Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Review: The Adventures of Willy Beamish (Sega CD)

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Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1993
Developer: Dynamix
Publisher: Sierra
Instruction Manual: Not necessary
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $8.99 (used) $15.01 (new) ( – Price for Sega CD version only
Price: $6.00-$10.00 (used) $88.00 (new) on eBay
Other Releases: Amiga, PC, Mac
Digital Release? No

Another early Sega CD release, while most of the games that came out near launch were cool new CD-ROM interactions and FMV games, The Adventures of Willy Beamish was a port of an Amiga point-and-click adventure title that received several enhancements on Sega’s system.  Published by Sierra, one of the two major producers of the adventure genre at the time, Willy Beamish totes you along on an adventure of a nine-year-old boy and the several decisions and influences you will deal with.  Beamish is somewhat of a troublemaker as established by the opening scene in detention on the final day of school before summer break, which begins your adventure by sneaking past your ancient teacher and getting home.  In typical Bart Simpson emulation for the time, Willy rides a skateboard, has a pet frog, and is prone to causing problems for any adults in his wake.  From then on an amusing tale of a young boy saving his town unfolds that has you doing everything from the mundane – playing with your younger sister on the swingset – to the completely crazy – combat with a vampiric babysitter.  As much as many critics have compared this game to a storybook come to life, little touches like a playable video game console in your bedroom and somewhat brancing plot paths show impressive game design for the time.

I remember playing the DOS version at a friend’s house and noticing the washed out colors on his sorry 386 PC and that the game was a mere 2 or 3 floppy discs.  On the Sega CD, with a whopping 650 mb CD at its disposal, Willy Beamish has bright alive colors, the endless text has been replaced with full voice acting, and new animation sequences take over for the narrative cutscenes.  There’s a definite cost to this version, you’ll be waiting for endless amounts of load times as your Sega CD tries to cue up each individual scene or line of dialogue on a 1x speed drive.  It was so long that I opted out of video playback for this game as well due to the sheer length of load times.  Endless load times are somewhat justified by the fact that almost everything that happens in the game is amusing and there’s an impressive amount of story and content that will lead you to the eventual end.  Unlike many adventure games, you can die or lose at almost anytime to various obstacles and a continuous trouble meter that, if filled, will get you shipped off to military school.  This is why I make good use of the save system so that I have a backup if I make a pivotal mistake, which can really happen at anytime thanks to the way adventure games were designed at the time, and also because losing will drop you back at the title screen.  Many of your obstacles will be in-action movements, which is also quite odd for an adventure game, and the timing can be so rigid that you’ll fail because you had no idea what to do or where to go.  In a game that has literal minutes of load times for failure, you don’t want to repeat sections more than a few times so be sure to keep a walkthrough handy and pull it out when your frustration levels get too high.

The Adventures of Willy Beamish is one of the myriad of titles thrown onto the Sega CD because CD-based titles were few and far between at the time.  It serves as one of the better adventure games on the system that has the right balance of gameplay and plot to keep you continuing on.  Additionally it’s a game that has some of the raciest content on the console at the time – references to “playing with yourself”, blood spurts from injuries, swearing, and even a pet frog named “Horny” are all par for the course in Willy Beamish.  I also like the fact that despite being a somewhat difficult game to find, you’re definitely not breaking the bank to add this to your collection.  It’s probably among my top 10 titles for the system and well worth the effort of sitting around and waiting for the next line of dialogue (literally) to load.

Written by Fred Rojas

November 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm

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