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Software reviews

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 20, 1999


I Spy Spooky Mansion

  • Scholastic
  • Online price: $30

My 10-year-old daughter, who has little patience for computer games, was enthralled by I Spy Spooky Mansion, created by the authors of the popular I Spy series of kids' books.

The idea in the electronic version of I Spy is the same as in the books: Find the items in the picture named in the riddle. But in the computer game, when a player clicks on the correct item, things happen. Mice scamper, spiders dangle, clocks dong. As the player wanders through a haunted house, from parlor to kitchen to laboratory, cool things happen.

In the attic, the computer mouse acts like a flashlight as the player scopes around creepy eaves and rafters, looking for slithering snakes and rusty skates. In the bathroom, a click on the hot water faucet makes steam rise. When it clears, the player's name is left etched on the mirror. Look carefully at cobwebs and wrought iron gates -- you'll find names you recognize there as well.

I Spy is recommended for ages 6 to 10 and my daughter raced through a game, picking up 26 puzzle pieces, in about an hour. It was easy enough to be fun, with at least a couple of hard-to-find items per scene. She thinks all but the most advanced 6-year-olds would be hopelessly frustrated by the game. But then, whose 6-year-old isn't advanced?

Platform: Windows, Macintosh

-- KRIS HUNDLEY, Times staff writer

Asheron's Call

Microsoft

Price: $32 for CD-ROM, $9.95-a-month subscription

Asheron's Call boasts impressive 3-D graphics, an immersive world filled with potential allies for fighting deadly monsters.

But is it worth $9.95 a month?

Not really.

Yes, the graphics look fantastic. You can lie on your back and watch clouds drift overhead. In the wilderness are the sounds of wild things.

Yes, the interface is pretty simple to use. Accessing inventory and getting into scrapes with the creatures of Asheron's Call are just a matter of clicking a mouse.

Yes, the story behind the game world is intriguing and the complex character creation and skills system work well.

The game is at its best when you team with other more experienced players to fight tougher monsters, gain experience and boost your abilities.

That is, if you can log on. During the week I tried Asheron's Call, I managed to play for a few hours before the game suffered a server crash and continued to have spotty connections the rest of the time, making the integrity of the computer system that houses it seem to be the greatest liability of Asheron's Call.

Despite that problem, Asheron's Call is far and away better than its competition, such as Everquest and Ultima Online.

But throw aside the attractive facade and what you're being asked to pay for is an Internet game where you log in, kill monsters for experience points and gold coins to buy more stuff, and interact with other players.

You can do that for free on hundreds of Internet sites that host Multi-User Dimensions, or MUDs.

Platform: Windows

-- WES PLATT, Times staff writer

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