I was only five years old when Perfect Strangers debuted on ABC, but I remember absolutely loving the hell out of it. Part of the appeal was of course the funny voice that Bronson Pinchot used in his portrayal of Cousin Balki, since funny voices are all you really need to impress a five-year-old. That being said, I've always had a place in my heart for the show.
So imagine my joy when I found out that Jason Oda, a game designer who specializes in viral Webgames for marketing purposes, had put together a Perfect Strangers video game called Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now in his spare time. While delightful, it does beg the question, "Why the hell would someone do such a thing?"
"I chose Perfect Strangers because the theme song is in my opinion the greatest TV theme song of all time," said Oda. "No other song makes you feel like all of your dreams are going to come true by listening to it. Like most people in their 30s, I also have a lot of nostalgia for the show. I just wanted people to have the same experience of hope and a brighter future that the song and those characters bring to me."
You may not recall David Pomeranz's stirring rendition of the theme, written by Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay. Well, just as Robot Unicorn Attack managed to make us all relearn just how amazing a track Erasure's "Always" truly is, so does Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now reawaken a hopeful place inside yourself you didn't even know had died. I postulate that it is impossible to hear it and not immediately see rainbows and gain the ability to dunk a basketball.
The game starts off perfectly. Balki asks you to state your personal dream. Mine is to host a music video festival, so I put that. Oda's personal favorite from the leaderboard is "be beautiful and do absolutely nothing," which is either the shallowest or most Zen thing ever. Predictably, most people's dreams involve weed, boobs and money.
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After stating your dream, you control Balki as he runs through a literal interpretation of the theme song collecting stars. When Pomeranz wails about the wings of our dreams, Balki flaps his arms and soars through the clouds like Mario with the wing hat on. When he assures us that the rain and thunder are merely phases on the way to dream fulfillment, the screen turns dark and stormy.
It's not a hard game by any stretch of the imagination. I think it took 20 minutes of repeated play to get to 100 percent. Your reward for getting over 90 percent is a clip of Larry and Balki doing the dance of joy, and there's no real extra prize for perfection. Still, it's a completely shamelessly wonderful way to waste a few minutes of your time.
"It's more of a blissful three minutes of fun and then done forever type of thing rather than an everyday playable thing," said Oda.
So far, there's been no contact from any of the people involved with the original show. It's a great world we live in to think that a sitcom from 25 years ago can inspire game designers to showcase its best points for modern consumption. Whatever your dreams may be, Balki, a catchy pop theme and three minutes of imaginative gaming can help make them seem a bit nearer.