The main character is watching television in his apartment when he stumbles across various references by the characters on the TV to a red button – some of them are imploring that he press it, while others are begging him not to. Since the remote has a red button on it, the main character decides to press it. This results in the cartoon characters being released from the TV… and everything in the apartment building suddenly goes into cartoon version.
The goal of the main character through all of this is to find the TV remote, which has been stolen by the cartoon characters (alongside all the apartment keys) to prevent him from returning them to the TV. When he has the remote, he can zap them back into the TV… but it won’t be easy to find or get to, and you may need several other items along the way.
For the most part, gameplay in Stay Tooned! is simple. The game itself is largely controlled by the mouse, but sometimes you will need to use the keyboard depending on the tasks at hand. It's also in first person view, so you will never actually see the character you are playing as.
Stay Tooned! will give you a different experience on different playthroughs. It relies heavily on randomization in various respects.
The game always begins in the same way; you can browse the television for as long as you want before hitting the red button. The TV will introduce to the characters who will become your biggest foes and show you their personality. The TV also contains adverts which sometimes will try and sell things, but most of the time they are simply parodies (the XXX Files being a more obvious example, and the Friends parody Frauds being less obvious on title alone). When the player has had enough of watching these and decides to press the red button, the more variable methods of gameplay come in.
The first is that the player may experience some bizarre events in the hallways between rooms. For instance, the twins like to come and steal your cursor sometimes so that you are unable to move until they’ve finished dragging it around the screen and laughing at you. Characters will also sometimes pop up to yell at the main character or the other characters, normally with some sort of comical effect. Essentially, this is the comic element of the game coming into play – the game likes to keep players on their toes.
The second is that most rooms ore randomized on each playthrough. This isn’t true of all rooms – your apartment stays the same, room 2B is always the same due to the fact it ties into the “to be or not to be?” question, and Mrs. Findley’s room is always the same, too.
When the game turns to the apartment building, it spans over five floors. On each floor there are four rooms, each clearly labeled and named after the floor they’re on – 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D etc. Players can use the elevator to navigate between floors, and they can select a door they have the key for from the hallway. In some playthroughs, there may be a puzzle that needs to be completed before you can get to a certain floor too, which may introduce some new rooms such as the basement.
Stay Tooned! rooms normally comprise of minigames, which will in some way contribute towards you finding a key to another room on a trail that will eventually lead to the TV remote. These minigames are normally very easy as they are aimed at young children.
The game initially came with some 3D goggles; however, these are only really used in one minigame, which can be skipped if necessary.
At the end of the game, you will again be in the hallway, but the TV remote will be out in front of you where you can easily see the buttons. To send the toons back, you try and zap them by using the red button, mirroring the beginning of the game.
Rooms and Minigames
Stay Tooned! comprises of many rooms, which mostly consists of minigames. To give an idea of the sort of puzzles offered, here’s a sample description of the contents of some of the rooms.
- Barbershop – This is where the main character has to give Fiddle a haircut. You don’t have to be in any way precise, and it’s fairly easy to learn how to use the tools. You can go ridiculously far with it too!
- Schleopardy – This is a quiz show that is a parody of Jeopardy. You play against Mr. Fishy and the Purple Glop. One of them is a fairly decent player, while the other is terrible.
- Circus – This is comprised of various minigames you can play as well as some sideshow acts to watch.
- Saloon – In this minigame, you get involved in a shootup involving Fiddle at a salon.
- Kartoon Kombat – This is a parody of Mortal Combat. You need to get to the end to fight Killtron, who has some tricks up his sleeve.
- Record Room – This room contains songs. There’s one about nearly every character in the game with the characters normally singing about themselves. They’re often quite humourous.
While there are various characters that come over from the TV world, only five of them actually have to be zapped back into the TV by the player. Those five are as follows:
- Pixel – The female twin. She is pink. On the TV, Pixel appears on channel 5 with Frank and her brother Chisel. The game suggests that she is highly intelligent and also mischievous.
- Chisel – The male twin. He is blue. Chisel also appears on channel 5 with his sister, Pixel, and with Frank. He’s even more mischievous than his sister is, but also seems fairly immature. He is also a lot less intelligent.
- Scoops – Scoops is a dog who is obsessed with gravy. He has a surprisingly deep voice when he uses it, which is not very often. On the TV, he appears with Schmooze.
- Schmooze – Schmooze is a dog who tries to be cool. The game suggests he has some feelings for Pixel, though she does not reciprocate this in any way. On the TV, he appears in the same programme as Scoops.
- Fiddle – Fiddle is a tall black and white cat, and the odd one out among the cartoon characters in that he’s more liable to try and help you than harm you. Fiddle seems to be constantly being picked on and seems uncomfortable with his fellow toons for that reason (or, in the case of Katrina, the fact that she’s very forward with him). On the TV, he appears on channel 1 in a black and white cartoon.