Coolsville (cancelled PC adventure game; 1994-1998)

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Coolsville Duck Ellington.png

A screenshot from TRUE's website, featuring the "Duck Ellington" character.

Status: Lost

Coolsville is a cancelled jazz-themed PC adventure game aimed at a children audience. It was meant to be released in the fall of 1994, developed by Music Pen, and distributed by Media Vision.

Premise

A screenshot from a magazine.

The game is set in Coolsville, a city populated with anthropomorphic cartoon animals who are into jazz music.

The city is divided into four districts, each with a different name and theme: Ragtime, Blues, Big Band and Be-Bop.

Coolsville is led by a council of six gurus who reunite each year for a public musical performance known as "The Great Gig"; this concert gives energy to the city for a year.

One of the gurus has been abducted, and the player character is set on a quest to find him, picking up musicians to form a band along the way.

Several of the characters are parodies of famous jazz musicians and singers, such as "Duck Ellington" (based on Duke Ellington) and a talking yellow taxi cab called Calloway (a pun on Cab Calloway).

Concept

A screenshot from a magazine.

Coolsville was originally an idea by Brian Gaidry, the art director of the project.

Although it is often presumed to be an adventure game, it is also very probable to be more of an interactive educational game; Music Pen company mostly developed educational games, most of them being The Magic School Bus licensees.
Its trademark was registered as "multi-media computer software containing information in the field of music".

According to project manager Michael Duggan, it was "an early attempt at a kind of virtual reality--sort of animated history of soul music" and "crossed over all sorts of genres related to soul".

Music Pen financed it themselves, and the art/animation was done by a large number of different artists/animators. The game was a pet project that had minor priority over more "mainstream" titles, so development on it was erratic. Due to this, it is difficult to find specific information on what was being worked on.

Staff

Two characters designed by TRUE.
  • Michael Patrick Duggan: project manager/game designer.
  • Brian Gaidry: art director/lead artist, project creator.
  • TRUE: character designer, background designer, animator, and illustrator.
  • Bay Rigby: character designer.
  • Jared Faber: musical composer.
  • Mo Riza: project champion and interactive art director.
  • Michael Foran: animator and designer.
  • Jean Pierre Dillard: animator.

Legacy

A screenshot from a magazine.

Coolsville's release was cancelled after Media Vision was shut down.

The only visual signs of its existence that have ever been made public are a few screenshots, as shown in several magazines that were published before the game was cancelled. These screenshots seem to imply that the game may also have had music-creating gameplay, as well as classic point-and-click adventure.

No prototype, demo or concrete version of the game has ever surfaced to this day. Back during development, the game had previews in French video game magazines Joystick and Gen4, which gave very positive feedback, strongly implying they played at least a prototype.

According to project manager Michael Duggan, he "was under the impression that there was [a prototype made] some time after [he] departed the company".

Artist TRUE showed two high-quality screenshots on his webpage, but he only worked on a small part of the game and doesn't have more material.

Trademark

Music Pen trademarked the "COOLSVILLE" name as a trademark in 1996, which possibly means that they were expecting to resume development and eventually release the game. Several staff members mention in their résumé having worked at Music Pen from 1994 to 1996, which could support this theory.

Eventually, the "COOLSVILLE" trademark was abandoned two years later without a statement of use.

Previews

Along with previews in French magazines Joystick and Gen4 (that provide most of the screenshots), the game was reportedly introduced at the 1994 Summer CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Chicago.

Video footage and photographs of this CES are still around, but no mention of Coolsville can be found in them.

References