From 2010 to 2014 Richard Cobbett (opens in new tab) wrote Crapshoot, a column about bringing random obscure games back into the light. This week, childhood terror has a new name. Horror has a new face. And the only weapon that can thwart its evil plan is... correct punctuation? Gulp...
Snnnk! Good morning, readers. This is an important safety announcement. Please ensure that you are properly seated before continuing this week's Crapshoot. If you have a mouthful of fluid, swallow it before continuing. PC Gamer cannot be held accountable for any damage done to your keyboard or computer. If anyone around you is sleeping or easily startled, please wake them gently now. It will be much less disturbing than when you yell "WHAT THE ****?!" in 27 seconds.
I think we should take a moment before going on. Deep breaths all round.
Breathe in.... And breathe out. Breathe in... and out. Better? Then I'll continue.
I.M Meen. There's a game, but how could it ever live up to this introduction? It's not just the prancing of the man himself, or the bizarre bit where he delicately unpicks a little girl's hair ribbon in a way that suggests he has to plan his life around being at least 2000 feet from schools, or even the question of just what the hell those kids are doing in the lair of this crazy person in the first place. It's all of these, wrapped up in... whatever the hell it was we just saw. Seriously. What is this? How is this man allowed near children? Why does he have an ass for a chin? Did the original box advertise "Guaranteed! 10+ years in therapy!" next to "3D Learning Adventure!" or was that bit left as a surprise?
Or, to put it another way: WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?
If the animation style looks familiar, there's a reason. I.M. Meen was made by a company called Animation Magic, whose best known work is the Legend of Zelda series on CDI. Yes. Those ones: The Faces of Evil (opens in new tab) and The Wand of Gamelon (opens in new tab). Less well known is that it was the company Blizzard once hired to do the cancelled Warcraft adventure, Lord of the Clans, which was at least acceptable by Saturday morning standards (opens in new tab), unless you're a fan of things like fluid motion and stuff.
I.M. Meen (which is like saying 'I'm Mean' in case you were wondering, it's kinda subtle) is fairly typical of the genre in that its game and educational elements go together about as comfortably as soap and a Duke Nukem Forever fansite owner. Nobody who's ever played it gives a damn about anything but the intro. Everything within is largely forgotten, but Meen himself lives on in roughly a million YouTube mash-ups, most of the YouTube Poop variety, which delight in cutting his sentences around to make him dance and sing about his p-p-penis. YouTube Poops are a complete waste of time, effort and bandwidth though, so here's a different mashup instead.
The actual game is definitely odd though. It's a shooter. A very bad shooter, but a shooter nonetheless, in which you run around the many levels of Meen's labyrinth to shoot spiders and similar monsters, with a few bosses thrown in for good measure. The edutainment part comes from the fact that Meen has major problems with his grandma. She makes him eat soggy porridge, can't hear very well, keeps farting in the middle of Only Fools and Horses, and...
...wait. That doesn't sound right. One second...
Sorry, sorry, the problem is his grammar! The edutainment part here is that every now and again, you find documents written by Meen, which are full of grammatical mistakes. You have to correct them. Yes, while standing in a labyrinth crawling with spiders and worse, you're job is to spot things like that "you're" being wrong. And what does the great I.M Meen like to write? Fan-fiction. About himself.
Quickload crawled like a worm toward the bushes nearby, but the T-Rex was too fast. It reached its huge head down to scoop him into his mouth. Suddenly, a voice called out from behind the dinosaur.
"Hey, you overgrown salamander! Why not try a bite of I.M. Meen! I'm sure I taste better than old Quickload!"
The T-Rex turned and saw Meen standing at the edge of the clearing. Meen picked up a rock and threw it at the huge lizard, hitting it hard on the forehead.
"That's using your head, you big dope!" yelled Meen, laughing.
— Extract from Meen: Dino Hunter, by I.M. Meen.
As is often the case, the strangest part of the game is how much praise it heaps on you for the easy stuff, like moving a comma, while completely ignoring your much more badass moments, like punching Death in the face because he is in your goddamn way! Meen's labyrinth is absolutely crawling with monsters, all of which your character splits like a good infinitive, with the man himself occasionally putting in an appearance to shriek and dance at you some more. It takes until the very last level before he finally works out that he should probably just zap you with his magic or something, but by that point, well, it's too late. By that point, you're still reeling from the worst shock of all: That this is an edutainment game... with a sewer level. Yaargh! No! Please! Anything but thaaaaat!
Like all good villains, simply defeating Meen didn't mean the end of his terror. There was a sequel, Chill Manor, which introduced the world to Meen's rather less terrifying wife, sister, aunt... whatever... Ophelia. Her schtick was trying to rewrite history using another book, but really, the disturbing part is an elderly woman getting exactly 90 degrees from flashing her doubtlessly purple panties at the children playing, before singing "My nasties will distract you 'till I'm done" while waggling her bottom at the screen. As TV Tropes would have it, that's straight from Getting Crap Past The Radar (opens in new tab) to Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant (opens in new tab), made worse when you finally get to the end and Meen signs off as edutainment's scariest villain by... er... dry-humping Ophelia's chair. Seriously.
In retrospect, maybe the problem really was his grandma all along.
Come back, Captain Bible (opens in new tab). All is forgiven...