Originally created 03/18/03

Trolling for fun



There's this guy you gotta meet: Hugo.

Pretty regular guy, wife, three kids, the usual - unless you want to focus on the horns, or long, pointy ears, but hey, trolls have rights, too.

Hugo is the creation of a Copenhangen firm, ITE (Interactive Television Entertainment) and just might be the next hit character to penetrate the U.S. marketplace for PC (and Gameboy and Playstation) games that appeal to the elementary school set.

The game reviewed here was "Hugo Jungle Island 1" for the Windows platform (no Mac, alas). There are several others.

The premise is pretty straightforward adventure game stuff. The evil witch Scylla has kidnapped Hugo's wife, Hugolina, and his three kids, Trollerit, Trollerat and Trollerut. They're being held on a tropical island and Hugo must go to their rescue.

Along the way, Hugo must meet six challenges, aided by a pair of wisecracking helpers, Jean Paul, a monkey and Fernando, a toucan.

What sets the software apart is the general goofiness and believability of the character. There are lots of animations in children's software that remain just that, drawings that move. This character, Hugo has the potential to develop a personality, like a Pajama Sam or Captain Underpants, and that can make all the difference. At one point, it was tough to escape the feeling that you were seeing Mickey Mouse's debut in Steamboat Willie.

The animation, while good, isn't a work of great art, and the adventure plot line was old when Homer used it in the Odyssey. (Scylla appears in the Odyssey as a sea monster who dines with - actually upon - six companions of Odysseus; the Scylla here is a black-haired and hearted witch, who hangs out with Don Croco, the crodile tyrant of the island.)

The sound is good, but won't be playing Carnegie Hall anytime soon, and the installer was workmanlike.

What's striking is that the whole manages to become more than the sum of its parts, enough to make an adult laugh out loud and pretty certain to elicit the same response from kids. And for sure, the adults won't mind the suggested price:$14.95, which is about half of some similar stuff.

System requirements are very modest - Windows 95 and up, 16 megabytes of RAM and a 133-megahertz Pentium.

Those thinking that maybe a long, dreary, nervous New York City winter has addled the review process should take a look at this Web site: http://www.ite.dk.

Questions and comments are welcome. Send them to Larry Blasko, The Associated Press, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020-1666. Or e-mail lblasko@ap.org.