This point n' click adventure game is actually an edutainment (entertainment leading to education) title developed by Sierra, who were also responsible for other games such as the Eco quest and Dr. Brain series. The object of this game is to help a little girl called Pepper, solve puzzles based on history and logic, so that she can fix the mess caused by Dr. Fred's time machine. At certain points in the game, the player is even allowed to control her pet dog, Lockjaw.
Pepper Pumpernickel is a young reporter-in-training (read: obnoxious, nosy child) and the proud owner of a pitbull with Groucho Marx's eyebrows. She loves learning new things and getting the scoop on everyone and everything she encounters (usually by spying on people). Nevertheless she is charming and funny and somehow manages to get everyone onto her side almost straight away. However, she makes one fatal mistake: she spies on her evil uncle, who dwells in the attic and messes around with Science. (Can this have been stolen from a book by C.S. Lewis? So it would appear.) Her little indiscretion was unfortunate, as Uncle Fred considers her an incorrigible little wart to begin with. In fact, Uncle Fred is an evil misanthrope and closet British sympathiser (gasp!) and has hatched an evil plan (did I mention that he's evil?) to reduce Benjamin Franklin to a weak, sad, snivelling hippy with no interest whatsoever in, say, charging Leyden jars with electricity in thunderstorms or standing up to King George III. As soon as Uncle's plan goes into action, though, who should fall through his dirty window but his nasty niece and her putrid puppy?
A strange chain of events leads to the accidental hurling of Pepper and her mutt into the Philadelphia of the past. She finds to her horror that the hard-working pioneers have given up the daily grind and taken to playing Frisbee in the town square. Benjamin Franklin, having distributed a manifesto on Personal Mellowness, now spends all his time in a hot-tub of his own design, wearing love beads and steaming gently. It's up to Pepper to extricate him, wrinkly toes and all, to complete his famous suicidal kite-flying experiment and restore history. Why a chocolate bonbon recipe is involved I can't say.
Pepper is a worthy successor to Sierra's early educational games - like Mixed-up Mother Goose, for example - and will have you happily reliving your childhood. It has plenty of fun features to keep kids interested: Want to shock Ben Franklin with a lightning bolt? Answer all the quiz questions correctly! It has the added caveat that, should you lose, Great Britain will continue to rule the United States as the American War of Independence will never have happened. (As this is apparently the most horrifying outcome of any computer game, at least according to Pepper, I made sure to fail several times on purpose just to see the Union Jack float down behind the White House and have Pepper moan disconsolately about having to sing God Save the Queen at school the next day. For some reason, this cheered me up immensely.)
A nice feature of this game is the point-and-click interface, exactly like Laura Bow 2 but without all the blood. Even the dog has his own inventory, although this solely consists of the one object he can carry in his mouth and some fleas. In fact, the best part of all is playing sections of the game as Pepper's creepy, sniggering dog. His name is Lockjaw (which is just an overly cryptic way of calling him Rusty, I suppose) and he's downright feisty. He can chew through almost anything, possibly because he has teeth like a shark's, and this includes the ankles of any rat-faced henchmen he may encounter. He fears absolutely nothing, except perhaps a bubble bath.
The player is provided with a truth button icon in the second act, which can be clicked on various people and things to ascertain whether they are a true reflection of the period or just a figment of the programmers' overwrought imaginations. Some very arbitrary objects have hilarious comments attached to them, and there's a lot of commentary about the customs and usages of the time period, which is excellent for kids who are learning about American history. I also found a funny Easter egg about halfway through the game when I clicked on the dial of a safe and got kicked out into DOS due to an "out of handles" error. I hadn't saved for quite a while (so be warned, to avoid cursing), but fortunately you don't have to go back and start all the way from the beginning - you can choose which act to start in, and the game kindly provides you with items in your inventory from previous acts that you will need. And if you manage to get caught by evil henchmen, never fear: there's a Try Again option that lets you repeat the last scene.
I give this game a 3.5 - while it's nowhere near as well-conceived as The Search for Cetus, it's exponentially better than Mixed-Up Fairy Tales.
Part of the Sierra Discovery Series
One of the most underrated Sierra games, Pepper's Adventures is educational game at its best. Help the inquisitive Pepper undo the damage caused by Dr. Fred's time machine. Innovations abound, from the fun and logical educational puzzles based on actual historical facts, to "question mark" icon that help you discover asynchronous elements caused by Dr. Fred, and the ability to play as Pepper's dog Lockjaw during some episodes (with appropriate action icons). It's also difficult enough for adult gamers to enjoy. Highly recommended.
People who downloaded Pepper's Adventures in Time (a.k.a. Twisty History) have also downloaded:
Museum Madness, EcoQuest 2: Lost Secret of the Rainforest, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? CD-ROM, Mario Teaches Typing, Where in The USA is Carmen Sandiego? Deluxe Edition, Oregon Trail Deluxe, Peter Pan, Mixed Up Fairy Tales
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