Humongous Entertainment was a development studio that focused on children's computer games. Their five biggest franchises were Putt-Putt, Freddi Fish, Pajama Sam, SPY Fox, and Backyard Sports, although they had plenty of other small franchises such as Big Thinkers!, Buzzy the Knowledge Bug, and Fatty Bear.
Humongous was founded by Ron Gilbert of LucasArts fame and Shelley Day in 1992. The studio's first game was what would start off the Putt-Putt series: Putt-Putt Joins the Parade. Soon after a while, the company continued what became the "Junior Adventure" series with Freddi Fish, and Pajama Sam joining the lineup, alongside the one-off Fatty Bear, and the Buzzy the Knowledge Bug series. By 1995, Humongous expanded to mainstream titles with the formation of the Cavedog Entertainment brand, and released Total Annihilation.
In July 1996, GT Interactive Software purchased Humongous Entertainment. Dispite the purchase, GT kept Humongous and Cavedog independent from their own operations, and within this time the company continued to grow. Through to the late-90's, another addition to the Junior Adventure series: SPY Fox was created, alongside two new series: Big Thinkers! and Backyard Sports. By 1997, the company also began to create their only Licensed Games, based on Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues. Cavedog went on to produce Total Annihilation: Kingdoms before being closed by GT Interactive in February 2000.
Around this time, GT Interactive was fully purchased by Infogrames, ending Humongous' independence by becoming solely a subsidiary with the newly-renamed Infogrames, Inc. publishing Humongous' games from then on. Junior Adventure titles became more dominant after Infogrames saw the Backyard Sports franchise to be the the only reason Humongous made a profit at this point. The founders soon left the studio after Infogrames constantly rejected their ideas for titles, and even tried to purchase back the studio which failed at the last minute due to the purchase being the day of the dot-com bubble bursting. The only original title produced by this point was MoonBase Commander, released in 2002, and sold so poorly that Infogrames soon began to give up on the studio.
After their rebrand to Atari in 2003. Humongous published the last two titles in the Junior Adventure series - Pajama Sam: Life Is Rough When You Lose Your Stuff, and Putt-Putt: Pep's Birthday Surprise. The Backyard Sports continued on with more yearly installments, becoming Atari's equivalent to the EA Sports and 2K brands. Soon, things would go far and worse.
In 2005, Atari, Inc. (GT Interactive) sold Humongous to Infogrames Entertainment SA (the holding company) on the verge that Humongous would develop a game before March 2006 or they would be completely shuttered (by this point, the Backyard Sports series was developed by other developers). This never occured, and Humongous Entertainment was shuttered on that month as planned.
Immediately after the closure, Infogrames formed Humongous, Inc. as an IP/holding company for Humongous' properties. The Backyard Sports series continued for several more years, while three of the Junior Adventure games were ported to the Wii with Majesco as publisher (under license from Infogrames/Atari), but they were soon pulled after the porters used ScummVM (a virtual machine made to run old Scumm-based games) without giving any credit to the developers whatsoever, so this had ended. In 2011, Atari began to release several Humongous titles on IOS, ported by Nimbus Games.
In 2013, Atari, Inc., Atari Interactive, Inc. and Humongous, Inc. all filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to split away from the profit-lossing Atari SA (the former Infogrames Entertainment). During the company's bankruptcy sale in 2013, several companies purchased several assets: Moonbase Commander was bought by Rebellion, Backyard Sports was bought by Epic Gear LLC, Total Annihilation was bought by Wargaming, while Humongous, Inc. itself, alongside the Junior Adventure series and the trademark, was purchased by Tommo, Inc.note , alongside several other titles that Atari owned.
In January 2014, Tommo relaunched the Humongous brand, and as of April 17, 2014, Tommo started rolling their old point-and-click games out onto Steam with the help of Nightdive Studios, most famous for re-introducing PC games like System Shock 2 and I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. A list of the games currently available can be found here. Many of their IOS ports were re-released, and were also released on Android as well.
The fanbase is still strong, however, and continue to remember the games from their childhood.
All demo download links are listed on their pages, since finding them is a bit of a Guide Dang It!.
Series by Humongous:
- Backyard Sports
- Big Thinkers!
- Blue's Clues (many of the licensed games)
- Bobo and Fletcher Go Deep Into The Congo (vaporware)
- Buzzy the Knowledge Bug
- Conjure! (vaporware)
- Fatty Bear
- Freddi Fish
- Future Dog: Dog of the Future (vaporware)
- Moonbase Commander
- Pajama Sam
- SPY Fox
Series by Humongous's sub-division Cavedog Entertainment:
- Amen: The Awakening (vaporware)
- Butter (vaporware; working title)
- Elysium (vaporware)
- Glider Wars (vaporware)
- Good & Evil (vaporware)
- Great White Hunter (vaporware)
- Total Annihilation
Tropes in Humongous games in general:
- Anti-Frustration Features:
- In some of the games (notably the Freddi Fish series), if you fool around long enough, a character will give a hint.
- Most of the Junior Arcades had a "Junior Helper." which usually let you turn on unlimited lives and give you some other advantage.
- April Fools' Day: For April 1, 1999, Humongous's sub-division Cavedog Entertainment temporarily became Frozen Yak Entertainment.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Most of the demos do this.
- Company Cross References: They were extremely fond of these. Every game featured at least half a dozen cameos or references to their other works.
- Compilation Rerelease: LOTS of them.
- Conspicuously Light Patch: Would very often give away item locations.
- Creative Closing Credits: Humongous was quite fond of these. Usually they had objects flying up or going across the screen, and clicking on them gave you different reactions. Other things included photo albums, a room with many click points, screens that show many random events, and much more.
- Creator In-Joke: Their headquarters was located in Woodinville, Washington, so you're going to expect a lot of jokes referencing said city and Seattle.
- Credits Gag: Virtually all games since Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo feature at least one "joke credit" (the aforementioned game has "If you lived in Cartown, you'd be home now," and Pajama Sam 1 has "No animals were injured or cheese eaten in the making of this game. ... Mmm, cheese.")
- Debug Room: Featured in all of the post-Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo games.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The earliest games had DOS graphics and MIDI music, and animated using sprites instead of hand drawn cartoon artwork. Then there's minor details, like the 3D cursors in Freddi Fish 1 being longer and thinner than the later ones (changed in the 1998 re-release), and being unable to skip movement phases. The early HE games also had a Windows 3.1 pause menu, a quit button instead of a menu button, and no lip-sync.
- The End: Most of the games from their early years ended on this.
- Feelies: Included with just about every game at the time, though they have become more and more rare.
- Game Mod: By editing the games' config files, you may find additional scenes and extra jokes.
- The five games that use the YAGA enginenote are especially easy to mod, since the files can easily be extracted with 7-Zip.
- I Am Not Shazam: Apparently in the early years, the company was sometimes mistakenly called "Junior Adventures" due to it being a prominent logo on the first set of game boxes without the company's real name being front-and-center; "Junior Adventures" was actually the name of the product lineup rather than the company, but it was a genuine problem when vendors would try to look up a company called "Junior Adventures" to order games and would find nothing. While the lineup name was retained beginning in 1996, for a brief period of time it was given a 10-Minute Retirement in 1994 with the lineup name (and its rocket logo) completely pushed away. When the name was used again in 1996, a much lesser deal was made of it.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: Partially averted. Usually the characters will give an excuse for taking anything not nailed down by saying something like "This doesn't belong here, so I'd better find the place it should go." At the base of it, though, the heroes are still snatching anything that looks important. Lampshaded by some of the original dev team, who will often use "borrow" jokingly as a nicer-sounding substitute for "stealing."
- Mad Libs Dialogue: You could say it was abused in Humongous games. The Backyard Sports were especially bad at this.
- Replay Value: A well done example. With the adventure games, every playthrough changes the puzzle solutions and even the characters involved in some cases.
- Same Language Dub: Several of the games were released in the UK with tweaked scripts and re-recorded dialogue using British voice actors.
- Shout-Out: Hoo boy. Humongous did a LOT of self Product Placement. They would advertise another one of their games wherever they could, such as on bill boards and click points.
- One of the billboards on Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo says "Shameless Humongous Entertainment self-promotion to be placed HERE."
- Stock Sound Effects: The games make extensive use of Hanna-Barbera's sound library, along with the Hollywood Edge's "Cartoon Trax" library (known for containing numerous classic Disney cartoon sounds).
- Vanity Plate: Went through several iterations throughout the years, but the most well-known example is the drum roll crash followed by cartoonish gibberish with a still image of the company's logo on screen, followed by the Vanity Plate of whatever product line it was a part of (Junior Adventures, Junior Sports, Junior Arcades...).