Big Red Adventure came to out PC screens in the middle of 1995, bringing with it a mildly political sense of humour as it lampoons communist Russia. Where else can the Marx Bros fight for Marxism?
This is a sequel to the Dynabyte developed Nippon Safes Inc. The three leads return: Doug Nuts, the international thief; Donna Fatale, his top-heavily love interest and Dino Fagioli the muscular lunk who's overdosed on steroids. At first you only play as Doug as he plans to steal the Czar's crown on display at a museum. This doesn't go according to plan as you're soon plunged head first into a caper that sees you travelling the world.
The graphics do look quite nice, with a hand-drawn cartoonish style that looks great in SVGA. That's where the good points end in it's presentation as the other aspects seem rushed and sloppy. The animation is sparse and juddery that takes away from good visual design. The music consists mostly of sub-par renditions of known songs like the theme to Happy Days and the former Soviet national anthem. For a CD game released in 1995, it's also surprising that there is next to no voice work going on. Except for the barely audible scratchy voices on a buggy and poorly mixed intro, all of the speech is displayed in sound bubbles. This is not a problem for most adventure gamers who grew up on the genre but it seems at odds with the nice SVGA graphics.
The control scheme is also a pain. It has probably one of the most unintuitive point-and-click control schemes I've ever come across in such a game. Things seem simple enough to begin with - hold down the right mouse button to select an icon before clicking on the main screen - but as soon as you attempt something a little more complex it's failings become obvious. To look at an item in your inventory, you select it then drag it over to your avatar. This becomes annoying when you're stuck and want to look at all of your items to see if you've missed anything. I won't even mention the hoops you have to go through to combine two items.
The last negative I'd like to mention is how difficult it is to get this game to run. That might not mean much considering the godsend that is DOSBox, but even that emulator's latest iteration has problems. The problems lie with an incompatibility with Soundblaster cards - something I'm told was an issue on actual DOS as well. If you'd want to go through the intro, I'd suggest you don't as it will crash as soon as that raspy speech is heard. It can be completely ignored and the main game remains unaffected from what I can tell. I was never able to get the game to run when I was younger so this compromise is the best I can do for now.
Two years later, it was released on the Amiga on CD format. The emulation plays a little nicer, but I was unable to figure out a way to run the game straight away. I've included both versions with separate downloads so you can decide for yourself.
I have perhaps been overly negative with my review. It is a game that I was very interested in back in the day and that only grew as each attempt at an installation gave little results. It received decent reviews at the time as well. The advent of DOSBox has now given me the opportunity to experience the game and it has left me wanting. Maybe you can look past the faults and see why reviewers were so kind 20 years ago.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the PC version to modern systems. A separate installer uses FS-UAE to emulate the Amiga 4000 version. To play the Amiga game, run "bigred" from the "BIGRED" CD. Tested on Windows 7.
DOS Version 2 - Menu & intro video added. Compressed CD audio. Changed DOSBox to 0.73.
Big Read Adventure is © Dynabyte and The Big Red Software Company
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me