DK Multimedia, creators of easy-on-the-eyes reference tools, have found a perfect partner in Stephen Biesty. The CD-ROM Castle Explorer combines Mr. Biesty’s excellent, detailed illustrations with DK Multimedia’s clean interface, high-quality graphics, intelligent organization, and solid content. The disc, which offers a virtual medieval castle to be explored, can be used in two ways: roam freely, as a page, or play a “spy game,” in which you have specific objectives to meet (you also risk getting tossed in the dungeon). Whichever way you go about it, a lot of your time will be spent looking at the beautiful, precise pictures of every part of the castle. Zoom in and out, scroll up and down, and click on just about anything to read a blurb of related text. There are hidden activities, objects that can be picked up, cut-away views and cross-sections, and a library that combines all the disc’s background information in one place. If you take the role of a spy you’ll have a few questions to research and answer, and you’ll be charged with finding five pieces of a missing map. To do this you’ll enter four 3D rooms and interact with the characters there (videotaped actors play the roles, in what is probably the weakest part of this CD-ROM). The most effective and fun part of Castle Explorer doesn’t require the game component; open-ended exploration, in this case, is quite enough. Pictures are backed up with text, text is backed up with pictures, and the whole package is extremely educational. After a few hours with this disc, you’ll have a good sense of what life in a 14th century castle was really like.
– November 1996