Note: For the purpose of this article, we are playing devil's advocate with forked-tongue planted firmly in cheek. For the record, many members of the PC&A team are staunch fans and supporters of Tim Schafer and Double Fine Productions.
Yesterday, the veteran video game developer Tim Schafer pitched a new adventure game on the crowdsourcing fund-raising site Kickstarter. Over the past 24 hours, the outpouring of pledges has broken all previous records, with the project amassing a budget of over one million dollars; and counting. (Read the full story here.)
It has been suggested that the Kickstater model could revolutionise the way games are made, with fans replacing publishers as the primary source of funding.
But wait just a minute. While everyone is gazing at the big picture, we feel like a question has been overlooked -- can Schafer actually be trusted with our hard-earned moolah? After all, the guy's track record isn't exactly impeccable; especially when it comes to commercial success.
In fact, has Schafer ever made a game that wasn't overrated? From The Secret of Monkey Island (which he merely co-wrote) to the deeply uneven Psychonauts, his games seem to garner a lot more praise than they actually deserve.
With gamers slapping down anywhere between $1 and $10,000 to help fund the project, we feel like they deserve an overview of his ability to deliver. In the following article, we remove our nostalgia-tinted sunglasses and assess the man's gameography.
The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)
The Secret of Monkey Island was co-written by Schafer way back in 1990. Today, it is remembered as the golden pinnacle of adventure gaming, despite not actually being anywhere close to perfect. For every joke that raises a titter, there's an illogical puzzle, a barrage of comedy clunkers and an infuriating in-game advert for other LucasArt games.
In our humble opinion, the Monkey Island series didn't really hit its stride until the sequel. On the plus side, the game was a huge success and helped its publisher to eclipse its Sierra rival.
Commercal success: more booty than Blackbeard's treasure chest.
Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle (1993)
After their success on Monkey Island, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman were handed the reigns to LucasArts' Maniac Mansion sequel. It was another hit for the duo, with critics and gamers alike praising the game's madcap humour and cartoony style.
That said, the game's fleeting length and reliance on trial-and-error puzzles does dampen the experience somewhat.
Commercal success: a hard eight winner.
Full Throttle (1995)
This is where the rot arguably set it. After the phenomenal success of Day of the Tentacle and the first two Monkey Island games, Full Throttle can only be described as a critical and commercial disappointment. The game failed to leave a mark on most gamers, despite the inclusion of Mark Hamill on voice acting duties.
Souring its legacy further, a sequel for Windows, Xbox and PlayStation 2 was partly developed, but then scrapped.
Commercal success: engine flooded.
Grim Fandango (1998)
We'll give Grim Fandango this: it's easily one of the most original and visually arresting games to come out in the past twelve years. But is it actually fun to play? That's debatable.
Saddled with a bizarre control scheme and antiquated puzzle mechanics, certain aspects of the game are creakier than its skeletal hero -- even at the time of release. The use of 3D character models over 'painted' 2D backgrounds made certain screens a real headache to navigate. The game was not a commercial success for LucasArts and helped to speed up the genre's decline.
Commercal success: a half-empty piñata.
Psychonauts is a game that everyone professes to love, but hardly anyone bought. Originally released on Xbox and PC in 2005, it was adored by critics for its inspired characterisations and surreal, madcap storyline. When it came to the actualy gameplay though, Psychonauts arguably leaves a lot to be desired. Simply put, the platform sections that make up the bulk of the game aren't that fun.
Perhaps not unrelatedly, the game was a commercial flop which nearly took its publisher down with it.
Commercal success: delusional.
Brutal Legend (2009)
If you happen to be the world's biggest Tenacious D fan, Brutal Legend was like ascending into an umlaut-filled Valhalla. To everyone else, it's a deeply embarrassing vanity project made significantly worse by the inclusion of Jack Black.
Despite openly acknowledging that the gameplay is quite weak, most games journalists awarded the game a score of 80 per cent or more — presumably because Tim Schafer's name was on the box.
Commercial success: somewhere between Shark Sandwich and Smell the Glove.
Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster (2011)
It's Sesame Street. For Kinect.
Commercial success: S is for 'So-So'.
So there you have it. Tim Schafer has had a pretty chequered career, no matter how you look at it. Hopefully his new publicly-funded venture will be the return to form we've been waiting for.