The Games of Monty Python's Flying Circus

Reviews by Orb
June 2003

British humorists Monty Python were the comedy rock stars of their time. A comedy team formed in 1971, the Python crew conquered television, film and stage. Numerous books based on their work have been published. Innumerable skits from their BBC television series have fallen into the popular lexicon, not the least of which is the word "spam" used now to define junk email, taken from one of the skits done on the series. Over the years a cult following has built up around the troupe. For five years in the late 90s, Monty Python published three software titles, which in varying degrees cashed in on or extended ideas from their earlier works.

Monty Python's Complete Waste of Time Stinky

Developer: 7th Level
Publisher: 7th Level
Release Date: 1994
Available for: Windows

The aptly titled Complete Waste of Time utilizes material from the 45 episodes of their television series. The game itself is broken into six sections, accessed by a main "brain" screen. In each section the player can click on and play with a number of things, all animated in Terry Gilliam's signature style. Some of these are games, mostly of the arcade variety, and some just have a number of different things to play with.

In each of the six game areas a door is hidden that accesses a secret game. Adventure game lovers will be thrilled to hear that the secret game in all six instances is an extremely tedious, convoluted maze. This same dull maze is redundantly hidden in each area. The goal of the overall game is to traverse this maze until an area is located that quizzes the player on Python humor minutiae. Once questions are successfully answered, an inventory item is collected. Four inventory items must be collected in each area, after which the player must exit the maze and again play the game in the previous area. Upon completion of this, the game exits to the main brain screen, and the entrance to the finished section flashes, signifying it's been fully completed.

Once all of these are done, the player gets a brief acknowledgment animation. Given all the hoops that have to be jumped through to get to this, it does indeed seem like a complete waste of time.

Despite this, CWT is a much fresher experience for the Python enthusiast than their follow-up title, Quest for the Holy Grail. Given the degree of complexity in answering some of the maze quizzes, this title is really and truly built for the Python enthusiast.

Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail Stinky

Developer: 7th Level
Publisher: 7th Level
Release Date: 1996
Available for: Windows

This is a title based on the classic 1974 Python film of the same name. Published in 1996, Holy Grail is mostly twiddleware that lacks the sharp-edged humor of the group for the most part, depending on jokes previously delivered in the film as a payoff for the player.

The player moves from area to area in the game, reexperiencing highlights from the movie. Each is either a noninteractive clip from the movie or an interactive minigame sequence based on a scene from the film.

Each game section has two parts. The first is a scene from the film that has been made interactive. Once the correct areas in this scene are clicked on, another game area is revealed, and the player accesses a second game. These secondary games are for the most part fun little arcade games; one of them is a Tetris-style game. None are overly difficult or time-consuming.

Once both games have been played, a pigeon flies around the screen, and the player must shoot the pigeon by clicking wildly like a nutcase on or near it, and it explodes and drops the coconut, which goes into inventory.

Speaking of which, there is a near-exhausting amount of inventory to be collected. This never actually gets used, but rather gets collected scavenger hunt-style to complete the game. The problem with this is that the inventory quite often is unrelated to either of the games in each area, but rather is gotten by random hit-and-miss clicking on objects in each screen that soon becomes painfully repetitive.

The game on its own is nowhere near as entertaining as the original film. In fact, I suspect that someone who's not seen the film will be a bit confused seeing the main bits from it taken out of context and will not get some of the jokes that get only a passing esoteric reference in the game, such as the coconuts. I would go so far as to say the game would ruin the film, and the film should definitely be seen prior to gameplay.

This of course is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if you have not seen the film, the jokes in the game will be fresh. But conversely, you'll also have no clue what they are all about. So I can only recommend this for fans of the movie. Additionally, gameplay soon is reduced to a painful clickfest, heightened to a painful nadir as you try to collect the voluminous and unnecessary inventory.

So why would one of the greatest comedy teams of the twentieth century publish such a tedious piece of work? One glance at the credits solves the mystery. Only one of the Python members, Eric Idle, was actually involved in the development of the game. And although he lends his voice to the game as the narrator "Historian," just like most songwriting teams the effort falls a bit flat without the rest of the members.

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life Pretty good

Developer: 7th Level
Publisher: 7th Level
Release Date: 1997
Available for: Windows

The Meaning of Life is the final title in the Python software trilogy, and it is the strongest and best-designed of the bunch. Taken from the skit-based film of the same name, this puppy provides all the cohesive game play and storyline elements that the earlier two titles sadly lack.

The game is done using Terry Gilliam's animation techniques to cleverly animate live action figures of the Python group. This design avoids the pitfalls of FMV, instead infusing the game with a fresh Python take on previously released skits.

Again, there is inventory to be collected, but here it is used in pretty much a straightforward adventure game style. The environments are static screens from the film, many of which the player can pan around full-circle to interact with the environment and characters.

There are some subgames, one of which is an unfortunate parody of You Don't Know Jack that falls flat, succumbing to the pitfall of not being as funny or clever as the original. Some of the minor games that are played are poorly designed, with no explanation and few clues provided to the gamer regarding how they are supposed to be played, leading to tedious trial-and-error fiddling. In some game areas, there is also some pretty redundant stuff, but despite these flaws the game is pretty entertaining and remains the best of the lot. The End

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Screenshots

Quest for the Holy Grail:

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Complete Waste of Time:

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System Requirements

Complete Waste of Time:

386-25 MHz (486-25 MHz or better recommended)
4 MB RAM (8 MB recommended)
256 color video
1X CD-ROM drive (2X recommended)
Soundcard and speakers
Mouse

Quest for the Holy Grail:

486 DX 33 MHz (486 DX2 66 MHZ or better recommended)
8 MB RAM (16 MB recommended)
SVGA video card (minimum 256 colors)
Mouse
2X CD-ROM drive
Sound card and speakers

Meaning of Life:
Pentium 100 MHz
Windows 95/98
16 MB RAM
4x CD-ROM drive
SVGA graphics card

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