Let me set the scene. Its 1998, date unknown. I’m 3 years old, and I’m ogling my Dad’s huge CRT monitor in the study of my childhood home. I can feel the weight of the rubber ball they used to use as an oscillator for old computer mice as I click play. A splash screen for ‘Humongous Entertainment’ flashes before my eyes, accompanied by a bunch of cutesy characters and some modulated MIDI tuneage. Little would I know this would be my first foray into the world of the point and click adventure, and boy was it a ride.
So, snap back to 2016, and here I am, 18 years later, mulling over the privilege of having all my games stored in Valve’s DRM prison, meaning I can load up any game from Sam and Max to Max Payne 3 at the push of a button, regardless of when they were released. I manage to fight back the existential crisis and the internal monologue “Jesus Christ I’m old” and jump back in my little emulator time machine, ready to face the darkness for the second time around.
The puzzles are compelling, the characters are easy-going and memorable, and Gilbert employs just the right amount of common sense that any age could get into it and enjoy it.
Pajama Sam (Americans spell ‘pyjamas’ weird, I know) is a point and click puzzle adventure, in the same vein of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. For some reason, when Ron Gilbert wrapped on Monkey Island in 1991, he upped sticks and created a company that made point and click games for kids, and introduced the world to character’s such as Putt-Putt, Spy Fox, and my personal favourite, Pajama Sam. These games subverted the typical point and click game, using puzzles and wild adventures to teach kids morals and lessons, whilst keeping the same charming wit and humour that made the Monkey Island games so addictive and hilarious.
The plot of the game follows Sam, a young lad who can’t put head to pillow because he’s scared of the dark. He gets inspired by his favourite comic book to journey into the closet with his mask, lunch box, and flashlight, the “Illuminator Mark 5 Jr”. In doing so, he stumbles into the Land of Darkness and loses all of his gear, and has to solve various puzzles and face his fears, culminating in a meeting between Sam and Darkness himself, who really is just a lonely guy who needs a friend. They crack a few eggs and Sam can finally rest easy. It’s the kind of storytelling that is simple, charming, and quite useful, especially for 3 year old me, who, like Sam, was absolutely terrified of whatever was hiding in that massive closet across the room from me.
The puzzles are compelling, the characters are easy-going and memorable, and Gilbert employs just the right amount of common sense that any age could get into it and enjoy it. The Humongous pack is on Steam somewhere, and I’d recommend them all if you like your point and clicks and you’re up for a few short, nostalgic thrills. Hell, even though the difficulty of the puzzles should be lost on me 18 years later, I am ashamed to say at some point I did consult a guide. It’s no Dark Souls, but make sure you know your peas from your carrots. Spoilers.