Gertrude's Secrets is, in brief, what you get when you take Warren Robinett's Adventure for the VCS (right down to the quacking dragon-duck!) and turn it into an educational object-sorting game for a younger audience than the earlier Robot Odyssey and Rocky's Boots.
Gertrude is a benevolent goose who maintains what might be considered a dungeon: a complex of chambers containing puzzles which yield secrets -- treasures -- upon completion. But instead of monsters, the rooms contain something much scarier to a child: education in the fields of logic, pattern-matching (of colours, shapes and textures) and sorting, categorized internally as Array Puzzles, Loop Puzzles and Train Puzzles.
The player interacts with the game world by moving a cursor around the screen with keyboard or joystick, picking up and dropping objects in appropriate places to make things happen -- triggering puzzles or attempting to solve them. The puzzles gradually ramp up in difficulty, and a wide selection of whimsical trophies are awarded. To prolong gameplay enjoyment and the exploration of the play environment, Robinett's trademark easter eggs are in the eaves, as well as UI manipulation well before its time, allowing players to "skin" the game with different tilesets or manually edit individual tiles.
In playing Gertrude's Secrets one tends to feel like it is some sort of early precursor to Rocky's Boots and Robot Odyssey. This game is similar to the others in that the player controls a rectangle that can carry one object at a time and game play revolves around placing objects where they belong. However, when the truth is reveled that this game came out years after Rocky's Boots and Robot Odyssey, one has to wonder what happened. Gertrude's Secrets is not a bad game by any means, but compared to its predecessors it is a much simpler game, which considering the complexity of the others may not be a bad thing.
To start Gertrude's Secrets you need to take the goose Gertrude from her nest and drop her in a puzzle room. Gertrude then brings in the pieces that you will need to put in the correct places. If you put a piece in the wrong place it will fall out. If you finish the entire puzzle Gertrude rewards you with a "prize" which is kept in your trophy room. Accumulating all the trophies is the name of the game.
The puzzles are generally simple and quick to solve. The "array puzzles" involve arranging pieces in a grid according to shape along the rows and color along the columns. "Train puzzles" involve ordering the pieces according to whether they need to be once or twice different from the piece before them in the train. "Loop puzzles" involve guessing Gertrude's hidden rule for what goes inside and outside the boxes and gets more complicated by having two nested loops where inside the joined area the pieces need to conform to two rules.
If you want a few quick and easy puzzles, then Gertrude's Secrets is a welcome diversion and sure to be a lot of fun. But beware, as you see your treasure room get stocked your instinct to collect may kick in and you'll find yourself unable to quit until you've unlocked all of Gertrude's Secrets!
The Learning Company developed a number of excellent but sadly underrated children's titles in the mid-80s based on the same engine that combines ease of use with fun educational puzzles. Gertrude's Secrets is one such forgotten gem in this series.
Designed for younger gamers than the better-known The Robot Odyssey, Gertrude's Secrets helps 4-7 years old toddlers develop basic shape and pattern recognition skill and fundamental logic via 7 different puzzle rooms, each of which features a variation of the same theme. Array puzzles, for example, require player to complete the sequence with appropriate shapes based on other sequences, while Train puzzles require that every pair of connected boxes contain pieces with different shape or color. Contrary to what one expects, the game's limitation of only a few colors and shapes do not make the game repetitive because each puzzle is different enough from one another, and some of them can be quite challenging. Solving each room (which has several puzzles of the same type) yields a treasure to be collected in the Treasure Room.
In addition to fun gameplay, the game also includes an outstanding tutorial and "Storeroom" feature where players can pick up new sets of pieces to use in puzzles, and even edit old ones if they become too familiar already. The interface, as in The Robot Odyssey is as intuitive as it gets: everything is done by pressing the SPACEBAR key. In short, Gertrude's Secrets is a great game that even decades later is still better than many CD-ROM edutainment titles today. Highly recommended for 4-7 years old!
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