Castle Explorer effectively portrays life in a medieval castle and the surrounding town. Ten areas of exploration include locales such as the gatehouse, Lower, Middle and Upper Baileys, Craft Workshops, Luxury Quarters, Banqueting Rooms and the Town Gate among others. Each section can be explored close-up via mouse click and four special 3D rooms are offered for viewing as well.
While in close-up mode, you simply click on an area or item to learn what's going on in that section of the picture. Information isn't always confined to specific areas -- selecting Craft Workshops, for example, will show many more crafts located in the Upper Bailey with its crossbow maker, tailor, blacksmith and cabinetmaker.
The game contains a huge amount of information available through the pictures in the castle scenes or in books in the castle library. Many of the pictures cross-link to the books, which augment information on the scene being viewed. For instance, the book dealing with work and trades also has information on the role of women in both the castle and town.
The 3D rooms offer an opportunity to view items how they appeared or were used during the medieval age. Some rooms may be empty at times but, if you're spying, you receive advice from the jailer before entering. If you choose to play as the maid, you must perform normal castle chores such as polishing, dumping trash, turning the spit, adding logs or turf blocks to the fires, brushing down clothes and so forth to avoid suspicion. When asked to answer questions by castle inhabitants prior to entering a room, you have the option to look up the information.
Although generally effective, sound can be a significant problem in Castle Explorer in a few areas such as the picture close-up screens where a very loud, irritating chugging or buzzing noise is heard. The suggested fix, full installation on the hard drive, did not solve the problem nor did anything suggested by a phone call to the tech support staff. While not all players may encounter the problem, the existence of the glitch was acknowledged.
Anyone who needs information on medieval life or simply enjoys tales of knights on horseback, kings and barons or jesters and fools, will find plenty to like in Castle Explorer. The extensive amount of information is presented in an entertaining and interesting way and includes enough material for several school reports or many days of leisurely exploring and reading.
Graphics: It's hard to believe how much information and activity is packed into the simple drawings and the 3D rooms are excellent, though many seem much too clean and open to be real rooms in a real castle.
Sound: On the whole, the sound is excellent -- clear and easy to hear. However, a loud buzzing or snapping sound in certain areas is extremely distracting and makes concentration difficult, bringing down the overall quality.
Enjoyment: There's just enough gameplay to offset the predominant informational nature of the game. Material is presented clearly and in an entertaining manner, making the game a joy to use and learning fun.
Replay Value: The sheer volume of information assures replay usage as learning the intricacies of the medieval castle lifestyle could take months. As for gameplay, once both disguises are used, there isn't much reason to play the spy mission again since the location of the map pieces don't change. But, there's plenty of information to see and learn.
Castle Explorer is an educational title aimed at children aged around eight or nine and over. Dorling Kindersley have used the medium of the game to show what a functioning castle would look like and explain about medieval life. The player can explore the castle in two ways. By entering honestly the title this becomes an interactive educational title. However the king does not trust baron Mortimer who owns the castle and wants information. By accepting the king's mission and entering as a spy the player enters the game where they must search the castle for pieces of a secret map and find the answer to three question. Whichever path they take they will explore the castle as either a maid or a knight, meet important people such as the jailer, the alchemist, the baron, his cook and others. If successful the player is presented with a certificate from the king at the end of the gameThe exploration is based on Dorling Kindersley's books with detailed cutaway drawings. Certain locations have interactive video sequences with live actors against computer generated backgrounds. Some of these contain simple tasks to be performed such as cleaning armour or putting bread into an oven while in others the player is asked questions to ensure that they are not a spy.
The game is backed up by a detailed reference section where any unfamiliar medieval word can be looked up, there are also 'Trails' by which the player can look into specific aspects of medieval life, warfare, crime, or society etc in detail. These contain the answers to the questions asked in the game.
This title uses Apple's QuickTime video and is entirely mouse controlled
People who downloaded Castle Explorer have also downloaded:
Carmen Sandiego: Word Detective, Microsoft Encarta '95, Crusader: Adventure Out of Time, Microsoft Ancient Lands, Explorers of the New World, Capitol Hill, How Would You Survive, Pilgrim: Faith as a Weapon
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