Remember the Nickelodeon series Clarissa Explains It All? You know, with Melissa Joan Hart? She had this friend, Sam, who would climb unannounced into her window at all hours of the day and night? Crazy outfits, goofy hats, and a pet alligator? Well, anyway, that’s not relevant. What is: she had these video games she would play to explain her problems–“I’ve developed the following simulation”, she would say, and I never questioned why a blue-collar teen had programming knowledge in the ’90’s. I loved that show.
Also big in the ’90’s: Macaulay Culkin. You may remember him from such classics as Pagemaster, Home Alone, The Good Son, and–my personal favorite–My Girl. This tearjerker was a coming-of-age tale about an undertaker/widower, his young, quirky, death-obsessed daughter, Vada Sultenfuss, and her dear friend, the precocious and sheltered Thomas J. (Culkin). There are soooo many repeatable lines in this film; the most memorable and heart-breaking of which I often repeat with dramatic overtones when I can’t find my spectacles in the morning: “‘Where are his glasses? Somebody get him his glasses–he can’t see without his glasses!'”
Haven’t seen it? Make it a point–it’s adorable. Fortunate enough to have watched this film one or more times? Then you’ll be just as pumped as I was to learn that there is now a browser-based video game paying homage to the pale, lovable and ill-fated character from your juvenilia. Thomas J. and his diabolical bee allergy take center stage in My Girl: The Game. When I heard about it, I immediately recalled Clarissa and her video simulations. I could only hope this game would be as epic as Clarissa’s digital boxing match with the school bully or her computerized battles with the health food her tofu-crazed mother served up.
I am sorry to report that my hopes have been dashed.
The side scroller game is painfully short, stunted and does next to nothing to the credit of the classic film. As an 8-bit Thomas J., you a) spawn, b) run across a crudely drawn map past a funeral home and some trees, c) hop over some stuff, and d) get stung by bees and die. That’s the game.
There’s no health bar, but there is a mood ring in the upper right corner of the screen. Whenever you get stung by a bee, the color of Vada’s lost mood ring and harbinger of your death changes slightly…It fades to black eventually (the color Vada claims the ring always turns whenever Thomas J. is around), and so do you.
This game did have some high points. The shock value of the game’s purpose was devilishly inappropriate and funny, so there’s that. Also, the music is a charming, midi-tone version of the theme song from the film and has become the only lasting saving grace for playing this game. That background music will be my ringtone by days end; this, I promise you.
Even knowing it’s not going to change your life, you have to check it out, just to say you’ve seen it. Check it out, and let us know what you think; Thomas J. would have wanted that.