When I am fortunate enough to get my hands on some of the children's software titles these days I often find myself wishing I could subtract a few years or so from my age and slip back to my childhood. There are a growing number of titles I know I would have just loved, and The Pagemaster is certainly one of them.
In this story written for 6 to 12 year olds, the bespectacled young thrill-seeker, Richard Tyler (of The Pagemaster movie fame), is back. And he is only too happy to take you along on a new adventure into the world of literature and introduce you to inviting little snatches of many different classic tales.
At the start of the game Richard is awakened from his dreams by Adventure, Fantasy and Horror, the three charming animated books that he befriended in the movie. Alas, all is not well in the library. The Pagemaster has been kidnapped by the devious Mr Hyde and everything has gone awry. Hard covers are mixed with paperbacks and books on needlepoint have been spotted along with Captain Courageous!
Your animated book-friends beg you for help to find Mr Hyde and rescue The Pagemaster. You must visit the lands of Adventure, Fantasy and Horror and collect clues along the way which are scattered around the magical lands in the form of pages from classic stories. And, of course, you must solve as many puzzles as possible on your journey.
The game has wonderful animations and an excellent soundtrack, together with quirky sound effects that cannot fail to delight the young. It is full of characters from fiction who will require your help, although not every puzzle has to be completed to finish the game. You can interact with the characters by answering their questions and selecting the 'yes' or 'no' buttons that appear on the 'Decision Star' symbol at the bottom of the screen. Every good deed or new discovery will add to your score, but venture into danger, or say the wrong thing, and you'll be alerted by a sharp 'boing' -- only to see your points slip down a notch or two.
Your score appears at the top right hand corner of each screen, and although it could have had some artistic attention and been made into more of a feature of the game, watching it does add to the fun and it helps to make the title re-playable. After amassing one top score and completing the quest you might easily play over and over and try to solve more puzzles, or collect more hint pages (which also confer bonus points), so that you can improve your performance.
And there are two distinct paths through the game so children are bound to want to complete it twice at the very least. It is in doing your good deed for the lonely and desperate Frankenstein's monster in Horror Land, where the paths diverge. He is one character you must help out because he has an item crucial to completing your quest. He will give you the option of making him a mate or finding him a mate, and both ways are equally entertaining.
Younger children may need some help with this game, but their older sisters and brothers should feel quite confident in tackling it alone. Especially for the younger ones, the hints on the pages strewn around will be difficult to follow but, really, they are not crucial in solving the problems. Simply looking for these hint pages is fun because they add to your score. Younger children may also have problems with the save game feature which, I thought, could have been improved. Being a Windows title this game simply uses the Windows menu for the save game facility. A larger and simpler save game menu would have made it easier for children so that they needn't be concerned with file-name extensions. It would also enable their saved games to be recorded in sequence rather than in alphabetical or numerical order.
Other than that, this surely is an excellent title. Funny, full of creepy, quirky characters and with lots of wonderful locations to visit. Great fun for the young -- and the young at heart.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1995.
All rights reserved.
486/SX25, 4MB RAM (8MB recommended), 2xCD-ROM