We found Connections (Discovery Channel Multimedia), based on the TV show and book of the same name, to be beguiling, fascinating, and so incredibly challenging that we’ve finally been forced – drat! – to acknowledge our intellectual limitations. Only our reliance on on-line help enabled us to make steady progress with this one. Connections uses a Myst-like 3D environment, a surreal time scheme that doesn’t work quite like the ‘real’ one, and avuncular host James Burke (author of the book) to teach about scientific innovations through the ages. Find the right objects and put them in the right order – that is, make the right connections – to move on to the next level. Finding the objects requires a little exploration and a whole lot of ingenuity. The second major challenge in the program requires you to apply what you’ve learned so far (through educational videos that pop up when you find certain objects) by fixing a steam pump and adjusting the temperature in a room so that a stone will expand, letting you pull out a sword. “It’s a Mind Game” the copy on the packaging says, and that’s an understatement. The creators seem to realize how difficult the disc will be for mere mortals, with intuition that has yet to achieve superhuman levels; they’ve therefore included the aforementioned on-line help, which provides allthe answers. Without help, the disc might be impossible. With help, it’s certainly a most entertaining way to learn about science. The on-line help can be disabled, so the choice is yours.
– April 1996, Science & Nature