A Silly Random Walk Through Life
The New York Times Dec. 20, 1994
"Dazzleloids, the CD-ROM Superheroes"
By STEPHEN MANES
SILLINESS is rarely associated with computers, except, of course, in their manuals and user interfaces. But inspired silliness is the very soul of Dazzeloids, subtitled CD-ROM Superheroes on a Binge Against Boredom and masquerading as a work for children.
Dazzeloids may indeed appeal to bright juveniles, but it could well become a cult hit with grown-ups. This is a children's program for adults, a spiritual descendant of Rocky, Bullwinkle and the brothers Warner that manages both to celebrate and to send up Saturday morning cartoons. From animation to music, this Center for Advanced Whimsy Production is essentially the one-man show of an artist named Rodney Alan Greenblat.
Supremely postmodern, Dazzeloids twits everything from creepy conglomeration to the nature of multimedia itself. During an annoying delay for data transfer, the disk sings, "Are you waiting? Yeah, we're waiting for the CD to spin!" Click the button to go back one page, and the music plays backwards. Navigation charts are, for no good reason, displayed over a road map of New Jersey.
The Dazzeloids are as motley as a crew can get. The ringleader, Princess Anne Dilly Whim, "seeks revenge and freedom for all those imprisoned by boredom and mediocrity," in part because her sister was bored to death by a "really bad" TV rerun. A four-legged green imp with an electronically Scottish burr, Yendor Talbneerg (lleps ti sdrawkcab) is such a gadgeteer he sleeps with a remote control. The strong and bookish cat Titan Rose recites the poems "Creamy Corn" and "Plastic Decoration" so stirringly that they may recall Lewis Carroll and bring tears, though not of sadness. The even more eccentric Stinkabod Lame is a ramlike creature whose obsession with bodily functions greatly exceeds the rest of his mental powers.
Their world is ruled by the Blando Company, whose leader, the Mediogre, dreams that "all toys and games will be replaced with business marketing proposals." Blando sponsors TV fare like "The Wonder Prunes," starring Plump and Fruity, who reach Chayefskyan heights with the classic dialogue, "I don't know. What do you want to do?" and "I don't know. What do you want to do?" ad infinitum. Samuel Beckett himself might have conceived "House Plant Theater's" mortised rigor.
Animated biographies add richness to the characters. Music videos of their vivid dreams are simultaneously weird and moving, as when Anne watches helplessly as hatchet-wielding TV sets try to chop down a forest. From the goofy "technical" opening through two complete stories ("A Child is Bored" and "Banker, Spare That Petshop"), the music is infectious, the invention is unflagging (including literary gems like "Goodnight Prune") and the interactivity breaks new ground. The most realistically frightening moment comes when Anne, desperately manipulating "an arsenal of complicated and expensive computer software" to rescue her comrades from a lifetime of nothingness, sighs: "Where's the manual to this, anyway? Uh-oh, I'm runnin' out of memory! Is this the latest version, or what? Maybe I should call tech support about this!"
Dazzeloids, from Voyager is available for Windows and Macintosh at about $35; phone (800) 446-2001.
More silliness? For about $35, Carolines Presents . . . Johnny Cocktails is probably the oddest title of the year. A Windows-only CD-ROM from Great Bear Technology Inc. at (800) 971-BEAR, or (800) 971-2327, it lets you pick jokes, laughs and gestures to create a routine for a bug-eyed, gravel-voiced clay animation comedian. Then you leave the dressing room and watch Johnny Cocktails inflict his act upon a jaded audience of clay animation figures.
This could have been just the thing to liven up a really dead party. But take the jokes, please! Some of the chestnuts were old when Fred Flintstone's great grandpa bombed at the Palace. And I've heard better timing from a broken alarm clock. But seriously, folks, Johnny's dead-pan, rapid-fire delivery is sabotaged by (wait for it) timing-busting delays while the CD spins.
"My brother-in-law's accountant told him to invest heavily in CD's," Johnny confides, "so he went out and joined the Columbia Record and Tape Club." For next year's edition, the punch line will probably include multimedia titles.
For silliness on another plane entirely, look no further than Monty Python's Complete Waste of Time, about $60 fromSeventh Level Inc., for Windows; phone (800) 884-8863. Although this CD-ROM can provoke laughs, even Python fans may find it slicing the Spam a bit thin, particularly as clips from the original programs are displayed in teensy windows.
This is largely a surreal, irrational animated environment where odd and occasionally amusing things happen, mostly at random. (The F1 "help" key rings dozens of wonderfully insulting changes on the idea of offering no help at all.) Three dopey games wear very thin very fast. The disk also includes the Pythonizer, (also separately available on floppy disk at $40) which offers silly Windows wallpaper, icons, sound clips and screensavers, along with answering-machine messages suitable only for those who think they are the life of the party. The box is at least as funny as the software, accurately warning that "This CD-ROM contains material that is in rather questionable taste and may not be suitable for computer users under the age of 17 or chartered public accountants of any age."
I did not come close to finishing the interminable Secret to Intergalactic Success game, but I did manage to find it, no small achievement. Those who solve this puzzle in the shortest times are eligible for awards. The contest's grand prize has become Pythonesque: a computer with a Pentium processor.
Copyright 1994 The New York Times
by Mikki Halpin
CD-ROM POWER, March/April 1995
Education Reviews: Dazzeloids
Rodney Greenblat, creator of Rodney's Wonder Windows and a myriad of other titles, now brings us his latest. Dazzeloids is vintage Greenblat, a complete world within the ROM, with its own characters, history, and moral lessons for the young user. The neon-bright visuals and swift response-time also make this a quality experience.
The Dazzeloids are, briefly, a motley group of beings loosely banded together under the leadership of the fierce Anne Dilly Whim. She and her cohorts are fighting against the evil boredom perpetuated on the world by the Mediogre, head of Blando Corporation. In the little history section, you learn of each character's history, good and bad points. While this may seem like a section to further future merchandising, it also serves, I think, a higher purpose. That is, if you consider playing Dazzeloids a higher purpose. I'm the reviewer, and I do.
It's pretty cool when even the superheros have bad qualities. For example, Yendor Taldneerg (Try it backwards. Subtle, eh?), we are told, tends to get "overloaded by complicated problems, and becomes a total basket case," Ahh, fatal flaw. A classic dramatic device, known to both playwrights and comic book writers alike. Who can forget Superman and the Kryptonite Achilles Heel? It makes the hero human, folks; it makes the whole thing just that much more possible, and I for one, salute it.
The ROM is filled with adult-friendly, liberal-oriented subliminal messages: Television is bad; banks are bad, conservatives are bad- the program actually describe the inhabitants of Boredom Town as "conservative and afraid of change." With this attention to detail, however, it's surprising to run across a few glitches in technical and thematic areas. the menu bar kept reappearing in each story section, and wouldn't hide itself, adding an unaesthetic note to each sequence. And, for a program so concerned with good and evil and the propagation of correct behavior and morality, it's odd that at the end of each adventure, the dazzeloids replenish themselves with such unhealthy food. In one section they actually consume what is referred to as a "wholesome, healthy" meal of biscuits and gravy. Has anybody informed the American Heart Association about this?
All quibbling aside, Dazzeloids is a great experience. The mannered quality of the graphics and the attention to detail- Greenblat trademarks- are in full force. the program is full of catchy songs and even a Dazzeloid dream sequence. With its stories of courage in the face of bad corporations and enforced mediocrity, Dazzeloids ought to please both parents and children.
WIRED, March 1995
by Ken Coupland
Fans of Rodney Alan Greenblat take heed: the avant-garde painter/sculptor-turned-digital-media artist has a new CD-ROM. Like Rodney's Wonder Window, his first edgy, rib-tickling CD-ROM "game," Dazzeloids is ostensibly for kids, but shows signs of becoming a cult favorite among grown-ups.
Dazzeloids demands more of your brain powers than your motor skills. In opening scenes you are introduced to the Dazzeloid team and its leader- an eccentric countess and idealistic visionary- who seek to promote creativity. Your job is to aid them in their battle against the evil forces of television boredom and soulless corporate might.
Dazzeloids is short on high tech effects and long on originality. Well-developed story lines and unusual characters heighten its appeal. Several evocative dream scenarios, featuring stunning galleries of animations accompanied by original compositions written and performed by Greenblat, put MTV's music-video fodder to shame.
Tackling big issues his signature whimsy, Greenblat musters a highly idiosyncratic vision to illuminate some universal moral truths.
Enter a comical world of heroes and villains with Dazzeloids, a zany CD-ROM jam-packed with fun for children and the young at heart. The Dazzeloids--Anne Dilly Whim, Stinkabod Lame, Yendor Talbneerg, and Titan Rose--are the bizarre heroes. Pin Bleeper, the mad scientist, and Mediogre, the head of the Blando Corporation, are the villains. Your kid's job is to find out how to get the heroes to beat the bad guys and save the day.
Dazzeloids consists of three original stories. In "A Child Is Bored," kids must find a way to save a cartoon character being hypnotized by the TV. To get the story started, they pick which Dazzeloid hero they want to come to the rescue. Then they click on any object onscreen--the phone, the TV, or the characters themselves. As the narrator speaks, the corresponding text appears in highlights--it's a great way to learn pronunciation. Vocabulary-building words are highlighted in red and green, and the click of a mouse starts a silly voice reading each definition out loud.
In "Dazzeloid Dreams," the third story, kids click on each character--heroes and villains alike--to watch the characters' dreams. Their bizarre imaginations, as well as the colorful animations, make even this passive form of entertainment loads of fun. Dazzeloids' wacky stories and goofy songs and sound effects make it a must have for your CD-ROM library.
TWO BAD: Pin Bleeper and Mediogre plot against the Dazzleoids
Entertainment Weekly Review--December 16, 1994
New York artist Rodney Alan Greenblat one-ups his previous CD-ROM, Rodney's Wonder Window, with this rainbow-colored storybook disc that tells about four oddball pals with names like Stinkabod Lamé and Anne Dilly Whim. The animation ain't all that great, but the writing and the characters have a whimsical bite.
One story begins, "Somewhere in an average suburban neighborhood called Boredomtown, a young habitroid named Jeremy has become a brainwashed zombie from watching too much TV." But don't worry. Here come the Dazzeloids to the rescue, and while the next screen loads, kids can tap along to this jaunty tune: "Are you waiting?/Yeah, we're waiting for the CD to spin... This could be the Rocky and Bullwinkle of multimedia if it weren't so marvelously childlike.