Castle of Dr Brain logo

You're unemployed, broke and about to take a job serving fries at the local burger bar when you spy an ad in the local paper: lab assistant needed - will pay exorbitant amounts for the right candidate; apply in person to Dr Brain. Now you've heard of the Doc's reputation for being slightly off his head, but what the heck, anything's better than salting chips all day long.

So armed with your GCSEs you head up the hill to the Dr's. Before long, you realise this is going to be no ordinary interview and set about the task of solving the mysteries of the castle.

This latest release from Sierra, an educational adventure on four disks, could have racking your brains for house and then turning to your irritatingly logical five-year-old cousin for assistance.

The ultimate aim is to work out your way around the toon-style castle, solving logic puzzles to open doors, finding your way around 3D mazes in an 'elevator' and using LOGO to program confused robots.

Both the game and the free puzzle book are set out in such a way that when desperate, you can look up a clue or part of the solution to the conundrum being set. In the game this involves spending Hint Coins, every time you solve a puzzle one Hint Coin is added to your inventory. Difficulty levels add a nice twist to the game play: at any point in the game you can choose to play novice, standard or expert.

Sierra games are usually a bit slow (an accelerated Amiga is recommended) and this is no exception, but at least it gives your brain a chance to relax while the next installment loads. Don't be put off by, it's well worth taking a look at.

Guter Rat ist teuer

Castle of Dr Brain logo

Corey Cole hat zusammen mit seiner Frau Lori die "Quest for Glory" Adventures (früher: "Hero's Quest") gestrickt, jetzt wollte der Man endlich mal was alleine machen - herausgekommen ist dieses knobel-Schlößchen.

Wer bei Sierra-Titeln grundsätzlich blind zuschlägt, sobald sie endlich vom PC umgesetzt wurden, dürfte sich in diesem Fall gründlich ärgern. Hier gibt's zwar auch wider die typische Iconleiste am oberen Screenrand und darunter mehr oder weniger liebevoll konvertierte VGA-Bildchen - aber der Rest?

Die ganze Angelegenheit ist weder besonders abenteuerlich noch übermäßig unterhaltsam, sondern schlicht ein auf vier Disketten ausgewalztes Rätselheftchen!

Bereits an der Pforte muß man Senso spielen, um eingelassen zu werden, und auch im Innern des total verrätselten Anwesens verbergen sich hinter jeder Türe neue Knobeleien.

Insgesamt 28 Scrabble- und Mastermind-Varianten, Zahlenpuzzles und ähnliche Logeleien gilt es zu absolvieren - mal abgesehen davon, daß viele Aufgaben penetrant an Mathematik-Unterricht erinnern, sind Denkspielchen dieser Art heute wirklich mega-out. Sowas hat jeder PD-Anbieter dutzendfach im Angebot, vielleicht nicht so professionell präsentiert, aber dafür wesentlich billiger.

Zudem ist die Präsentation hier gar nicht sooo schrecklich professionell: Die Musik ist toll, bei den Effekten läßt's schon nach, und die Rätsel-Grafiken sehen längst nicht so berauschend aus wie die Zwischenbilder.

Die Maussteuerung ist wie üblich gut und die Diskwechselei hält sich ganz Sierra-untypisch in Grenzen. Aber die "Quest for Glory"-Serie ist halt trotzdem besser... (mm)

Castle of Dr Brain logo

There's nothing to beat a tasty bit of puzzley edutainment.

Imagine you're taking part in the Crystal Maze, but there's no Richard O'Brien, no cackling band of middleclass, middle management types all shouting different instructions at you and you don't have to wear a sweatsuit in a used bin bag. Sounds good? Well throw in (what seems like) a three hour wait between each puzzle and a control system that makes those robot arm lucky dip thingies at the seaside look advanced and you've just about got the recipe for The Castle of Doctor Brain.

Now let's see: puzzles, slow loading times, muddy controls... yep, it's a Sierra adventure. But there are a couple of differences this time. It's an educational game designed to introduce kids to some basic scientific principles, but it's no doddle. No way.

Even on the novice level, some of the puzzles are a fair old challenge. So, unless you've got a photographic memory, a pen and paper are essential to make notes and keep track of where you are in mazes.

Basically, it forces you to think. Very hard. In fact, if you buy it for your kids you could find yourself spending ages in front of the screen trying to help them out and getting hopelessly frustrated as well.

OK, so the mechanics of the thing can be downright irritating, but, if you're the sort that likes working out logic puzzles, it does provide a tough challenge in an entertaining and intriguing environment and you could find it as much fun as your kids will.

Gone is the normal convoluted Sierra plot - usually packed with all sorts of half-baked SF ideas or the most hackneyed of fantasy cliches - in which you have to work out what the hell is going on before tedium forces your brain to shut down.

It's replaced by a series of IQ-test-type puzzles linked together by a pretty loose basic premise. You are unemployed and Dr Brain is looking for tis lab assistant so you go for the job. You arrive at his castle for an interview and have to undergo a series of tests before you even get to meet him. (Rather like the way we check out people for jobs with AMIGA POWER - Ed.) These include things like sliding tiles to get them in the correct order, code-breaking, finding your way through 3D mazes, that sort of thing.

For every puzzle you get right you receive hint coins which can be used later on to help you out if you get into difficulties. Also, things earned in early puzzles may be of use in later ones. The control system is pretty much the same as for all Sierra adventures, and you can look at things, pick them up, use them, etc. But you don't actually have much of a choice about where you go or what order you do things in. Interaction with other characters is also pretty limited, so it's not really an adventure at all. You just go from one room to the next completing the puzzles in order.

But while some of the puzzles are presented as they would be ina book - word grids, for example - others are wrapped up in more traditional adventure-style trappings. The robot heads, which control an electronic arm that has to pick things up - and you have to do the programming - are an especially good example of this approach,

The graphics vary from the amusing and impressive to serviceable and downright obstructive. The 3D mazes are especially bad presented - you can hardly work out what are walls and what aren't, and some of the word grids are so hideous they're almost impossible to look at for more than a few seconds at a time. But there are some nice touches and some witty bits of animation, just to balance things out a bit.

The only other drawback is that it's not a very large game, and all the difficulty levels present you with the same problems - the harder levels just give you fewer hints of throw a couple more industrial-sized spanners into the works - which doesn't exactly encourage you to play again when you've played it once on an easy level.

So if you want to expand your kids' minds this is no bad way of going about it. Just be prepared to throw a quick party or have some cinema tickets ready to keep them amused while the thing is loading.

Castle of Dr Brain logo

Steve Keen puts his nose to the grindstone and examines Sierra's latest brain-straining puzzler.

Corey Cole is the man behind such award-winning puzzlers as The Quest For Glory series. This is his latest teasing adventure and, although you won't find it as taxing as his others, you're guaranteed to have just as much fun.

The titular Dr. Brain is an eccentric scientist who specializes in the weird and wonderful. He transforms everyday objects into automated models and experiments in all things bizarre. As luck would have it he's in need of a lab assistant and is advertising in a local paper for one. All applicants must apply in person and complete a series of mind-bending puzzles that the good Doctor has spread throughout his mysterious home.

The puzzles themselves are a mixture of the mathematical, logical, practical, and miscellaneous fun. Anyone with an inbred hatred of maths needn't fear, though, as the problems involving numbers are quite well disguised and presented in such a way you don't realize that you're actually doing them.

Some old favorites such as the magic square (where you have to fill in a 3x3 cube with numbers from one to nine making all the rows add up to the same number) brush shoulders with more diverse tasks. Constructing your own circuit boards and solving binary problems as well as negotiating mazes are all reminiscent of TV's The Crystal Maze or perhaps more of its older BBC cousin, The Adventure Game (remember that?).

The manual declares that this is a game for ages twelve to adult and this seems correct. On one hand, the appearance of the game and its graphics have a child-like charm, but the atmosphere created and the deviousness of some of the puzzles can easily lift the product above that of a youngster.

The three difficulty options ensure that the game will be no walk over for the long in tooth, whilst when set on 'novice' it provides just the right amount of fun and thought provoking for those with less of an attention span.

The game's not all fun, though, as the time spent accessing disks and the lack of speed in each level are a genuine nightmare. The mouse/cursor controls are extremely unresponsive and often more than four seconds behind in some sections. I could say that this ruined my enjoyment of the game and in most other cases it would, but The Castle Of Dr. Brain is so original, I can't bring myself to dismiss it in that manner.

This is probably the only genuinely fun piece of educational software I've come ever across and if you buy it for a child it won't be long before you whip it out of a cupboard after lights out for a go yourself. Great stuff.