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Lost in Cyberspace

New Monty Python game as zany as predecessors

This article was originally published on April 28, 1998 by SignOn San Diego and Copley News Service.

It's hard to imagine any other comedy act translating to a digital environment, but after playing any of Monty Python's computer games it almost seems as if the group was originally designed for an interactive media.

The Meaning of Life
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
Panasonic Interactive Media: 1998

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Looney Bin
Monty Python's Looney Bin
Panasonic Interactive Media: 1998

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As users of the best-selling "Complete Waste of Time" CD-ROM know, the crude, overdone animation of Terry Gilliam translated wonderfully to the computer, is perhaps even improved in the translation. The skits and songs are short enough to make for easy medleys or montages, and there is plenty of material to choose from: four TV seasons, a handful of movies, a half-dozen record albums and the various members' individual projects.

More importantly, though, the comedy troupe has long had an interactive relationship with its fans. Memorizing the group's routines is almost de rigeur on American campuses, and impromptu Monty Python skits can break out at any event, from funerals to wedding receptions. (Quick test: Think you have no closet Monty Python addicts in your acquaintence? Try dropping the line, "I'd like an argument please" in a British accent at your next social function and see if a chorus of voices doesn't pipe in with the proper response.)

So putting the group's material into a computer environment where fans can play along only made sense.

The third Monty Python CD-ROM, "The Meaning of Life," picks up where the first two ("Complete Waste of Time" and "The Quest for the Holy Grail," both now repackaged together as "Monty Python's Looney Bin.") left off.

"Meaning of Life" was a series of unconnected skits strung together into a movie by loosely tying them to various "themes" of life: birth, organ donation, middle age, death. This lack of narrative may have made for a fairly mediocre movie, but it doesn't hurt the game version – might even enhance it for casual fans of Monty Python (i.e., anyone who can't recite at least 10 skits in their entirety, complete with accents).

Unlike "Quest for the Holy Grail," which ran in a narrative close to that of the movie, "Meaning of Life" is organized more along the lines of "Complete Waste of Time": There is a main menu, from which you can get to any part of the game.

From there, you're immersed in the movie, although – as with "Holy Grail" – by clicking on various objects on the screen, you can get to skits, animations or games that have been added. Much of this extraneous-to-the-movie material is new, created by the original Monty Python members especially for the CD-ROM.

As with the two earlier releases, there are no real instructions. Oh, the manual tells you how to install the game and get it to work with your system, but to actually figure out what to do in the game you pretty much have to play it. And while you do have to accomplish certain goals at each level before you "win," this is truly a game where the playing itself is the fun part and never mind whether you win or not.

The main problems with this game – i.e., lack of truly funny episodes or memorable moments – have to do with the source: it wasn't the group's best movie; not even close. "Meaning of Life" is an entertaining adapation of a fairly mediocre movie. If it lacks the film's comedic highs, it's a heck of a lot more consistent than the film. But neither the game nor the movie ever approaches the star quality of "Holy Grail."