slightly less realistic) Gadget robot. Brain-as-Gadget has no problems fooling the guard and slipping past.

Once Brain is in the garage, we have a little puzzle to get Penny down: we have to switch to her while the car is still raised, have her climb on, then have Brain lower the car. It’s tiny and hardly worth mentioning except it’s the first “real” collaboration puzzle in the game, the first time we have to use the two characters in concert. It reminds me, ever so slightly, of the collaboration puzzles from Maniac Mansion and hope we get more like that. With Penny down, we can use the final red key from the office on the storage locker, revealing the keys to the Gadgetmobile as well as the Gadget Bandsaw. Using the keys on the car gives us a cute scene where Penny reveals that she doesn’t know how to drive… so Brain will have to do it instead. The car speeds away, leaving a car-shaped hole in the garage door. Oops!

Ele dirige por toda a cidade. Brain o cão de condução!

The scene changes immediately as Brain pulls the car up next to the toothpick factory. The “Gadget” outside the factory seems to be the real one as he chastises Penny for driving the car… although he seems surprisingly okay with the idea that it was Brain instead. The security guard asks Gadget if he is “M.A.D.”, and Gadget replies that he is quite mad at Penny and Brain for taking his car for a spin. The guard misunderstands and lets Gadget into the factory, but we remain stuck outside.

At this point, we should be quite used to these “puzzles”: there is a tee-shirt and beanie on thr ground and Brain whips up a costume to get past the guard. Why exactly does Brain think dressing up like a kid wearing a beanie and a shirt that says “T.T.” on it would help? Why does the “disguise” need us to carry around a corncob? I have absolutely no idea, but at least it works because he lets the two of us pass now. Better not to think about it, I guess.

A fábrica de palitos.

Once inside, Gadget approaches Brain and wants to interview him. His “costume” is apparently the uniform of a “toothpick tester” and Gadget thinks he can reveal the secrets of the facility. Of course, Brain never talks so I have no idea how this will work out for him...

Você fala "cachorro"?

Like usual, there seem to be more things to interact with than there actually are. Here, the button for example doesn’t seem to be more than painted-on decoration, but the table saw at least seems like you can interact with it. After a few minutes, I give up and head straight into the adjacent mechanic’s room.

Uma árvore inteira só por um palito?

In that room, we find a worker diligently converting entire trees into single toothpicks. How wasteful! Operating the machinery is none other than Winona Smotherincreme, one of the missing U.N. delegates! We try to talk to her, but she seems to be hypnotised. After some experimentation, I discover that Gadget can use his recently-recovered bandsaw attachment to clog up the machinery with wood pieces. With the rhythm of the machine disrupted, Winona wakes up very confused. She doesn’t even realize that Gadget rescued her. With her back to her usual self at least, we head back to the airport. Two down and several more to go. If I keep traveling east, my next stop will be London! I’ll head there next week.

Eu tenho que continuar falando em Português?

I do not want to harp on it too much, but this episode has underscored a lack of polish in the game engine. Although I did not complain of it much in the narrative, there were multiple issues where hotspots seem to be slightly off or where we had to pixel-hunt in order to find things we knew were in the room. The search for the colored keys in the desk was the worst, primarily because they were so small and because you couldn’t actually see the keys-- all you could do is move the mouse slowly around the front of the drawers until you found their hotspot. While the game does have some excellent animation, the whole interface feels sluggish. Walking across the room takes forever and it’s pretty clear now that the game is practically 2D: there is only a band a few pixels wide at the bottom of the screen that Penny and Brain can walk around in. Even as the backdrop suggests more, usually you cannot break out of that bottom-of-screen mold. Mix that with the signs not being in Portuguese and the whole thing feels barely complete.

Narratively, this is the idental setup to last time: Gadget and the team arrive, Penny gets kidnapped, Brain gets free, Penny figures out where she is trapped, Brain rescues her, then we finish up to rescue the delegate. It’s fun, but it is repetitive. Do all of the missions go the same way? If so, I can fast-forward through a few, but even with the repeated pattern I am having fun with the plot and humor in each one so far. What do you think? Fast-forward if the pattern repeats? Or keep documenting the missions as they come?

Time played: 1 hr 15 min
Total time: 2 hr 40 min
Gadget Inventory: Flashlight, Gadget Bandsaw

Penny’s Computer Book

Aparentemente sim.

This week’s environmental lesson is on the destruction of the rainforest. Unlike last week’s, the plot and the lesson actually lined up okay: Dr. Claw’s insidious plan to turn the rainforest into toothpicks in an especially inefficient way is just the type of corporate crime that Inspector Gadget can solve. I am reminded of the “Evil, Inc.” from the first Austin Powers movie somehow in the way that M.A.D. in this game (and in the series? I do not remember) seems more like a large evil international conglomerate than a evil spy network. M.A.D. appears to operate perfectly legal logging, automotive, and shipping infrastructure in the two cities that we’ve been to so far.

Tudo graças ao Google Translate!

Like the pollution issues of last week, this is another case where the real world seems to be improving. After reaching peaks in 1999 ands 2004, deforestation in Brazil is on the decline. Still, the 6238 km2 that was removed in 2011 is twice the size of Rhode Island, but it’s a fraction of the problem at its worst.

Next week: London! What kind of insidious pollution epidemic affected that city back in 1992?

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