INTRO: Are you a fan of James Burke's entertainingly informative television series "Connections"? If you are, then this may be the game for you!
Sometimes I want an adventure game to completely take over my world with its complexity,. Depth, and level of challenge (Gabriel Knight, Journeyman Project 2,Obsidian). Other times I feel like stumbling around a silly haunted house playing puzzles (7th Guest, Clandestiny). Sometimes I feel like spending time with amusing cartoon characters (UFOs).
And sometimes I feel like having a light, breezy time playing a game that creates a lovely mood with lovely pictures, driven by a lovely premise and containing lovely puzzles that entertain me without making my brains pour out of my ears. And for that mood, I can't think of a better title than James Burke's Connections.
AS SEEN ON TV!
I have long been a fan of James Burke and his clever and entertaining series "Connections" on The Learning Channel and the History Channel. In the series he traces human political, cultural, religious and social history as a chain linked by various technological innovations. For a history and science buff, this makes for very enjoyable viewing.
But is the show the basis for an entertaining adventure game, I wondered? Could Burke translate his clever concept into some sort of compelling gameplay?
Well, the very good news is that yes, Connections actually works as a game. The game, which is first person point-and-click, begins in a cyberspace study where you are introduced to James Burke. He feeds you a lot of harmless hooey about a rift in a computer program that you have to fix. Well, it wouldn't be an adventure game without a mission, right?
Burke explains that your mission is to complete "chains" of connections that bind the cyber-world together. Each element that you discover becomes a link in the chain, and when each chain is completed, you move on to the next realm.
This premise works well for an entertaining game for two reasons. First, if you have any interest in science and history, it's fun playing a game where those subjects take center stage. Second, since you are in this strange cyberworld, anything can happen. You can be in a medieval castle one moment, a 50s diner the next, and a wild west saloon the next. The crazy variety of locations and settings create a daffy atmosphere that's really fun.
It even allows for some good humor. At one point you're bargaining with a medieval apothecary. She gleefully describes her current stock, including phosphorous and other chemicals, potions, herbs, etc. "I have dragon's wart," (or some such thing), she says, beaming, "for 10 credits. Of course, I have generic for 7 credits."
Each time you find a link in the chain you are rewarded with a short video detailing that link's contribution to the chain. The link can be anything from paper, to a match, to a printing press, to a loom.
IT'S SO LIFELIKE . . . NOT!
The graphics in the game are very pleasing to the eye. They have an entertainingly artificial look, and believe it or not this is not a criticism. Remember, the premise of the game is that you are in some strange cyberspace world, not in reality. Therefore, the scrubbed, polished, pristine look of the buildings, backgrounds and props seems oddly appropriate.
I played this game with a friend and we had a really good time. The loopy nature of the plot and premise kept us interested as we bounced from gold mine to castle to schooner. The entertaining puzzles included a music puzzle with an old pipe organ, a maze in a mine, a card trick, opening a combination safe, and using a Morse code machine. No, I'm not saying these are revolutionary or unique or brilliant puzzle concepts, but hey, they were fun.
What's more, the acting in the game is actually good. Go figure!
CALL IT THE BURT BACHARACH OF GAMES
I would compare this game to Qin and The Cassandra Galleries for its breezy, unthreatening, appealing quality. Since the puzzles are never too hard, Connections is a good choice for novice gamers, but compelling enough for experienced players as well.
One caveat: For the experience of this game to be really enjoyable, you really need to have some interest in science and history. Otherwise you could get impatient with it. On the other hand, the game is so entertaining, it could spark an interest in these subjects that you didn't realize you had!
After playing this game and the thrilling Byzantine, I would now eagerly pick up any game produced by The Discovery Channel. They are definitely on to something. Don't get me wrong, Connections doesn't come close to reaching the heights ofByzantine, but it's still a high quality game.
PROS: Enjoyable premise, entertainingly educational, attractive and fun.
CONS: Short, not hard enough for hardcore adventure wolverines, not for the science- and history-phobic.
CONCLUSION: Pleasant, breezy, informative entertainment; oddly successful game version of the television series; a perfect novice game.
Macintosh: Macintosh Performa, Centris, Quadra or Power Mac series with a 68040 processor or better, System 7.0 or later, double-speed CD-ROM drive, 8MB or RAM, 640x480 display color monitor with at least 256 colors.
WINDOWS: Windows 3.1 or Windows 95, 486/33 or higher processor; 8MB or RAM, double speed CD-ROM, hard drive, windows compatible sound card, mouse, VGA display (256 colors), MS-DOS or PC-DOS operating system version 3.1 or later, CD-ROM extensions (MSCDEX) version 2.2 or later.