wasting time

"It's one of those annoyingly silly things that you can spend hours on to work out. And when you finally discover what it's all about, you realize you've wasted a great chunk of your life and can never get it back." - Terry Gilliam

"It's better than the original shows." - Terry Jones

I bought the multimedia CD-ROM Monty Python's Complete Waste of Time as a reward to myself when I finished my senior honors thesis last spring. I needed something that would keep my mind off work and had nothing to do with women in American musical films of the 1930s, my thesis topic. In reviewing the program for this paper I find I made the wisest decision possible. The title of the CD-ROM means what it says. The "game," if it can be called that, is a complete waste of time. After playing it, I have never felt as if I have wasted more time in my life. Of course, this is also a misnomer, because it is so enjoyable that the time wasted at least feels as if it has been wasted for a good cause.

The program comes essentially with two parts. The Pythonizer is a bunch of files that I can download onto the (IBM compatible) computer that I own. These include Windows™ wallpaper, both "living," or animated, and "dead," from which the background of this page is adapted. Other downloadable files include Olé animations, sound bits for Windows events, screen savers, and answering machine messages. These alone would have made the price of the program worthwhile. Imagine being able to have Eric Idle on your answering machine! Think of how you can amaze your friends and puzzle your family!

Of course, being a Monty Python program, the idea of instructions, directions, or organization is missing. The instructions include brief summaries of a couple of the games but the rest of the game(s) you have to figure out yourself. This aspect could be utterly confusing to new multimedia users which I guess means that this was made for the computer-literate Monty Python fans, those who could figure out that this has no organization not because they are too stupid to figure out those new-fangled computers but rather because it has the name Monty Python on it and it seems as if the remaining five members of the the Monty Python cast spent a great deal of time in working out the logistics of this game with its creators.

The program begins with a few choice sound bits and credits and eventually opens in a stage setting, where a randomly-generated film clip from one of the Flying Circus skits plays on a small television screen. The game then moves into a room that I later found out was called the Loonatorium.

Here is where the journey essentially begins, for one of the major aspects of the program is that a hidden contest is somewhere in the program, daring me to "solve the secret of intergalactic success." If I do this in enough time, I can win the game, copy the files onto a disc, and send the disc into the company that produced the game, 7th Level. The winners of the contest (there would be four) would win a Pentium™ computer. Of course, since I got this game last year, and the last contest listed in the accompanying booklet lists the final entry date as December 31, 1995, this contest probably no longer exists. However, the game still seems worth playing if only to find out exactly what the secret to intergalactic success is.

The Loonatorium opens in the room as pictured above. A man pops up and tells you to "spot the loony." The cursor then becomes a target-finder and two people begin to pop up around the scene. Obviously, although this is unstated, you are supposed to shoot these people before the clock runs out. At this point, the picture does little. An ant crawls around, a policeman's eyes roll around and occasionally an audio or video clip plays. These clips are apparently generated at random. Clicking around on certain things has different effects. The ant becomes a film clip about ants. The bottomless women dance around. The clock produces a bird with a man's head, apparently the "bird man." Again, here the cursor becomes a target finder and allows you to shoot the bird man. Shooting him a few times gives some cryptic clues to the game.

There are, or course, other parts to this game. A little brain always resides in the lower corner, pulsating ever so often, and clicking on it brings you to a large brain with different parts named. These are:

Exploding TV Room
Portrait Gallery
Test Your Skill
This part also contains an exit sign, which produces a policeman, who then allows you to leave the program. This part is confusing, although it is written down in the program notes, so it isn't overly impossible to figure out how to leave the game.

The Corridor looks like a part of a gothic church, with vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses all over the place (see above image). Eventually you can discover that this a big pinball game. A pig pushes the ball down and you can play it as you would a traditional pinball game, receiving bonus points for hitting ambulances and men walking through the hallway. As with every other location in the program, without the game turned on random sound clips and video clips play.

The Exploding TV Room is hard to figure out, except that random video clips (see above) and animation pop up all around the room and you can shoot the vases and ephemera off of the mantle. This, as with the rest of the "locations" in the program, must work with each other as a part of the whole intergalactic success game but I have yet to figure it out.

The Portrait Gallery brings you to a room where three pictures face you. Each plays a film clip, but playing the center clip produces a hidden game. The clip is called "The Money Programme" and a coin drops out of the frame and onto the floor. When the clip is finished, dragging the coin produces a hidden coin slot, and dropping the coin into the slot turns the whole room into a slot machine. After playing the slot game for three hours the most I ever won was £56 and the jackpot was all the way up to £5065. This of course is what the game means when it says it's a complete waste of time. Three hours playing a computerized slot machine, and yet I just couldn't stop playing after I started. I guess I'd better stay away from Las Vegas.

The last thing to do in the game (that I have found up to the present) is the Test Your Skill section. Here you have the option of choosing between three games. In the Pig Game, you're a cowboy in the desert and you have to try and shoot some flying pigs before you get killed by the lethal things the pigs are dropping. In the Chicken Game you help the bird man fly across the screen into the jaws of death without letting him get killed by the lethal objects across the screen. Finally, in the Gopher Game (see above image), you whack the gopher that pop up out of the mouseholes, just like the gopher games you find at amusement parks.

Another feature of this game includes the fact that clicking around on things produces different effects. Clicking on one thing five times in a row might play out an entire sound clip of a skit. It might put you in a Penalty Box where annoying music is played for a few seconds. it might put you in a mock-up of a traditional program. At one point of the program, a mock Windows box appears, stating that pushing the space bar will destroy your computer. Of course, you push the space bar, and the screen blanks out, and appears again as the start=up screen for a Macintosh computer. The screen stays there for awhile, until you click again, and a missile falls on the small smiling computer icon in the middle of the screen. These sorts of things occur anywhere and everywhere in the program.

This program completes its "mission" more than adequately. Each sound and video clip brings back memories of those Flying Circus skits that the Monty Python fan remembers, and as this CD-ROM is obviously written specifically for true fans, most if not all users will thoroughly enjoy these features. The games use the animation that Flying Circus popularized, and every bit of wackiness in the game, every bit of randomness, fits in the the Monty Python persona so well as to make it a true homage to the Flying Circus episodes. Every inch of this program is Monty Python. The accompanying booklet is written in the style of humor of the Flying Circus, and the credits are overlayed with a sound clip from the "credits of the year" skit. Everything fits so well that most of it seems to have been made specifically for this CD-ROM. It's as if the original series was only made so that the group could have something to make a CD-ROM with in the future.

Some Monty Python Web links:
The Unofficial Monty Python Home Page
Monty Python's Complete Waste of Time Forum
Monty's Python

Bye bye!

Leaving so soon?

Written by Rebecca Brynteson
School of Information and Library Studies, University of Michigan, as part of this class.
March 13, 1996