Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain Educational categoryPuzzle category

Title screen from The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain

Quick, name a great edutainment game.

No, not The Oregon Trail again. Think harder.

The game you just thought about probably taught a single subject really, really well. Classics like Carmen Sandiego, Math Blaster, or even Mario’s Time Machine all focused on a single topic – geography, math, history, etc. – and drove it into children’s skulls with the hawkishnses of a car salesman, hoping they’d retain at least a little bit of whatever subject.

The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain is a little more ambitious if generalized in scope. It tackles the subject of brain functions, trying to expand players’ minds in comprehension, logic, spatial cognition, and linguistics. Not only does it work, it’s fun, and I had just as good of a time playing it as a twentysomething as I did as a hyperactive kid. » Read more about The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain

Lighthouse: The Dark Being Adventure category

Title screen from Lighthouse: The Dark Being

The company Sierra On-Line was once one of the biggest names in the adventure game genre. Eventually, their style of unforgiving third-person adventure stories fell out of favor, replaced by a new style of contemplative, first-person adventure games, popularized in 1994 by Myst. With the popularity of the genre shifting, they took one shot at making an adventure game in this new Myst-inspired style.

And it was, blatantly, inspired by Myst. Jon Bock, designer and art director of Lighthouse: The Dark Being, told me via email how the project got started. “[Sierra president] Ken Williams called me into his office one day, pulled out a copy of Myst and said; ‘Can you do this?'” Bock recalled. “I said yes, and the game went into development.”

On its surface, Lighthouse reads like it was designed by a committee trying to nail down what made Myst successful. You visit a bizarre uncharted world where you solve complicated puzzles in open-ended locales with complex mythology and lots of journals to read. In spite of that copycat-ery, Lighthouse manages to leave its own mark on the genre — partially because it manages the awkward feat of carrying Sierra’s frustrating, player-hostile house style over to this new style of adventure game, but also because of the world it creates, filled with risk, conflict, and a huge thematic swing for the fences that few Myst clones attempted. » Read more about Lighthouse: The Dark Being