Bad Day on the Midway(1995)
The Residents' Bad Day on the Midway CD-ROM from Inscape is a sort-of sequel to their earlier Freak Show CD-ROM. As with its predecessor, Bad Day's animation was created by Jim Ludtke (who also worked on Gingerbread Man). The project was produced by Ludtke's wife, Sharon Ludtke, with executive production by Michael Nash, the founder of Inscape.
Bad Day on the Midway has another thing in common with its predecessor, Freak Show: was a fast critical success in the multimedia industry - it won two Macromedia International User Conference People's Choice Awards: "Best Entertainment Title" and "Most Innovative Use of Multimedia". It is the first title to win more than one People's Choice Award.
Unlike the band's previous multimedia works, Bad Day on the Midway is a genuine goal-oriented game. Freak Show allowed the user to explore the tent and trailers of the album's characters, but there was no overall plot -- just the various stories about the freaks. In Bad Day, as with Freak Show, each of the characters has his or her own story, but there is also an overall plot involving them all, in which they have to deal with the fate of the midway, a man in a coma, the future of the midway, a psychotic killer, plague, and the IRS.
The characters voices are provided by several actors, including Diana Alden, Molly Harvey, and John Sanborn, who produced The Eyes Scream for The Residents. In order to enhance the realism of the characters on screen, the actors who portray them were filmed and the images of their real eyes and mouths were superimposed on the computer-generated three-dimensional models of the characters on-screen.
Jim Ludtke's artwork and animation is even richer and more engaging than his Freak Show work. The midway is a riot of color, from the bright neon signs of the attractions to the dull earth tones of the buildings behind the lights.
The various midway attractions themselves are strange and twisted, with things like the "Kill a Commie Shooting Gallery", the "Torture's Top Ten", and the "Marvels of Mayhem". Each features original graphic art and most include an on-screen "graphic story", as do each of the characters. The artists are all outstanding and include several people who have contributed to other Residential projects.
When playing Bad Day on the Midway, you take on the roles of the various characters, looking at the midway world from inside their heads. You can jump from one to another when they meet while you explore the midway world. As events unfold, the CD-ROM program changes the character's goals and actions, making the interactions more complex and unpredictable than those in a regular adventure game. To add another level of chaos, The Residents had a randomizer built into the program so that the exact way the goals change varies from play to play -- it is practically impossible to get the game to follow the same course in play after play. This complex programming was handled very ably by Iain Lamb.
Even if you manage to get to the end without being killed by the psychotic killer or the other dangers on the Midway, you aren't done with the game. For one thing, there are all of the animated stories about the characters to search out (there are eight of them), not to mention the other attractions (Torture's Top Ten, Marvels of Mayhem, and the Kill a Commie Shooting Gallery (each have their own animated artwork). There are also multiple endings (in addition to "You Have Been Killed By The Psychotic Killer" and other generic "Game Over" endings, which you'll see soon enough): some of them happy endings (sort of), and some decidedly not. There are at five of these, some of which can only happen under very exacting circumstances, and you'll probably want to see them all.
There is also a companion guide-book by Jeff Sengstack which was published by Prima Publishing. It features extra background on the story of the CD-ROM and the characters in it, as well as information on the band and their philosophy.