Everyone agrees that Monkey Island is a great videogame series, but personally, I thought it was confusing. That is, both the jokes and the puzzles make sense about 30% of the time. Fortunately, Monkey Island producer Ron Gilbert created Pajama Sam In: No Need To Hide When It’s Dark Outside, also known as Monkey Island For Kids 6 to 8. That way, people like me who don’t enjoy the MI series could still have adventure game fun. Applying the successful Monkey Island formula to children’s entertainment is a win-win scenario for everyone, and as you might guess, it results in a stellar game.
Pajama Sam stars Sam, a young boy who is afraid to sleep with the lights off. Instead of giving into his fear, he decides to be brave like his favorite comic book hero Pajama Man, and he sets off on a quest to vanquish the foul villain Darkness. Of course, before he can do that, he needs his Pajama Sam mask, flashlight and lunchbox.
Sam then journeys to the Land of Darkness through the power of imagination (or a wormhole in space/time—I’m still not sure which), but before he can reach Darkness’ house, he gets attacked by evil talking trees. Just like in The Wizard of Oz! Only these trees are more funny than scary, what with their silly voices and the leader tree’s constantly-moving lazy eye.
The trees steal Sam’s mask, lunchbox and flashlight in the name of a customs inspection. So now Sam is stranded in the Land of Darkness without all of his stuff. Can he find his missing things and then defeat Darkness?
The Land of Darkness, which is surprisingly bright and entertaining, has a host of puzzles and fun characters, like the hippy Carrot who is leading a Salad Liberation movement, and Otto the boat who is afraid to swim because he doesn’t know wood floats on water. And there’s a gameshow, and dancing furniture, and an extended musical sequence that I have memorized, and a high speed minecart maze, and a whole bunch of other stuff. It’s basically an hour of fun, G-rated material, just like an episode of Sesame Street.
I find myself enjoying the little things in this game, such as the optional conversations (sample: “I like cheese.” “Hey, who doesn’t?”) and the sound effects. And speaking of little things, I love how lively the animation in this game is. Instead of walking from screen to screen like a boring person, Sam runs, jumps and occasionally falls down while moving around the Land of Darkness. It’s a little touch, to be sure, but it’s fun to see a game deliberately break adventure game standards.
There are also a few minigames, which is good if you like that sort of thing, and about a hundred clickable hotspots. Remember those? They were popular in ’90s children’s computer games. Click on part of the background for a screen, like a flower, and you see a brief animation, where the flower turns into a rocketship, or loses its petals, or something wacky like that. Kids can have fun clicking on all the hotspots and seeing all the different animations. There are hundreds of them in this game, and it’s kind of a shame that it’s a feature not too many people know about.
How are the puzzles in Monkey Island For Kids 6 to 8? Fortunately, the puzzles are challenging, but not too challenging. In most cases, you’ll know what you need to do in order to solve the puzzle; the challenge is finding the right item somewhere in the game. Basically, the game tries to cut down on the “what do I need to do now?” head-scratching moments as much as possible, which is nice.
The absolutely brilliant thing about this game is the fact that the item locations are completely randomized. So every time you play the game, all the items are going to be in a new location! This results in brand new puzzles (and in some cases, characters) when you replay the game. To be sure, the general game remains the same, and you only have to replay the game once or twice before seeing all possible item locations, but this is still a genius move. It really adds a lot of replayability in the relatively-unreplayable adventure game genre.
…And, that’s pretty much all I have to say about Pajama Sam. It’s a fun children’s point-and-click adventure game that is good enough for non-kids to enjoy. Fourteen years later, it’s still just as good as it ever was, and it’s still selling in stores today. If you want to hear more from me about this game, watch my video walkthrough for it, in which I play the game for about two hours and have a blast while doing so.