Old CD’s: Games, Encyclopedia, Apps.

Reviews About Old Software on CD-ROM from the 1990’s

Of Special Interest April 1996 November 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — gamegoldies @ 2:57 am
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Of Special Interest
April 1996

Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
Olympic Gold: A 100 Year History of the Summer Olympic Games
Quest for Fame: Starring Aerosmith

Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
Grolier Electronic Publishing

An oft-misunderstood genre is finally given the attention it deserves with this CD-ROM based on the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by Peter Nicholls and John Clute. These guys aren’t messing around; nor are they focusing only on the sci-fi that has managed to make the leap to mainstream audiences. Instead they’ve got an in-depth, well-developed view of science fiction as a whole, which is quite a feat when one considers that the genre includes works ranging from 2001 and Jules Verne to Earth Girls Are Easyand – ouch! – selected Dean R. Koontz. Certain phrases are succinctly used to identify common threads between very different pieces. The Big Dumb Thing, for example, identified here as an alien relic needing to be explored, is represented in both the hard sci-fi novel Ringworld and the horror/action movie Alien. The term “recursive” sci-fi is used to describe works that refer to the genre’s past with a wink and a nod; the disc then lists a hundred examples, ranging from the obvious to the arcane. Long thoughtful articles about authors and their bodies of works are accompanied by videos, often assembled by topic – watch a pastiche of sci-fi gurus take apart a problem like time travel or the role of women in science fiction. Our one complaint is that actual video clips from the movies, rather than the movie’s trailer, would be nice. But that’s a small objection. Use this Encyclopedia as a reference work and an entertainment center; you’ll be busy for days on end.

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Olympic Gold: A 100 Year History of the Summer Olympic Games
Discovery Channel Multimedia/S.E.A. Multimedia

The modern Olympics began in Athens one hundred years ago (the original Greek Olympics went on for over a thousand years, beginning in 776 BC). Now you can join in the centennial celebration with Olympic Gold. There’s a video tour for each Olympics, providing an overall summary, as well as separate sections on Nations, Athletes, The Games, History, and Events. Text, video, and tons of statistics coexist harmoniously, providing a truly multimedia overview of the summer games. Ordinary fans will happily browse the Overviews, some of the Games, and maybe the best and brightest of the Athletes; only hard core Olympiads will immerse themselves in the flow charts and graphs, the ten thousand gold medal winners who are not terribly memorable, and myriad details on countless Olympic Committees. Perhaps the most interesting part of the disc is the overlap between the games and politics – video of Hitler’s face as he watches Jesse Owens soar to victory is priceless. True devotees and schools will find a lot to like in this disc. The rest of us might want to convince a friend to buy it, so we can check it out and then move on.

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Quest for Fame: Starring Aerosmith
Virtual Music / IBM

Quest for Fame, the game that brings the air guitar to life, is back –this time with a Virtual Pick instead of a Virtual Guitar. The V-guitar was an unwieldy, expensive piece of plastic; the V-pick is small, light, and cheap. Use it on a tennis racquet, your leg, the edge of a desk, your sister’s skull, or anything else within reach, just so long as you keep a steady beat. The game itself is as righteously excellent as ever. Start in your bedroom as you learn the parts to different Aerosmith songs; you’re only required to learn the rhythms, not the notes, but your parts include lead and stunt guitar, which force you to play riffs with Page-esque velocity. Climb the local music hierarchy by joining a garage band, then get your first gig at a local dive. If you can catch Aerosmith’s eye you might get an invite to a better club – but then you’ll need to master a grab-bag of styles (often by ear) to stay in the running. Texas style, New Orleans style, straight blues, straight rock, and disco are just some of the styles represented on this disc. Once you’ve mastered a given genre, syncopate it and try again. Aerosmith, with their simple, accessible guitar jams and instantly-recognizable rock anthems, are the perfect vehicle for this game (or vice versa). There are also songs by Steppenwolf and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Musicians have a leg up with this one, but the whole point is that non-musicians can do it too. A year after its initial release, this is still one of our favorite CD-ROMs – and we can’t imagine one that might dethrone it in the near future.

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