Originally created 07/04/97

`Puzzle Castle' A Fun, Challenging CD-ROM Adventure



Title: "Puzzle Castle"

Subject: Educational adventure game

Format: Windows/Macintosh hybrid

Ages: 4 to 7

Manufacturer: SegaSoft

Price: $30

System requirements: Windows - 486 or faster processor, Windows 3.1 or later, 8MB RAM, 13MB free disk space, double-speed CD-ROM drive, sound card, 256-color monitor. Macintosh - 68040 or faster processor, System 7.1 or later, 8MB RAM, 13MB free disk space, double-speed CD-ROM drive, sound card, 256-color monitor

Comment: "Puzzle Castle" sends the user on a quest to conquer the monster lurking in the dungeon and save the kingdom in time for Princess Posy's Grand Banquet by solving a series of puzzles, many of which are based on visual-acuity games similar to the popular "Where's Waldo" books.

As it is, "Puzzle Castle" is better than any "Waldo" book, because a succession of searches is needed to complete the adventure game. It's also more challenging than a still page because the scene changes from game to game, little distractions careen around the screen and the object or person you are searching for may pop in and out of view. Just when you spot the little guy and put the cursor on him, poof!, he disappears, and you have to start again.

You've got to stay alert. It keeps the proceedings fun, and exciting, and once you believe you have conquered the game, you can increase the difficulty level and try again. On a printed page, Waldo never moves, and once you have memorized his position, the challenge is gone and the book probably will be tossed aside.

But "Puzzle Castle" isn't just made up of searching games. There are mazes, obstacle courses, visual recognition games, trial-and-error experiments, arcade-style shooting games.

It's difficult to figure out whether the manufacturers meant this to be educational or just fun. It's both, but the educational value is subtle; unlike a lot of kids' educational software, the lessons don't come in the form of "here is a cartoon character who will teach you something." You just play the games - and hop around the screens playing the 200 silly clickables - and later on kids realize they have learned something. The lively presentation - SegaSoft refers to it as "stealth learning," or learning while not realizing it - keeps things moving along briskly.

Also noteworthy is that the brave knight-in-shining-armor who saves the kingdom is a female, Sophie. And her loyal underling is a boy. You go, girl!