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Virtually Overlooked: The Three Stooges


There is approximately zero chance of Cinemaware's The Three Stooges ever making it to the Virtual Console. Nobody's going to bother to reacquire the publishing rights to the likenesses of a comedy act of (sadly) decreasing relevance, just for the purpose of reselling an awful game for five dollars.

That's what we thought, before we remembered that The Three Stooges, originally an Amiga game, had actually been resold recently on both the Game Boy Advance and the PlayStation, and even remade for the PC. Who knows? Maybe there is a market for antiquated licenses!

The Three Stooges tells the story of three ill-tempered, violent derelicts drawn together by extreme poverty and desperate for money. In the game, their need for cash is driven not by survival, but by a promise to raise money to protect an orphanage from foreclosure. Being unskilled (and probably homeless), Moe, Larry, and Curly have no choice but to take whatever opportunities they can get, from boxing and cracker-eating contests to, uh, part-time jobs as ER doctors. This is in keeping with the plot of the short films in which they appeared, and in fact the jobs (and the images from which many of the graphics were poorly digitized) come directly from classic Stooges material.

The Boxing Contest, for example, is Punch Drunks retold. After discovering that the normally mellow (in this instance) Curly is driven into a violent, uncontrollable rage by "Pop Goes the Weasel," Moe enters him in a boxing contest. The plan is for Larry to play the song ringside on his violin, causing Curly to batter his opponent ceaselessly. This airtight plan goes awry when the violin breaks, and Larry must find another way to play the song before Curly is knocked out. In this minigame, you control Larry as he runs to the radio shop to pick up a radio (that happens to be playing the song), avoiding the sleeping homeless people, fire hydrants, and ladders that line the street -- and failing, most of the time. It's about one minute of humiliating, jaw-busting pain, which seems like a pretty accurate simulation of what it was like to be Larry -- every bit as abused, but not as well-recognized, as Curly. This game completely scoops the crime simulation of Grand Theft Auto by showing the harsh reality of a man forced to steal a radio in order to provoke his mentally ill friend.

The other standout game is the cracker-eating contest, in which Curly must pick up oyster crackers before one of the oysters does. This thrilling game about eating soup was based on Dutiful but Dumb. Other games involve trivia, navigating the Stooges (in wheelchairs) down a hospital hallway, and throwing pies. Over time, the hand icon that selects the games moves faster (making it harder to stop it where you want), and you can slow it down by successfully slapping and eye-poking Larry and Curly in another short game. In essence, The Three Stooges is a prototypical minigame collection, and thus quite appropriate for the Wii.

Really, though, we'd like to keep the Stooges in the public consciousness however possible. The references and the circumstances of their lives in the shorts seem so out-of-date now to someone not used to the unique Stooges world. Playing this game reminds us that there were these three guys (at a time), and they schemed for money, and beat the crap out of each other, and accused one another of being wiseguys.

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