3 Skulls of the Toltecs, released in 1996 by Revistronic, was a cartoon adventure that did an excellent job at parodying the tropes of the Spaghetti Western genre. It may have spawned two better known sequels in the coming decade (though whether they are better in quality is still up for debate), but the original remains an elusive gem.
Since it's release, and it's compatibility with the indispensable ScummVM program, second hand prices have drastically skyrocketed demanding around $60 on eBay for the dual case alone (I have not seen any UK listings, but I have heard of some people paying in the hundreds). The lack of an official digital re-release only exacerbates the situation.
You begin the game as Fennimore Fillmore, an intrepid cowboy who has been plunged into an adventure to seek three mystical skulls. The legend is that once combined, these skulls will lead to a treasure worth far more than the gold each are made from. You're hindered along the way by dangerous bandits, the French military, a nefarious monk and other fiendish caricatures each with their own agenda.
The game makes heavy and humourous use of spaghetti western stereotypes that any fan of Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy will appreciate. It's very well written and acted as well which invites welcome comparisons with the best LucasArts have to offer. It's good that it's perhaps fitting that the author has been given a screenplay credit which is usually reserved for feature films.
The cartoon visuals also give it a yellow-saturated charm that were excellent for the time, even if Fillmore's nose can alarmingly disappear sometimes when he's further away from the screen. It's a graphical style in the vein of Discworld 2 that wouldn't be topped until The Curse of Monkey Island a year later. I much prefer this style of game to the ugly 3D polygons or early pre-rendered CGI of the era, and it holds up surprisingly well.
Like the classic LucasArts games, it copies the verb interface of the SCUMM engine, but the number of actions have been reduced to six. The Open/Close and Pick Up/Give commands have been combined streamlining the interface somewhat. Dialogue trees are presented differently as well, with the different responses represented by letters of the alphabet. You'll only see the text when you hover the cursor over them, but the result is a clean and uncluttered interface allowing the cinematic visuals to take centre stage.
If I were to impart any negativity onto the game, other than the disappearing nose which gives our protagonist a Voldemort-like appearance, it would be the speed of the walking animation. You only have one type of walk - shuffle. It may have been animated as an attempt at a swagger, and it is amusing to begin with, but you'll soon tire of it as you go from one edge of a scrolling screen to the other. If you have clicked to exit a screen, you can press ESC to instantly travel there, however a large amount of wide vistas mean that this is not always possible.
This is only a minor ailment in an otherwise delightful game that deserves a lot more attention.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses ScummVM to allow the game to run on modern PCs. Manual included. Tested on Windows 7.
3 Skulls f the Toltecs is © Revistronic
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me