Monday, November 9, 2015

Playskool Play-Doh Creations

Stupid me. Stupid, stupid me. Playskool is owned by Hasbro.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, on to this week's post. Sorry I didn't get to it on Friday. I have no excuse this time; I had the video recorded and everything.

This game was published by Hasbro and Playskool some time in the 90s, and was released for Windows and Macintosh. As usual, I recorded this from a Macintosh emulator, using Open Broadcaster Software.

The game starts off with one of the catchiest songs I have ever heard, with some ridiculous lyrics. "Everybody come aboard for the latest sensation! The magical island of Play-Doh Creations!" Then it explains everything that you can do. If you ask me, the theme song is completely unnecessary.

Play-Doh Pete, in all his creepy off-the-can glory
The game takes place on Play-Doh Island, and there's no plot here: it's just an activity center/painting program, kind of like Kid Pix but without the ability to draw anything yourself.

You can visit five different places: the Laboratory, the Factory, the Bakery, the Mall, and the Theatre. However, you can't visit the Theatre until you have some creations.

The laboratory
The bakery
The factory
The mall
Something that bugs me about this game: your creations from other places come with you. For example, I started with the Laboratory. When I go to the Factory, the creature I made in the Laboratory comes with me. This kind of defeats the whole purpose of making something different.

Honestly, that's my biggest complaint about this game: there's very little variety. You go to any place and the goal is the same: make something out of Play-Doh and use tools to make it look somewhat different. The designs are different depending on where you go, but the tools are always the same. Also, you have to use the existing designs. All this adds up to having very little room for creativity.

Anyway, once you've made some creations, you can go to the Theatre and put them in the Great Doh Show. Simply select a creation, then select the scene you want it to be in, then click on the curtain. The applause meter at the top always seems to go all the way to the top, so I don't know why it's even there. Also, the intro lied: you don't need to make a poster at all.

One of the trying-too-hard-to-be-funny scenes you can make in the Great Doh Show
Bottom line: it's easy to see why this is so obscure. The only things I remembered about this game were the Great Doh Show and the song that it plays while it's loading. Other than that, it's pretty boring. Play Kid Pix instead. Or don't. If you like this game still, good for you, but I can't say I do.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me tell you what I've got planned for Friday: a little point-and-click adventure game called Mr. Potato Head Saves Veggie Valley. I know, what a title. Until then, remember: Play-Doh is fun to play with, not to eat!


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Filler video

So... remember that filler video I was supposed to make last week?

Finally got around to it this week.

The video says it all. I'll just say I was supposed to do Tonka Space Station this week, but due to extremely annoying technical difficulties I was unable to get any footage of it. Anyway, I have declared November to be Hasbro/Playskool Month. It was originally going to just be Hasbro Month, but then I realized one of the computer games I wanted to talk about was not published by Hasbro. (Very late edit: Yes it was.) Why I thought it was, I don't know. (Very late edit: IT. WAS. PLAYSKOOL OWNS HASBRO.) The game in question is Playskool Play-Doh Creations for Windows and Mac, and that's going to be for next week's blog post. And I may as well reveal what I have planned for the week after that as well: Mr. Potato Head Saves Veggie Valley.

Anyway, sorry for the short (and late... again...) post this week. See ya next time!


Monday, October 19, 2015

More apologies and random memories of LodgeNet

Here we go again. I'm always late with my blog posts. Even when I write a schedule I'm still late. Sorry, but I'm going to have to postpone Type to Learn (and the other stuff I had planned) if I want to keep up with my schedule. I'll be making a filler video on Friday (a filler video that was planned for Friday anyway), then I hope to be back to my regular schedule by next week, assuming I can get the footage I need.

While we're on the subject of filler, anyone remember LodgeNet? I realize this isn't the most obscure thing to talk about, but I feel like LodgeNet is becoming less common and more obscure as time goes on. So what am I talking about?

LodgeNet was/is a system in hotels (hence the "lodge" part) whereby you could watch movies on pay-per-view, view hotel services, listen to music and play video games.

Yes, you read that last part correctly: you could play video games at your hotel. But of course, it cost money: 6 bucks an hour, to be specific. This is why my parents didn't let me play games when we went to hotels, unless I brought one of my handhelds with me (back when LodgeNet was still common, I didn't have any home consoles).

No, no, no. My nostalgia didn't come from playing games or watching movies (which our parents did let my sister and me do once). Rather, it comes from the freaking "LodgeNet Welcome Channel". Over the years, the Welcome Channel changed a bit, but the basics stayed the same. You'd turn on the TV and it would immediately go to the channel and say "Welcome, and thank you for choosing our hotel. We hope you enjoy your stay with us!" Or occasionally, "Welcome to (area), and thank you for choosing (name of hotel). We hope you enjoy your stay with us!" Some versions had it repeat the message in Spanish, French, and German. During all this time, this amazingly awesome and cheesy piano piece played. I wish I knew what it was called, and I really wish I could find a full-length, high quality version of it.

Later versions went into detail about all the cool extra stuff you could do on your TV, but the very first versions (which are what I'm nostalgic for) had only one message besides the welcome message: "Press the yellow Menu button for movies, video games, and hotel services." or something to that effect. I do remember "Press the yellow Menu button," and that's about it. That really sucks. I so wish I could find the full version of that intro, but the only videos I can find are of the newer versions of LodgeNet, some of which don't even use that awesome piano song.

It's possible to purchase LodgeNet remotes, game controllers, and even the boxes themselves on eBay. Sadly, they would serve no use and wouldn't actually allow me to re-create the experiences I had with that welcome channel, since everything was on a server (hence the "net" part). Yep, it worked the way Classworks worked: you'd have a server that held all the main software, then you'd use a device (in this case a set-top box rather than a computer) to interface with the network server and the software. So, where's the LodgeNet server software itself? Who knows? If I would ever come across that, I'd pick it up in a heartbeat, but sadly, that doesn't seem likely. It's about as likely as finding an old copy of Classworks.

Sorry for the random post, but it's just something I wanted to talk about. Friday is going to be a video about Quiz Show, a game I made a post about even though I have no pictures of it. Some parts of the post are better heard than just read. I hope you enjoyed your stay with--no. That's not going to end right.


Sunday, September 20, 2015


Hooray, I'm only 2 days late with this post! That's a record.

Like I promised, today I'm going to talk about a very obscure Apple II game that I played in Kindergarten: Mathosaurus, by Micrograms. Here's the video.

Now, this is the first Apple II game I'm covering here, so I'll have to explain something for those unfamiliar with it: the Apple II was Apple's first successful attempt to break in to the personal computer market. Before the Apple II was, of course, the Apple I, and afterwards they tried to make machines like the Lisa and the Apple III. However, these proved to not be very popular.

The Apple II, like every personal computer of its time, had no mouse, because it didn't have a graphical user interface (GUI), because that wasn't a thing yet. As such, the only method of interface with the Apple II was a keyboard, or a joystick if you were playing a game that used one.

This one did not. When you boot up this game (normally by putting the floppy disk in the drive and then turning the computer on), you're greeted with a very simple title screen.

And also a little bit creepy.
After you PUSH RETURN (or Enter, as the case may be), you're greeted with a very simple game selection menu.

Note the "cool" dinosaurs in the upper right and lower left.
From here, you use the Space bar to select your choice, then press Return/Enter to confirm your selection. The games themselves are very simple and a little bit boring, but hey, that's Apple II for ya. Now, one thing that games like Math Blaster had over this was that the games all had clever names. In this, the games are just called what you'll be doing in them. But not to worry, I've come up with my own names for them!

The first one is what I call "Egg Counting". You're given a number and you're supposed to find a set of that number, represented by eggs.

EGGS! Eggs! E-double-g-s, eggs!
As usual, you use the space bar to select the right set, then press Return. If you've selected the right one, it just tells you "Good." Then a Pterodactyl appears at the top of the screen.

Could they at least have added an exclamation mark?
Once the top of the screen is filled with Pterodactyls, some of the eggs that are left hatch. The game tells you to press Return again, then you go back to the main menu.

Awww, baby dinos! How cute!
The next game is "Dino Counting". Same as Egg Counting, except you're given a set of dinosaurs and you're supposed to choose the correct number for the set.

GAH! This is even more creepy than the title screen!
When you get one right, a blue dinosaur holds a sign up that says "Good!"

Wow, Barney really let himself go.
Once you get enough right, that same blue dinosaur holds up a different sign that says "Good Job" and does a little dance.

He does NOT, however, make a little love. Good.
The other four games are actually only two games, but with different goals. I'll call them "Ice Cream I/II" and "Balloonasaurs I/II".

In "Ice Cream I", you are supposed to count the number of ice cream scoops one dinosaur has and give the other one, Spike, the same number.

At least they don't complain about the flavors.
If you got it right, the bell on the cart rings, Spike nods, and you move on to the next screen. Note that you don't get to see Spike eat the ice cream at all.

After doing this a few times, another dinosaur comes down and eats all of Spike's ice cream.

Who knew dinosaurs loved ice cream so much?
In "Ice Cream II", the other guy is just reading a book. Spike demands he receive a certain number of ice cream scoops, no more, no less.

Not even a "please"?
Once again, Spike never gets to eat the ice cream. After you serve him enough times, that same dinosaur comes down and eats every scoop again. Man, Spike just cannot catch a break, huh?

...Actually, scratch that; he deserves it for being so rude.
In "Balloonasaurus I", you have to choose which dinosaur has more balloons.

...Why's the one guy wearing shoes? I just noticed that now.
And... that's it. After a few times, the one with more balloons floats up.

"So long, sucka!"
"Balloonasaurus II" is the exact same thing, except you're choosing which dinosaur has fewer balloons.

"I've heard of being high, but this is ridiculous!"
After a few correct choices, you get to watch the dinosaur that has fewer balloons fall down to the ground below.

"It was nice hanging with you!"
And that's it. There's no score, no certificate, no rewards other than just some animations at the end. Good grief this game is boring. And to make matters worse, Micrograms made another Mathosaurus game, called Mathosaurus Computation! And no, I'm not going to review that one; it's even more boring than this one!

Sadly, the nostalgia does not save this one. Mathosaurus gets a failing grade.

I guess I was very easily impressed by computer games when I was little; even though I had a Windows computer (the beloved Compudyne, which still works, by the way), I was madly in love with this game. The only other Apple II games I played at my elementary school were "School Bus Driver" by Fisher Price and "Quilting Bee" by MECC. Sadly, I can't find either of these games anywhere. I do know School Bus Driver was also released for MS-DOS, but as far as I know, Quilting Bee wasn't. It was also one of the final Apple II games ever released.

As for Mathosaurus, there was actually a Windows release later on, and that one is still being sold! ...In unit purchases and site licenses only. I also see it pop up on eBay once in a while, but not this one. And now I see why.

Anyway, the next game will be another edutainment game (apparently I can't stay away from those), Type to Learn. Man, I have fond memories of that one. Just remember to watch out for dinosaurs the next time you eat ice cream. They'll do anything for ice cream. See ya next time!


Friday, September 11, 2015

5 Obscure Things I Only Vaguely Remember

Today I wanted to talk about some things that are so obscure, I don't even remember what they were called. I've made a video, but I wanted to give you a sort of Cliff's Notes version here as well for those who don't want to listen to my terrible audio and hear me clearing my throat a dozen times. (EDIT: I've figured out three of them now. One is still bugging me, and the other I'm starting to not care as much anymore.)

1. Those Toy Phones I was Hinting At a While Back

For those who have been reading this blog for a long time, you may recall that I was hinting at making a post about some toy phones. I ultimately decided not to, because A) I don't have any of them anymore, and B) I don't have pictures of any of them.

But I wanted to talk about them anyway. There were three that I knew of: one that was space-themed and said "Star Patrol" on the label, one that was police-themed, and one that was ambulance-themed. Now, what do I mean by "themed"? Well... it's kind of hard to describe.

See, each phone had three rows of three buttons. On the Star Patrol one at least, the buttons were blue, yellow, and orange, I believe in that order. The blue row would play one sound, the yellow row another, and the orange row a third.

Example: The Star Patrol one said "Alien ship! Warp speed!" when you pressed a blue button, and then played this awesome sound that I can't describe, so you'll have to watch the video to hear me imitate it. The yellow row said "Alien ship! Shields up!" and played a different sound. The orange row just said "Warp speed!" and played the first sound then the second sound. For the ambulance one, the blue row would play an ambulance siren, then a guy would say "Emergency! 911!" then it would play the ambulance siren again. I don't remember the other rows. For the police one, the blow row played a police siren, followed by a police officer saying "Slow down car!", followed by... something that I swear sounded like gunshots or something. The yellow row played the siren, then had the police officer say "Slow down car! Emergency!" than played the banging or whatever sound again.

2. An Orange Arcade Game with a Row of Numbered Buttons

I know, kind of a specific (and weird) description, but hear me out. I remember next to nothing about this game. I remember how it looked--it was orange and had a row of numbered buttons, like I said--and that when you put in a token, it would say "Get ready to play!" followed by a group of different people saying what I think was the name of the game, except how I heard it as a kid makes no sense (to me it sounded like "The Claaaaaaaaw Batter!!"). (EDIT: It's actually called Jungle Joggers. Time to forget I completely misheard it.)

That's... really all I have to say about that game. Let's move on to the next one, shall we?

3. An Arcade Game Themed Around Space

So, this one I have very fond memories of. I would play it all the time at Chuck E Cheese's. Unfortunately, what I don't remember is the name. I do remember this: you had a joystick, kind of like the kinds used in crane games, but instead of moving a crane, you were moving this electromagnet. You would use it to pick up metal discs (silver in the center and blue around the edges) and put them in the center.

Every time you picked up a disc, or dropped one, or put one back in its place, a guy would say "Mission Control, we [something I was never able to hear because it was too loud in there all the time!!]" So not only is it frustrating that I can only remember part of what someone said in the game, it's also frustrating that I can't remember what it was freaking called! Honestly, does anyone remember this other than me? Argh, I can hardly stand it! (EDIT: This one is called Total Eclipse, not to be confused with a video arcade game of the same name.)

4. A Computer Game I Played in Kindergarten

I was in Kindergarten in 1999 and 2000. Our teacher had a few computer games that she would let us play. Some of them were on the Apple II, and some of them were on the Mac. I remember playing Reader Rabbit's Kindergarten and JumpStart 1st Grade Math for the first time in that Kindergarten classroom.

But I also remember playing a few more... obscure computer games. Like this one! I distinctly remember these things about this game:

* You started out in some space station type hub world thing. When you clicked on some switch or something somewhere, the gravity would turn off, and things would start floating around, all while "Beautiful Blue Danube" played in the background.
* There was some sort of frog guide who accompanied you (it was not Thaddeus Pole or that frog from the JumpStart games, that much is for certain).
* One scene that you could go to had a radio tower or something which, when clicked on, would play a clip of a guy saying "This is Bag Bad Joe (?) reporting live from Springtown!" followed by giving a report of... something. I would click on that all the time because I thought it was the funniest thing, for some reason.

With the frog and the space station, some of you may be thinking it was Explorapedia. But it wasn't. Remember, this was a Mac game. Explorapedia was a Microsoft product, and was only made for Windows. Though the hub (and Thaddeus Pole) made me think that was it as well. (EDIT: I've finally figured this one out: it was called "Let's Pretend! Volume 2: Space is Our Playground!" At least, I'm 99% positive it was this one. Now I just need a copy or video footage to confirm for certain.)

5. Another Computer Game I Played in Kindergarten

Man, I played a lot of obscure computer games in Kindergarten! This one was also on the Mac, and again, I remember very little about it. The only thing I remember is that there were these multi-colored aliens (I think red, blue, and purple), and you had to put them back in their places. After you did, they flew away. They would say things like "Good. Bye. Earth. Ling." and "I'm going now..." and whatever they said had a weird, funny audio effect on it.

Now, this one I kind of have a bit of hope for. I went to TV Tropes' "You Know That Show" about this one and... at least I got someone who knew what I was talking about. And like me, that person apparently used to have nightmares about this game. So I'm optimistic.

And that ends the main topic of this blog post. My question for this week is: Does anyone other than me remember any of these things? I sure hope so, because I don't want these to drive me insane like Learning Voyage almost did.

But onto another topic: as I said in my last post, I'm hoping to post more regularly here, and my next topic is going to be--guess what?--a computer game I played in Kindergarten, specifically one of the aforementioned Apple II games: a little-known game called Mathosaurus. So it's the Return of the Computer Games! Games! Games... Okay, there's no way I can save that joke.

Anyway, see ya next week! I'm going now...


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

So Very Sorry

Okay. Here I am writing yet another apology. As you can probably tell, I've been inactive here for quite some time. The reason is simple: I've been preparing for school stuff. Now I'm back in school, so things should be a little less hectic. I've also switched schools (long story, don't want to go into details), and where I'm going now has very few classes on Fridays. I have none. Thus, I will have Fridays mostly free to write stuff.

As for why I haven't done stuff about the tapes? I've realized that it would take a lot of time and effort to do those, more so than computer games, where I would just have to open the game or emulator, open my screen recorder, and start recording. For the tapes, it's a bit more complicated; I have two tape players I can record from, one of which converts to a digital format, which loses quality, and the other of which I would need to connect to another computer, which requires me to haul up my monitor and speakers and hook everything up, which is a huge mess and a huger hassle because I don't keep my cords tidy like I should.

All this is to say: I'm going to have to wait on the tapes I was talking about for a bit more. I also have a couple of obscure records that I want to talk about, so I've decided that December, which is three months from now, will be "Tapes and Records Month", provided I don't have some computer games that I wanted to talk about by then.

Yes, I actually have a schedule now! To give you a bit of a preview, on Friday I'm going to make a video where I talk about 5 obscure things I only barely remember. After that, it's The Return of the Computer Games! ...Which means I'm going to talk about computer games yet again. The more things change, I guess.

But speaking of computer games, there's a chance I may be getting a copy of Classworks Gold soon! Notice I said "chance" and "may". Don't get your hopes up too high. I can't go into details now, but I will say that if I can't get Classworks, I may be able to get some other educational computer games, hopefully also obscure.

Well, that's about it! See you on Friday with my video!


Monday, July 20, 2015

Some Updates and a Request for Help

First off, what's up with me? Not much. Some family stuff came up, so that's why I haven't made a post in forever.

Surprise of surprises, this post is not going to be about that tape. That seems to be a theme with this blog: I keep saying my next post is going to be about something, and then for one reason or another, I realize that I have to write about something else instead. In this case, I have some updates I wanted to share with you guys.


Let's start with a few updates on one of my earliest posts: the one about the Playskool Talk-Back Voice Recorder (no relation to the Yak Bak). First of all, that's how it was spelled, not Talkback as I had put it on my blog post.

Second, I've finally found one! ...On an auction sight. And it's been sold. But I can't see for how much because that requires an account. A paid-for account. I can't even share the pictures here because of copyright.

Third, the sound effects. I remembered three of them: one was a spring, one was a monkey, and one was a telephone. Looking at the picture, I can see another one: a bicycle horn. ...Well, the label is actually of a French horn or a trumpet or something, but I distinctly remember that the sound was a bike horn.


Next, I want to talk a bit about Learning Voyage and Classworks. These two have been my obsession recently. I have been trying so hard to find out more about them, but nothing doing. In the case of Learning Voyage, I don't even know who's behind them, Learningways or Davidson. I also don't know if they were exclusively for schools or not. If it was Learningways and not Davidson, then they probably were only for schools, which means I won't find a copy very easily. But that still wouldn't explain why I saw the intro cutscene on YouTube years ago.

Classworks at least has their old website archived, so I can still take a look at drawings of how the box looks, and I can also confirm that it originally came in two "pieces": one for the server and one for the workstations (those are the actual computers in the schools, which connect to the server that stores all the data).

I may see if I can talk to the principal at my old elementary school, and see if by some miracle they still have their old Classworks discs. Other than that, I'm running out of places to try and find old educational software for schools. Thrift stores are certainly an option, as are flea markets, but I wouldn't count on being able to find any of that stuff there. I can hope, and I can dream, but it's incredibly unlikely that I'll be able to find any of these nostalgic games again.

At least, by myself.

This is where you guys come in: please help me! Anyone who comes across or happens to have a copy of any of this software (Learning Voyage: Sand Trapped!, Learning Voyage: Swamped!, or Classworks Gold Edition), I would very much appreciate it if you would make ISO images of them, put them on a file-sharing site like Mega or Mediafire, and send them my way. No torrents, please, as I will not take any chances with that.

Man, I feel so silly asking for this, but I swear I'm not doing this for selfish purposes. ...Okay, I kind of am and kind of not. One part is for more accurate documentation (because I have been able to find very little if any), the other part is for nostalgia.

The reason I'm writing about all this is because I have to stop obsessing before the obsession becomes unhealthy, and I feel writing this stuff down helps me calm down. And it also fits on the blog, because these products really are obscure; one of my personal friends and one random YouTube user have heard of the Learning Voyage games, and none of my online friends have. My second cousin, who went to the same elementary school as me, said he vaguely remembers them from Classworks. Heck, in general he vaguely remembers Classworks.

Well, on that note, I'll ask y'all this question: Does anyone remember Classworks or Learning Voyage? Does anyone remember seeing that intro cutscene on YouTube back in 2006 or 2007 or so? As a refresher...

Dad: What? I told you to put the ant traps by the doors!
(cut to a bunch of bugs inside the family's home)
Boy: Whoops. I thought you said to put the trapdoors by the ants!

Which could be an inaccurate transcript, because I haven't seen that clip in years. Anyway, now I'm done ranting. Any help would be most appreciated, and thanks for reading! Next post will hopefully be that audio tape I was teasing. See ya then!


Friday, June 12, 2015

Spell It Plus!

At long last, a post about Spell It Plus! for Macintosh.

This was a game made by Davidson and Associates, originally released for MS-DOS and later for Mac OS. The Mac version was the one I grew up with. I played it at my elementary school on the days we weren't using Classworks or Type To Learn. I had a lot of fun with it, but... much like KidPhonics, I don't really think it's stood the test of time.

Also, this game should not be confused with the much later Spell It Deluxe for Windows and Macintosh. That one changed the games and used an updated speech synthesis engine.

So, now for the game itself. I made a video you can watch below, but this time I also have screenshots for those who don't want to watch the whole thing.

The game starts off with a goofy little animation of a frog riding a skateboard.


Afterwards, it asks you to type in your name. You can, of course, choose whatever you want. I just chose my name.

My other choice would have been "Butts"
 You're then greeted with the main screen, where you hear what I consider to be the most wonderful sound in this game: "Welcome to Spell It Plus!" I don't know why, but I just love hearing that.

Thanks, I do feel welcomed.
 This sort of reminds me of the game picker from the original Math Blaster, with the main game being the name of the game itself. Also the redundancy (Math Blaster Math and Spell It Plus! Spelling).

From here you have a few choices for games to play: Decode It, Unscramble It, Correct It, Study It, and of course Spell It itself. We'll start with Decode It, because why not? The way this one works is you have a series of words with missing letters. Fill in the missing letters and a corresponding letter will appear in the box below. Once you've finished all of the words, you'll have a complete sentence.

Can I buy a vowel?
Your secondary reward is to see an animation of the frog dude shooting some hoops. By which I mean, he dribbles and shoots.

Next we have Correct It. It's self-explanatory and boring: you just correct words that are spelled incorrectly. Your only reward is to see a small animation of that frog guy doing more extreme sports

Of course, most language arts teachers probably love this one.
Next up is yet another boring one: Study It. You... study words. Okay, you actually get to play some games, but it's simple: you see the word at the top, you hear it, you type it. Once you start typing the word, it goes away, but it's still easy. There are options to make it harder, but it's still very plain.

My favorite of the bunch is Unscramble It. It's a bit like Tic Tac Toe... except there's a one player version as well. But at least with the one player version you get points no matter what.

Now of course, there has to be spelling in there as well; otherwise it defeats the purpose of this game. Choose a square, and a jumbled-up word appears. You have to unscramble the word (hence the name) in order to get the points. Afterwards, the box turns gray and has that frog's face on it. You get bonus points for getting three boxes in a row (diagonally, across, or up and down).

Um, yeah, this isn't creepy at all...
Oh, also, once you get three in a row, you hear this amazingly hilarious sound. Unfortunately, I can't put the sound clip here because of limitations with Blogger, but you can hear it in the video.

Finally, I'll talk about the Spell It game itself. Basically, Frog Dude runs and jumps over hurdles. If he eats the right words (you choose whether you want to target the words that are spelled correctly or those that aren't), he gets a speed boost and can win against Blue Frog Dude. Eat the wrong word or miss your target, and you don't get a speed boost.

A certain song about "eating it" comes to mind now...
Once you reach the finish line, you get a medal. You'll either get bronze, silver, or gold, depending on how many words you got right.

Now, here's the main problem I have with this game: you have to time everything perfectly. This means even if you're a hair off in your timing, a box will appear around the word and you won't get the speed boost. This is especially frustrating when you have longer words and you have to read them carefully to make sure they're spelled correctly. That takes so long that by the time you realize that it is spelled correctly, when you go to eat it, it won't count. And this tends to happen a lot for me.

As such, I've never been able to get a gold medal. The highest I've gotten is a silver medal. Obviously it's not because I can't spell, but simply because I don't have enough freaking time to see if the longer words are spelled right or not.

When you quit (which is a fantastic option by now), the same guy who welcomed you will say "Goodbye, see you soon!" Yeah right.

To be fair, this isn't the worst edutainment game I've played, but overall, it's just really, really boring. I can totally see why this wasn't one of Davidson's more successful series. Two of the five activities are at least somewhat enjoyable (Decode It and Unscramble It), but the rest are either boring or frustrating. This game gets a failing grade. Davidson, see me after class.

And bring a copy of Learning Voyage: Sand Trapped! with you. I imagine even that would be better than this, but I'd have to play it again to be sure.

Next time, I'm going to move on from computer games and talk about another old tape from my childhood: a sing-along tape by the Purple Balloon Players. I'm going to chance it and upload the songs to YouTube. Until then... (puts on the voice of the announcer guy) Goodbye, see you soon!


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Wario Land 4 Website!

Remember my rant on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine? Remember when I mentioned the Wario Land 4 website, which you can visit through that but it doesn't actually do anything?

Thanks to the power of Google, I recently discovered that someone recreated it. It's available at I figured I would give a more in-depth review of the classic site, which despite having people remember it, is still fairly obscure.

I'll start with a slight correction from my original post: one of the movies is Star Wario, not Starring Wario. That makes more sense, since it's actually a movie title pun. Can't believe I didn't make the connection until just now.

"I'm a-cryin' because Wario Land 4 is just... is a-just so... BEAUUUUUTIFUL!"
The exclusive stills and clips can be viewed by going to the Pyramid Theater (pictured above). In addition, there's Wario's Arcade, where you can play some games (all of which are also playable at and earn Wario Bucks...

"Sure, you're old enough, but are you BOLD enough?"
Greed School (or Greed $chool), where you can read an old Mario vs Wario comic and take a test to see how much you know about Wario Land 4...

"It's about time you learned something really useful!"
The Post Office, where you could subscribe to Nintendo Power...

A moment of silence... Okay, long enough. "I'm-a so cool! Hey!"
And Wario Mart, where you can spend your Wario Bucks on screensavers, wallpapers, a print-out fold-up car, and strategies for Wario Land 4 itself.

"The best! YOU can trust ME..."
In Greedville itself, there's also a statue you can click on, which causes Wario to sing his name in the style of "Figaro", and then cough.

As for the movies, I still wish I could see them again. Again, they're called "Star Wario" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Wario", and are and, respectively.

And that's about it. Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm still alive. My Spell-It Plus review should be coming later this week, I hope. After I'm done with that one, I have a few more computer games lined up, then some old tapes and a record I had as a kid, and finally, a book. For some reason I don't feel like being specific right now. I'll get to them when I get to them, but for now, I'm outta here. Next time, Spell-It Plus! for Macintosh. See ya then!


Friday, April 3, 2015

NumberMaze (at last)

I'm finally back, and I'm finally making that post about NumberMaze. I have fond memories of this game, because much like Learning Voyage, it was included in Classworks Gold. Also like Learning Voyage, I re-discovered it recently thanks to the power of Google.

Now, NumberMaze is not quite as obscure as Learning Voyage, by which I mean people other than me remember it. However, I still count it as a pretty obscure game, because it's not well-known by a large number of people. That may change soon, because a certain YouTube celebrity owns a copy and has told me that he may review it at some point. And during all of April, he's reviewing edutainment games.

But to him I say, "Ha! I beat you to it!" (Please note that I like the guy in question, and I respect his work.)

Now, onto the game itself. NumberMaze was made by Great Wave Software and released for the IBM PC/compatibles and the Macintosh in 1988 and 1990, with an updated re-release sometime in the mid-to-late 90's, adding support for Windows in addition to enhanced graphics and sound. There were other games in the series as well, such as Reading Maze, Decimal & Fraction Maze, and a sequel called NumberMaze Challenge (which was NOT used in Classworks, contrary to what I had said in an earlier post).

The game starts off with a name selection screen. As with a lot of edutainment games, you either choose from a list of names or add a new entry for yourself. When you add a new entry, there's also an option for a password.

No idea what the password does, by the way.
After selecting your name, the game (Mac version for me) opens with some beautiful PCM audio, followed by a beeping rendition of "Dance of the Reed Pipes" from the Nutcracker Suite.

So. Much. Nostalgia.
After this, you are greeted with the maze itself. Now, most of my screenshots feature a race car, but that's just because the computer kept choosing the race car. You can also get a horse, a mouse, and I think a few others, but I can't remember them now.

It's a-maze-ing... that I'm using that overused pun.
Your goal is to make it to the castle at the end of the maze, but since you're surrounded by walls, that's impossible, right? Wrong! See those yellow walls? Touch them with your game piece (I think that's what they call it), and you're greeted with a counting problem (on the first levels, anyway).

Suddenly I'm hungry for strawberries.
After you type in the correct answer, you'll get a piece of something to get past the obstacle (usually a ladder or staircase of some kind, although occasionally you'll have to open a locked door or clear away some rubble, and every so often the wall itself will open up).

Not pictured: the fact that this was on Counting B.
After you make it to the castle, it opens up and you're greeted with a screen showing the contents of your castle, and a beeping rendition of another song from the Nutcracker Suite, "Russian Dance" (also known as Danse Russe). For some reason, you don't get anything added to the castle after beating the first level, so you move on to the second level.

Not pictured: anything in the castle.
Now some of the walls are blue. These are locked walls. You need to move your game piece over to a key, then unlock one of the walls with it. After this, you can touch the wall and solve math problems like normal.

They're blue, da ba dee, da ba die...
Beating the second level actually does give you something to add to the castle.

Your swords are enough.
After answering enough problems, you get a certificate saying that you're a total math nerd... er, saying that you've cleared the difficulty level you were on. You can print it if you still have an old computer and an old printer, but printing from an older OS is difficult when you use an emulator like I do.

Um... count the strawberries?
The third level spices things up a bit more: you have to collect books in order to get rid of the walls surrounding the castle before you can actually get to it.

Don't ask me how books can get rid of walls.
And that's about it. Rinse and repeat. I'm pretty sure you eventually move on to different subjects for the problems (I think addition is one, and I know it also has everyone's favorite: word problems). Unfortunately, I got pretty bored by this point, and I didn't want to play any more... at least not for the blog. There may be an ending. Who knows? I don't.

Oh yeah, I should also mention a few things: the version I used for this review is in color (duh) and doesn't talk. There's also a talking version, at least for the Mac. The Mac version of Talking NumberMaze uses the built-in MacinTalk voices. There's also a monochrome version, and the color version may appear in monochrome if you don't set the colors properly (16 colors). Also, since it's such an old game, I recommend using Basilisk II rather than SheepShaver.

Let me tell you also, this game was a pain to get working properly. I would love to own a physical copy, but it's rare and demands a ridiculous price on Amazon. I am very jealous of the YouTube celebrity I mentioned earlier.

But that's neither here nor there. I need to mention something before I go: I'm actually not running out of obscure computer games! The next one that I have planned is the Mac version of Davidson's Spell-It Plus. Hopefully I'll remember the others I had in mind relatively soon. Anyways, see ya then!


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Old Websites and the Internet Archive

I know, I know, you were expecting NumberMaze today. Don't worry, it's coming, but first I wanted to talk about old websites.

There's this organization called the Internet Archive. You may have heard of them recently for adding a bunch of old MS-DOS games and arcade games that you can play in your browser. However, before they were known for that, they made this thing called the Wayback Machine. This allows you to browse old websites as they looked back in the day.

Now, even though the thing has been around for years, it's still far from complete. There are a bunch of obscure websites that are either not archived at all, or not archived completely. This is what I wanted to talk about today.

I'll start off by talking about websites for old video games, specifically Nintendo games (so no pictures for them, sorry). The first one I'm gonna mention is the site for Wario Land 4. Visiting the site starts you off with a loading screen that's very reminiscent of the famous Super Mario Land 2 commercial (although Wario doesn't actually say "Obey Wario, destroy Mario!").

Wario greets you by saying, "Welcome to my town! Elegant, lovely, ain't it? Come on, time's a-wasting! Enter one of my faaaaaaaaantastic attractions! Heh heh heh heh heh heh!" If you click on him, he'll say "What do I look like, some kind of [indistinguishable]?"

Some of the more memorable parts for me were the games and the movies. The games are all playable on, but sadly, it seems that no one else remembers the movies, and they were removed even before the site itself was removed. The movies were "Starring Wario" (, and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Wario" (

The other Nintendo website I remember was the one for WarioWare Inc.: Mega Microgames. It contained fan-submitted games, as well as a few original games; a map of Diamond City; and an interview with Wario himself about his new game. As you played games, if you won you would receive three diamonds, and if you lost you would lose three diamonds, with Wario saying "The Wario giveth, and the Wario taketh away. So there!"

Related to that, there was the WarioWare Mega Party Games website. This one was actually divided up into different areas, and you would have to (I think) find keys to unlock doors so that you could unlock other content.

Nintendo had a TON of websites, and it would take too long to go through them all here. But the most obscure website that I can think of that I remember would have to be the old website for the Blaster games, You start out at a menu with a few options: the only two I remember are Blaster's Universe (which I'll get to in a bit) and one that let you play a demo of the Math Blaster game from that time.

The Blaster's Universe option played a song (not the theme song for Blaster's Universe, interestingly) and then you'd receive a transmission from Illitera, the antagonist from Reading Blaster. She informs you that she's kidnapped MEL, and challenges you to find him. To do this, you have to visit three different planets.

One of them takes you to a platforming game. I'm a sucker for platformers, so I loved this one (I'd probably hate it now, though). Next is an Asteroids clone. Finally, you'd have a code-breaking challenge; that was probably the only game that actually had some educational value, interestingly enough. After each game, you find out something about "the Hidden Planet".

Then the Hidden Planet is revealed, and you discover that this is where Illitera has taken MEL. You have to put MEL back together, but this is no easy task. This was the most confusing of the games, because you had no real clue what you were supposed to put where. The only hint was "Listen to what MEL has to say when you put a piece in", but this was unhelpful. He would either spout some scientific/mathematical nonsense, or he'd sing "I'm a Little Teapot". Yes, really. And no, this didn't help at all.

Once you put him back together, you take him back to the ship, where you discover that he's been reprogrammed. His eyes get wide...

MEL, are you okay?

Then they get all swirly and Illitera taunts you, saying that "You'll sit, stay, and beg once you find out what I've got planned!"

"...Just as soon as I beat my high score."

She laughs and... that's it. You then get a chance to play the games on a higher difficulty. I never actually did this, but I would assume that you would get to tie off the story by doing this.

Sadly, the screenshots I have here are the only things that remain of this site. The Wayback Machine only has a "You need Flash 5" page, even when you have the latest version of Flash installed. My theory is that it does this because it's trying to load the contents of the main page, but it can't, and the website assumes that it can't load it because it can't render it because it doesn't have Flash, so it throws up that screen.

I could go on about old nostalgic (and obscure) websites that aren't archived, but I think I've said enough for now. So, anyone else remember these websites? What other old websites do you remember? Any websites you'd recommend I visit on the Wayback Machine? Please let me know, as I'd be very interested to see what you guys remember.

Here's a video to go along with this post (I made it before writing the post, and decided in the middle that it was relevant to the blog).

Next time, I'm actually gonna talk about NumberMaze. For real, I promise.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Finally Getting Around to Stuff

I apologize once again for not having a post in a long time. See, this is why I don't like to make promises: stuff comes up and I can't actually get around to it. With me being in school, I haven't had time to make a blog post. But this will change. My schedule will be much less hectic this week than it has been for a while. Which means...

At long last, I will make a post on KidPhonics! ...Or at least I would, if I would have a lot to say about it. But I don't. Honestly, I played it a few times and realized: it's boring. Like, really, really boring. So boring I wouldn't even play it for the nostalgia.

So with that out of the way, I'll give any additional basic thoughts here (no pictures because I'm lazy, sorry). The "Sound Buster" game is probably the most fun, just because you get to hear the "busters" talk in amusing accents. The "Word Builder" game--which is a part of the Sound Buster game too, by the way--is pretty boring. Build the right word, then make a nonsensical sentence. That's about it. The songs (yes, there are songs) are incredibly annoying. I especially despise the "cowboy" song, sung by a Pat Buttram wannabe.

So that's KidPhonics. Next will be, as I promised, NumberMaze. And boy oh boy, that's gonna be a fun one. After that, I've sort of run out of obscure computer and video games to cover, so I'll either be taking yet another hiatus or I'll move on to different media.

Like music. I've got a few things of music lined up, but because of copyright, I may not be able to do all of them. This is unfortunate, but true. I say this because I know that for one of the ones I want to cover, the company that made the songs still exists, and you can actually buy some of them on iTunes. On the other hand though, I still want to talk about the songs because they're absolutely ridiculous.

As for the others, well, you'll see. Or hear, in this case. One of them may (probably will) surprise you. But that's for another time. Next time, it's NumberMaze. Catch ya later!


Monday, February 2, 2015


I'm going to start by saying I'm sorry for missing last week. I simply had too many other things to do, and they were all school-related. I'm shooting for the KidPhonics review for some time later this week, and then after that, I'm going to do a review of yet another Mac game, NumberMaze by Great Wave Software. My good friend Luke will probably be looking forward to that one, as he told me he's played the sequel, NumberMaze Challenge.

Now, as for when I'll be doing these posts... I'm going to shoot for the middle of the week for KidPhonics, and weekend for NumberMaze, to make up for missing last week. No promises this time though.

After that, I'm... not really sure what else I could do. I do have a few ideas, but they would require more extensive reviews (read: more time than just a week), so I'm open to suggestions. I'll post a list of guidelines when I get around to it, but as a general rule of thumb, I'm limiting it to computer and video games that are available in digital format, and abandonware only.

But yes, I am going to find the time to do a review of KidPhonics this week, and like I said, I'm going to try to do a review of NumberMaze as well, but no guarantees. If I can't this week, then I'll do it next week for sure. So take care, and I'll see ya then!


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Franklin's Activity Center!

(UPDATE: Thank goodness. The copyright nonsense I was dealing with before has been resolved, and it only took 2 days.)

I decided this time that I would make a video, rather than just taking screenshots. This is because, well, I just thought a video would be more interesting. Now, unfortunately, there were a few problems with this:

1. A few of the activities (the dinosaur bone collecting game and the "Frogger" clone) did not work at all in SheepShaver for some reason. I'll try and look into it, but I am planning on making a video of it using VirtualBox or VMware or something like that.

2. I forgot about an activity (one I've never actually played before). All I know about it is that it involves clicking on a book; I would assume it's just storybooks or something. (EDIT: I just tried it and it turns out it's just the swap puzzles.)

3. Due to annoying circumstances, I don't have a decent video editor on my computer. This means I'm either limited to booting from an Ubuntu Studio flash drive I made and using OpenShot (which is too inconvenient for me), or trying to use YouTube's video editor (which is a piece of crap). Also, I recorded the commentary separately, after making the video, because of stuff I won't go into here, and YouTube's video editor won't let me add my own audio.

But enough about that, here's the video!

Now, onto some news that I mentioned in my lost audio commentary. First of all, I now have a good .ISO image for KidPhonics (thanks to HomeStarRunnerTron of Macintosh Garden), so expect that to be my next blog post.

Next is a bit more boring: I have a new screenshot from Learning Voyage: Sand Trapped! now. It's a color screenshot from the clown-dunking game, but it's a bit tilted. For copyright reasons, I'm not going to upload it; it was tilted on purpose, and it was used in a video by the Classworks team. Speaking of which, yes, Classworks still exists, and it's all online, and it's now being handled by Curriculum Advantage. That's a rather boring name, to be honest, but they have not ruined it by making it boring. What they have done is added an achievements system (seriously, what is it with educational websites having achievements all of a sudden?), made a version for high school (which is a bit odd, although it may have existed before and I never knew about it), and updated one of the games (the current Classworks uses NumberMaze Challenge instead of the original NumberMaze... I think).

Oh! And speaking of Learning Voyage, I'm still on the lookout for the games (Sand Trapped especially), so if anyone comes across a copy, please let me know. And if you find a copy for Macintosh, please put it on Macintosh Garden. I would really appreciate it.

Well, that's about enough from me! See you next time, when I cover Davidson's KidPhonics, aka Davidson's Learning Center Series: Phonics. Til then!


Monday, January 19, 2015

Bad news and good news

All right, first the bad news. So I'm a little bit ticked off right now. Why would that be? Well, the short answer is I won't be able to do a review of KidPhonics in the near future, as I thought I would.

Now for the long answer.

So, as is the case with many of the games and stuff I've talked about, I don't actually own a physical copy of KidPhonics. I managed to come across a disc image of it through... questionably legal means. Now, here's the thing: it was the Mac version. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course; there's a wonderful Mac emulator called SheepShaver that I use for all my old-school Mac needs. It was a .SIT file, to be used with the StuffIt Expander program and nothing else. I have a copy of it running on SheepShaver, and it works well enough. I expanded the file and discovered that the expanded file was not in the correct format: instead of being a .ISO image, it was a .TXT file. It was "[name omitted to protect privacy of website I went to].iso.txt".

So, okay, obviously I couldn't use this. Fixing it was easy enough, I just changed the extension so that the ".TXT" part wasn't there, and it worked fine. ...Is what I would have said if it were true. But nope! It gave me an error that it wasn't recognized or couldn't be read or something like that.

So, I went to the site where I downloaded it originally, and I noticed there was an alternative download link. Unfortunately, by "alternative", they meant a file-sharing site where I had to specify twice that I didn't want priority downloading, and then it asked me to either sign in with social networking, or create an account with them. Nothing doing.

So yeah, unless I happen to come across either a genuine copy or an ISO image from a different source, there will be no KidPhonics review in the near future. This is why I said in my post from two weeks ago that I didn't want to make promises.

But fear not! The good news is all is not lost! I have a backup plan: Franklin's Activity Center! I'm very excited about this one, since I actually have a physical copy of it, so I can actually capture photos of it (and possibly video too). It's especially exciting since there are no screenshots or anything from this game online. That means, of course, that for the first time in the history of this blog, I will be providing the first online screenshots for it!

So, are you guys excited? Anyone else remember this game? What other obscure computer games do you think I should review? I'm always open to suggestions.

Expect Franklin's Activity Center later this week. See ya then!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More info on Learning Voyage

(Please note that the information from this post is outdated. A more recent and accurate post can be found here.)

Ladies and gentlemen, it seems I was wrong about a few things in my last blog post. I am here to correct those things, because I've found enough stuff to warrant a new blog post about it.

First off, the titles. The games were not, in fact, divided up by subject. Learning Voyage Grade 3 had games for both reading and math, and same thing with Grade 4.

Next, I still get confused about publishers and developers. So I have no idea whether Learningway/Learning Way/Learning Ways published the Learning Voyage games, or simply developed them, and in addition, the game is copyrighted by Davidson and Associates (the company behind the Blaster games).

And finally, more about the titles. Not only were they not divided up by subject, but they had official names as well. For example, Grade 3 was titled "Learning Voyage: Sand Trapped!"...

Excited Game Title!

And Grade 4 was titled "Learning Voyage: Swamped!"

Who ARE these people, anyway?
I'm almost sad that these were the only games in this series. Almost sad.

Now, while I don't have any color screenshots of the clown dunking game I mentioned last time, I have a color screenshot of a different game I also remember: a game where you pick the verb from a sentence in order to get a monkey to climb up a tree so that he can dive into a puddle of water and GOOD GRIEF THESE GAMES WERE RIDICULOUS. *takes deep breath* Okay. I'm better. Here's a screenshot for your viewing pleasure:

The first thing that comes to mind is: MONKEY BOOOOOOOYS!
Like with the clown game, if you answer enough questions correctly, you also get to choose how the monkey dives.

Diving in monochrome because that's what I have.
Oh yeah, something's missing from this one: Game Tokens. Don't know what they would be used for since I've never played this game outside of ClassWorks.

But I can assume from this screenshot of a hub from Swamped! (that's the Grade 4 one) that they would be used for something extra, some sort of prize or advancing the story or something. Here ya go:

From left to right: the daughter, the robot, the dad, the mom, and the son.
So there we go! I'm so close to solving the mystery of these games (well, a mystery for me at least), and now all that's left is to find them in some way or another. For my next post, I'm going to talk about another Davidson game called KidPhonics, and this time I'll use screenshots I take myself instead of from online. I'm certainly looking forward to it, but I just need to find the time. I'll aim for a week this time, but I may not be able to. Either way, I'll see ya then!


Minor update: I have now created a TV Tropes page for the games; go check it out and feel free to give it some Wiki Magic love.