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Why Y'all Should Play Sergeant Fiddlehead's Head


I give this game patch my full endorsement. Can you see the glitches? Yes. Is it fanmade? Heck yes.  

Trapping An Untamed Certified-Unique Flibbertigibbet is one of those games that stays with you when you're a kid. (Trying to search for “Flibbertigibbet” won’t net you any Google results; you have to do the full title.) We didn't have any video-game systems until I was a teen and cajoled my parents to get one for my brother and me. We had to stick with CDs and PCs because my dad would often take obsolete work computers home. It's weird how a few asked you to restart during installation. Most games don't do that on modern drivers. Something about convenience, I guess.

I remember the CD; it’s still at my parent's house! There is a great bird on the cover, screeching at you and staring with beady eyes. You see a small figure attempting to catch it with a butterfly net. That is Sergeant Fiddlehead, your guide into this strange world.

Sergeant Fiddlehead shuffles around, walking from room to room at the same pace. His beard covers practically all of his face. A wide-brimmed hat covers his eyes, and he goes through the motions of narrating his adventures. You mainly see animated versions of old films and get the sense that something is wrong. After all, why is the Sergeant not letting us do the hunting? Why do we have to go through his wine collection?

The lore itself is excellent. We learn there are several types of Flibbertigibbet and that it does not refer to a "flighty person" in Fiddlehead’s words. Sergeant Fiddlehead says he doesn't mount people on the wall or harvest their eggs for a morning brunch. He says, quite dryly, that it would be undignified. There is even a film reel with one of his hunts. He tries to hide the slides that revealed a case of friendly fire with a guide. There’s nothing violent: the guide just lost all his hair and his nose. He left Sergeant Fiddlehead to wrestle a Malarkey Lion.

We also learn that the Sergeant is a war veteran from exploring a Lost Continent. He says there was no footage, but he was the only survivor.

I have one problem with this game: it doesn't allow you to play.

All Sergeant Fiddlehead does is show you around the mansion and offer you food. Sometimes he points a gun in your face if you refuse to look at a recipe card in the kitchen,, but it never goes off. He says it's customary to eat food in another man's house so that he treats you as a guest. Refusing a meal means you can be his target practice if this were an R-rated game. (I wish the creators had added that.) Sacred hospitality was important in wartime when enemies needed a guarantee during treaty negotiations. I played this title before seeing Game of Thrones, so it pretty much taught me about sacred hospitality and why it's terrible to break.

You still can't play or catch a Flibbertigibbet. My brother and I combed that game, and we found nothing. He knew about cheat codes and secret doors, owing to his experience with Nintendo. Still nothing. Even the yard outside was just for badminton. And no, you couldn't play that.

"But Jim," you ask, "why do you endorse this game?"

For one, because it's no longer available. Thanks to updates on computers, you need to create virtual boxes to run older programs. I should know because I wasn’t able to stream the game I wasn’t able to stream the game when trying to show this to my friends. Even several hours of setting up a virtual box did no good. It makes no sense that they can't update the drivers. I have seen other edutainment games that ended up on a corporation's website or sold for like ten dollars in a bundle. They never make quality consistent.

I went online, searching for a download of the game that would work. This led me to a website of obscure games that would often vanish after entering the CD-Rom world. Other users had found the Flibbertigibbet game utterly confusing. They wanted to know why you couldn't find the bird.

One user answered the question; he was called Mr. Flutterby. Mr. Flutterby released a patch of the game that could work on any desktop. He called it Sergeant Fiddlehead’s Hunt. While he never asked for donations, I sent him a few dollars out of appreciation. Later I'd send more to show what I thought of the patch.  

The patch would be a case of a fanfic rewrite, only in-game form. Mr. Flutterby had the same frustration that I did: that there was no game. You could only print the activities as they came up, and that was an injustice. You could not realistically expect every kid to have a working printer or a kitchen with eggs that were ready to be poached, as the ones from the Flibbertigibbet were.

Instead, you played an explorer hunting and shooting game. I think the term would be RPG,, but I'm not sure. You play as a hunter while Sergeant Fiddlehead guides you into the jungle. He helps you look for the bird footprints of a Flibbertigibbet. You learn to locate the feathers or the droppings. Then he leaves you on your own after you get a snare for your first Flibbertigibbet, telling you that he'll be back at the mansion, waiting with some hot chocolate. Sergeant Fiddlehead tells you never to refuse. If you take too long or you do say no to hot chocolate after hunting, he pulls a rifle on you and shoots you in the face. The GAME OVER screen has cracks on it, a femur with some meat on it, and splashes of blood.

The R-rated stuff is the best part. You know that it’s playing for keeps, and that makes the actual happy parts more rewarding. If you accept Sergeant Fiddlehead’s offer, he’ll sit with you and tell stories about his time as an explorer of the Lost Continent. Flutterby kept making up lore, adding new maps to display, and creatures in jars. His Sergeant Fiddlehead apparently had a habit of shooting guides, who more than likely were waiting to rob his pockets. As a result, he often had to guide himself on new expeditions.

It's more of a skills game, pretty repetitive. Once you get the hang of setting a snare or firing an elephant gun, the Flibbertigibbets flutter as your target practice. You'd see them fall, swoosh swoosh swoosh. A bird counter on your bottom-right screen would appear to track your score.

You also have to watch out for glitches. The patch used to freeze at the worst time, right when you had a bird lined up for shooting. Or it would be right when Sergeant Fiddlehead was offering you a meal, and you had to respond fast. That’s how I got many of my GAME OVER screens. (I’m not stupid; if someone with a gun is inviting you to dinner, then you should probably take it. Unless the guy wants to kill you anyway. Then don’t.)

The patch existed to fulfill a need. We were told we would catch the bird, and by golly, we were finally allowed to do it. The best part is that the tracking gets more difficult with each level. You have to navigate mazes, sometimes use a torch with flickering, limited power, or work against a timer if you wanted to challenge yourself. One user asked Flutterby if there was a challenge where Sergeant Fiddlehead would hunt you down with his rifle and maybe some traps; he refused to program such a level. As he said, “I’m not that evil!”

I like the difficulties. Every GAME OVER screen was worth it. Someone like me needs a game that provides a challenge that I could mull over with coffee or a commute.  I even dreamed about hunting the Flibbertigibbet, only Sergeant Fiddlehead sometimes stood in my way, and I caught him pointing his gun at me. I never worried; after all, the Sergeant would never hurt someone who was a guest. He said so as much, and I never refused him. If you can't trust a sergeant's word and tradition, then you can't trust anything.

The patch also inspired me to go on walks. It wasn't any conscious emotion, just wanting to recreate the sense of walking through bush and against trees, to do tracking. There's a park near my workplace, with many overgrown oak trees and mangroves by the water. You can look at them from a distance and eye how many baby crabs will come out during the summer. It’s almost relaxing.

In between work hours, on days when I could make a long lunch, I'd borrow a coworker's dog and leash, offering to take them out for some exercise. Then we'd go to the park, and I'd let them explore while I eyed the trees, feeling the sense of being in the game, waiting for a bird to appear that had emerald-green feathers and a curved beak meant for cracking open nuts soaked in roam. Maybe a rifle would point my way, reminding me to hurry up. Sometimes I would come home and find an egg in my pants pocket, greenish shell slightly cracked. They would remain fresh in the fridge for a few days.  

Some days, the paths seemed to grow longer and more complicated. At one point, the dog in question was sniffing angrily at the brush, then would shy away while yelping. I never went into the shadowy areas.

In any case, I decided not to go the long paths when I had only an hour to work.  Instead, the evening hours called to me. I would go to the park alone as the sun was going down, sometimes with a book, and I'd walk.

I never found a Flibbertigibbet on those walks, though not lack for trying. Instead, I met people. Many were walking their dogs. We would often talk. That's how I made new friends, especially those that didn't fear how dark the paths became because the park had a lack of streetlights. I came to like those shadows, and who would walk under them.

Thanks to the patch, I've found an appreciation for the outside and what it can bring. These days I'm making stew with lumps in it and can't tell you what's in them. I sometimes find the eggs in a jar in my fridge, pickled and speckled. While larger than the eggs from chickens, they taste like breakfast for a hunter. When I poach them, they practically melt in the mouth.

No, I don’t know the source of the eggs. But I’m not going to complain about the spoils from my hunt. And if you share, you would understand. The patch does expand your perspective and your cooking skills.

Of course, I only share when I know you're going to hunt with me. It does not do to mount anything on the wall that has dined with you. But I kid. I share all the time in the hopes of encouraging someone to try this patch. And I do the same when sharing my cooking with people.  

Flutterby has hinted he may do a sequel patch, about the Lost Continent. It would have all the creatures that Sergeant Fiddlehead brought back with him, in the flesh and ready for hunting. Heck yeah, I want that. Just the thought makes my trigger finger itch. More eggs to collect, and new meat to hang on the wall. Maybe I would start collecting creatures in jars, to remember the adventure.

So overall? Five out of five stars. The link is below. I recommend playing this when you have trees nearby and people in a gathered area. Whatever you do, don’t refuse a meal. Sergeant Fiddlehead is waiting. He’s armed and ready to serve.


END



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