Of Special Interest
(Ho Ho Ho)
The Hall of Shame
Not everything digital dazzles, and not every CD-ROM merits an iN!-Ovation Award. Some, in fact, demand exactly the opposite. Here, for the first time, indelibleNews! presents its Hall of Shame. Mere mediocrity does not qualify a disc for this list ? the following titles, in one way or another, are honestly offensive.
McKenzie & Company (Her Interactive) is particularly heinous because its target audience (girls 10-15) actually enjoys it ? which means real damage is being done. This “social adventure” reinforces all the wrong stereotypes and teaches all the wrong lessons. Girls learn how to subjugate their personalities in order to attract boys (because ? let?s face it ? “they?re into appearances”) while prepping themselves for a fruitful life of reading Cosmopolitan. Girl-chat and boy-chasing dominate the proceedings, but there?s still time for shopping. If you choose to declare that “we don?t dress to please boys,” you?re told that you?re dressing this way for your own sake, so hurry up. By comparison, Barbielooks like a positive female role model. The venerable New York Times earns an honorable mention in the Hall of Shame for declaring that the actors here are “so energetic and charming that they transcend the limit of the genre.”
Nixon fudges the line between fact and fiction to a degree that must make Oliver Stone proud. Moreover, the content is marred by omission and outright error; Alger Hiss is listed as having died in 1975, when, in fact, he just died. Rep. Emmanuel Celler is referred to throughout as Rep. Emmanuel Geller. Throw in some sloppy grammar, some irresponsible reporting of opinion as fact, and some footage of Mr. Stone that plays like a parody of a witless Hollywood director, and you?ve got a CD-ROM that should be avoided like the plague.
The Parts of Speech (Thomas S. Klise Company/Arch Interactive) is an unbeatable combination of terrible content and terrible interface. A grade-school filmstrip covering grammar basics has been ported to disc, along with a few grammar exercises that make us want to disavow the English language (just so we can claim no involvement whatsoever). The sound effects would be terrible, if they weren?t effectively non-existent, and the animation makes Dilbert look like the height of graphical sophistication.
Conquest of the New World (Interplay), like McKenzie & Company, is especially offensive because it pleases its audience, which means that its lessons ingrain themselves successfully. This adventure game offers you the chance to commit genocide against Native Americans, and makes you feel pretty good about yourself when you succeed.
EARTHwise (Magic Multimedia) answers questions like “why is it important that we have clean air?” with answers like “without clean air, we would all die.” Ditto trees, clean water, etc. One sentence homilies are this disc?s modus operandi, which, with a subject this important, is a travesty.
Two titles from IMSI earn ribbons for their incredibly poor treatment of important topics. ReadySetGrow!, a family and pregnancy disc, pays so little attention to your user profile that it instructs you how to handle your first month ? even if you tell it you?re not pregnant. The section designed for the father offers a whopping one paragraph, safely summarized as “stay involved.” Understanding AIDS offers appalling ?insights? such as “some people are relieved when they are diagnosed with HIV. They would rather have the disease than worry about getting it.”
Adventures With Oslo: World of Water (Science for Kids, Inc.) offers kids 4-12 the chance to become forever alienated from CD-ROM technology. Click on icons within the text to hear water sloshing, or color a coloring book whose resolution rivals the worst dot-matrix printer. The only good thing about Oslo is the screen saver, which might encourage you to leave your computer forever.
Something stinks in The Nature Collector: Freshwater Fish (Anima Tek/Spectrum Holobyte), and it isn?t the fish. It?s the music: the most insipid, droning, synthesized tripe you?ll ever hear. Add lethargic play-action (the program strives to be “SimFish,” and fails miserably) and an installation program that erases some of your system files, and you?ve earned a definite place in our Hall of Shame.
The Cartoon Network may be hitting its stride now, but it had things all backwards when it released Cartoon Network ?Toon Jam(Turner Interactive). Hear 25 of the most grating songs ever recorded by man or beast, in your CD-ROM drive or on an audio CD player. Make videos using blocky pictures that can most kindly be described as pathetic. To add insult to injury, you?re expected to pay for it.
The now-defunct HarperCollins Interactive perpetrated Adventure Bible Handbook: The Rescue,with lame video, ugly animation, and writing that would insult a ten year-old. The pi?ce de resistance, however, is the inclusion of Froggo, a loveable frog who will be killed unless you defuse three bombs hidden in bible stories. Yes, kids, it?s Die-Hard: The Bible.
Rock?n?Rom(from Penguin Electronic, also out of business) bills itself as “The Ultimate Database of Popular Music” and costs $1,500.00 (for four discs per year). It traces the etymology of the word “funk” incorrectly, identifies Tin Pan Alley only as a bubblegum-pop style of songwriting in the early ’60s, and offers “The Best Of ?” albums without acknowledging that anything came before. Even the manualmakes a grievous error, for God?s sake; Ebony and Ivory is credited to Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson. Isn?t Stevie Wonder surprised! At 50 bucks it would be an insult; at $1,500.00, it?s a Hall of Shame shoe-in.
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