Mystery at the Museums. (educational computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
Washington's massive Smithsonian Museums form a fantastic backdrop for learning in Mystery at the Museums, Binary Zoo's educational whodunit. In addition to building logic skills and engaging in creative thinking, players are exposed to a wealth of information culled from the Smithsonian's 12 world-famous museums.
Your guide on this whirlwind tour is Edison, a squeaky-voiced little chap whose hair, complexion, and clothing color can be modified by the player. After inspecting your choice, Edison responds, "Cool!" He then leads you to the office of Smitty, a private detective in charge of a most peculiar case: It seems that somebody has been playing hide-and-seek with the museum exhibits, misplacing dozens of treasures and artifacts. Your job is to visit each museum and, by solving a puzzle, locate a missing exhibit piece. A presidential visit, scheduled for 10:00 the next morning, adds urgency to your quest.
The program targets ages 7 to 14 and does a tremendous job of satisfying this broad range with eight progressively challenging skill levels. Advanced players can also create and save their own custom levels with the icon-driven game editor. The 16 puzzle types are both entertaining and surprisingly sophisticated. The puzzles cover memory, logic, mathematics, spatial relationships, pattern matching, and general knowledge. Along the way, almost as a bonus, players are treated to tidbits of Smithsonian knowledge, carefully disguised as puzzle pieces, clues, and solutions. All the puzzles offer multiple levels of difficulty, assuring longterm interest for all age groups. Also worth noting are the context-sensitive help screens, responsive mouse controls, and excellent audiovisual feedback.
Another hallmark of Binary Zoo products is the magnificently rendered graphics, available in regular 256-color VGA or crisp high-resolution Super VGA. The game's 30-plus screens unfold like an exceptional artistic vision.
Mystery at the Museums takes its distinct style from Artech Digital Entertainments' Rick Banks and Paul Butler, best known for their long, prolific association with Accolade. The designers have definitely found their creative niche at Binary Zoo, and this program is one of the best works of their careers.