The Adventures of Willy Beamish (Dynamix) - 1991

This review is part of the “Let’s Adventure!” series. See all reviewed games sorted by rating here.

The Adventures of Willy Beamish is a graphic adventure game developed by Dynamix and published in 1991 by Sierra On-Line. The game pioneered the use of in-game graphics drawn to resemble classic hand-drawn cartoon animation. It was initially released for MS-DOS and the Amiga and was ported to the Sega CD in 1993.

You play Willy Beamish, an eight-year-old kid who is just trying to get through life without losing his lunch money. But he’ll have to deal with parents, teachers, babysitters, and bratty sisters. The player must solve different puzzles to ensure Willy can progress, get out of trouble and generally avoid ending up grounded.1

He’s talking about his frog “Horny”

The in-game time progresses even if no action is taken. This means many puzzles have to be solved in a certain time frame or rely on being in the right place at the right time. A special aspect of this game is the bar which shows Willy’s relationship with his parents. It gets affected by the way certain situations are resolved, e.g. it increases if Willy refuses to play with his sister, and when it is full they send Willy to a military school and the game is lost.1

If that meter hits “Cadet School” it’s game over … literally

Avoiding getting in trouble is pretty easy as decisions in this game are typically made during dialogue tree option selection. Almost every character you interact with will present Willy with an option, and one of those options will be the “wrong” one which effects your Trouble Meter.

This will happen on almost every screen of the game for about the first half of the game, so save early - save often.

For 1991, this game looks great. The cartoony style really draws you into the game world and gives the characters some emotional depth during conversations. The colours are mostly bright and vibrant and complement the youthful innocence of Willy and his friends. This is in stark contrast to Dynamix’s previous title, Rise of the Dragon.

Your mom pawns your sister off on you a lot it seems

The story revolves around Willy trying to raise money for his entry fee into the Nintari world tournament (get it - “Nintendo + Atari” - so clever …). The family thinks his dad is about to get a huge promotion, but it turns out he gets laid off instead and they’ll need to live a little leaner until he finds work again. Though Willy can do some odd jobs around the house for money like mowing the lawn, walking the dog or washing the car - he’ll need to do something bigger for the $2500 he needs.

Willy has a pet frog (named “Horny”) that’s with him throughout the game, and there’s a frog-jumping competition on the second or third day of the game with a convenient grand prize of $2500. Your main goal is to get Horny trained up and entered into the competition so that he can compete.

The frog jumping competition is one of 2 minigames, though it’s sort of “on rails”. If you figure out that you can feed Horny cola to tweak him out, he’ll win first prize but random drug testing will surface that he was “chemically enhanced” and you’ll lose the game. Otherwise you’ll lose to Turbo Frog - which is what’s supposed to happen anyway - and Horny will escape into the Tootsweet factory to progress the plot.

The minigame here is just a distraction and isn’t really a “game”. It’s just a bit of button mashing between story dumps and isn’t really fun to “play” - it’s just there.

The secondary plot of the game revolves around the Tootsweet owners trying to take over the city you live in. Willy’s dad will apply for a job as their head of PR and get that, only to be thrown under the bus right away as the fall guy for the company. There’s a plumbers strike going on as well which is causing the water to turn brown, so you’ll need to resolve that as well I guess.

The inventory screen serves two purposes in this game: item storage and time management. Since there are scripted events that take place on various days you have the option of advancing time here to trigger those events. Honestly once I figured this out I’d just save my game at the beginning of the day and just advance time a bunch to see what triggered when on various screens - then reload and proceed incrementally if I found anything.

You sort of figure this mechanic out for yourself, as the game manual doesn’t allude to time-based events. Luckily you don’t really need to worry about this as there are only a couple of these events throughout the game, such as Willy having to go to bed at the end of the day.

Timing plays a bigger part in puzzles though as a number of these involve using items or pushing buttons in a specific order within a very short amount of time. This is where I died the most, as there certain puzzle sequences that you need to do extremely quickly or it’s game over.

Solve this quickly or the guards will catch you

Though frustrating at times, I did appreciate that these “real time” puzzles added a sense of urgency. Typically adventure games would give you infinite time to pick and combine items, select a target and execute some action. Willy generally has a few seconds to react if the puzzle he’s trying to solve involves escaping from a dangerous situation.

Most puzzles are pretty straightforward, though near the end of the game you’ll need to get a bouncer to leave his post at the door of the bar so you can go in. The solution to this puzzle is extremely convoluted and requires you to call a psychic hotline, record the message, call the bar, ask for the bouncer and play the message. None of this is intuitive, and I’m pretty sure without a walkthrough most people wouldn’t muddle their way through this today.

If you’re playing this game for the first time would you know that “432-SIGN” could be translated to “432-7446”? Remember pay phones? Remember phone numbers that would use the lettering on the numbers to form words? I’m sure they still exist …

There are maybe a dozen locations you can visit throughout the game, with some only becoming available on later days. You have limited time to explore as time continues to advance, and eventually Willy will have to go home to bed, but I didn’t find myself getting lost or stuck at any point.

Basically you just go to each location, talk to whoever is there, pick up anything that isn’t nailed down and try to use everything on … everything. It’s not always obvious what item combinations are required so there is a lot of trial and error involved.

You’ll also want to right-click multiple times on each item you pick up as some of them have a third function on certain screens.

Occasionally an item will allow you to shoot or throw it, in which case the cursor will be presented as a target or crosshair. I’m pretty sure this only occurs twice, but if you don’t know this is the case it can be frustrating as you die over and over trying to “use” an item in a situation when you actually need to “shoot” it.

You win the Nintari championship and call it a day

Overall I didn’t really like this game as much as I thought I would. I’m a huge fan of Rise of the Dragon, and I generally like their VCR interface they use for their games. The background music is fitting and helps enhance the gameplay, but the story is pretty thin and the pacing of the game is slowed by convoluted puzzles.

I played the original DOS release (not the CD ROM version) so I’m not sure if the voice acting they added made any meaningful difference to the experience. I thought the writing overall was pretty good and the general vibe of the game was “saturday morning cartoon come to life”, which I think is what they were going for.

If you’re looking for a goofy game starring a 9 year old kid and his frog, The Adventures of Willy Beamish has you covered. Just be prepared to reach for a walkthrough …

Game Information

GameThe Adventures of Willy Beamish
PublisherSierra On-Line
Release Date1991
SystemsAmiga, DOS, Macintosh, Sega CD
Game EngineDGDS

My Playthrough

How Long To Beat?4.5 hours
Version PlayedDOS via DOSBox-X
NotesManual, Walkthrough


See here for a refresher on how we’re scoring these games.

Atmosphere (20)13
Story (25)16
Experience (15)8
Impact (10)4


  1. Description from Moby Games  2

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