After the massive success of Myst, the California based publishing house Brøderbund seemed to release nothing but a slew of educational titles. In 1997, a year before it would become a wholly owned subsidiary of The Learning Company, they brought Koala Lumpur: Journey to the Edge to market. Judging by the box art alone, it seemed to be another one of those animated edutainment titles, but hidden on the cardboard spine lies the only real clue that this point-and-click adventure is more than that. This game has an ELSPA age rating of 13+.
The age is seemingly out of place for such a primary-coloured game, though the US box art is perhaps better suited to the game's overall tone if not its visuals. Not only does their ESRB Teen rating feature prominently on the front, but the box art is rather different. Instead of a cartoon picture of the titular marsupial, we instead have a koala plushie lying squished on an Australian highway. Roadkill is definitely more in keeping with the anarchic tone of the game that's more in keeping with Ren & Stimpy than the Berenstain Bears.
I wonder how Koala Lumpar's zen state will be affected after seeing the US box art?
It was developed by Colossal Pictures who are perhaps best known for producing Aeon Flux for MTV as well as some animation sequences for major movies like Demolition Man, Natural Born Killers and Tank Girl. With such a pedigree, it goes without saying that the animation quality on display is superb. In fact, their original intent was to create an animated TV show but now network wanted it. Alas, the company went bankrupt during the game's production so the idea that it would reignite interest in Koala Lumpur's animated adventures never came to pass.
Zen Master Koala Lumpur (get it?), a mystic marsupial with an incongruous Indian accent, unwittingly releases the evil Mucho da Nada (get it?) from his ethereal prison by reading aloud a random scroll he finds stored in his fez. To prevent the Comedy Apocalypse, the benevolent Ella Mental (get it?) tasks you with finding the second scroll that will again imprison him.
You can't do this alone. You'll need your trusty sidekick Dr Dingo Tu-Far (get it?), but first, it's time to summon your familiar. This spirit animal is indispensable for your adventure and it just so happens to be a fly. Fly acts as both your cursor and also a character in its own right. You see, you don't directly control Koala in a traditional point-and-click manner. He will instead blindly follow Fly wherever he is on the screen. Most locations scroll 360° with the odd vertical screen so it's easy enough to manoeuvre the hapless duo. Sometimes Koala and Dingo will be stuck in a trap, responding to the call of nature or otherwise disposed and Fly can travel off on his own. It makes for some interesting moments that play around with the formula in ways I've not seen before. I would've like to see them go further with the premise though.
You can play through each location in any order (left). Thank Vishnu your inventory will clear so the kitchen sink won't travel with you (right)
When Fly is alone, he doesn't have access to the inventory which is located in Koala's Fez that must have been designed by the same guy who created the Tardis. You can literally fit the kitchen sink in there. It is here, however, where you'll first see some of the game's flaws. The Fly is entertaining enough, but it's a bit inadequate as a cursor. You don't know where your clicking half of the time but the hit-boxes are generous enough for it to not matter. The one exception is the inventory. If like any seasoned adventurer you've taken up the habit of picking up anything that's not tied down, you'll find items that overlap each other. It can become headache-inducing when trying to pick up the correct item, only for it to select the object underneath. Many items are unnecessary and can be dropped at any location - and stay there too - so you can simply clear space that way, but it's an unintuitive means to get past a problem that shouldn't be there. There are four overall locations and each will reset your inventory so at least you won't be carrying that kitchen sink all the way to the end.
Once Dr Dingo Tu-Far has joined you at the opening location, you have access to three others which can be played in any order. Each has their charms and frustrations, but let's focus on the latter for a moment as they really tarnish the quality of the overall game. The Land of Lost Things features an ever-dreaded maze which isn't too bad when you consider that The Eye in the Sky plays host to the one thing adventure gamers fear above all else - the unskippable arcade sequence. Very rarely are they programmed well and Koala Lumpur's multiple 'beam corridors' are among the worst. By paying attention to the light sequence on the control panel before you enter, you can determine the best way to get to the other side. The thing is it's nigh on impossible to tell where you are in the sequence and using the mouse as the only means of control doesn't offer the precise navigation to get through it. It's so bad, it would be enough to give up playing and declare the game as a complete dud.
Doing so, however, will do a great disservice to rest of the game. It's gorgeous to look at and laugh-out-loud hilarious at times. Even when many of the puns are groan-worthy (and there are so many that one could assume the Comedy Apocalypse is already upon us), they elicit enough of a charm to put a half-assed smile on your face. Some of the puzzles are quite good too and can vary between gently taxing and trivially easy. If it weren't for that horrible arcade sequences, I'd say this is one of the easiest adventures out there. I don't necessarily consider that a bad thing when the game surrounding them is as entertaining as Koala Lumpur.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox running Microsoft Windows 3.1 to get the game working on modern systems. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 251 Mb. Install Size: 406 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Koala Lumpur: Journey to the Edge is © Brøderbund Software, Inc.
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me