- probably most suitable for young children playing with the help of
parents or grandparents
game - plays on Windows or Mac
Mouse-controlled, point-and-click (or point-and-drag) interface
instructions on how to save, load, exit, and move about the game
is published by Tivola, the same company that published the "edutainment"
titles Physicus, Bioscopia, and Chemicus. When I
bought Masters of the Elements, I was expecting it to be similar,
though possibly a bit easier. According to the front of the box, it is for
ages 8 to 102. Physicus is described as being for ages 10 to 102.
So I figured the games might have some similarities and thought I'd give
it a try.
isn't really an adventure game at all. And the educational aspect is
very basic. For example, if a kid isn't familiar with the idea of
making an electric circuit, this game won't teach him. The game doesn't
really do a good job of explaining things and a parent or grandparent
would probably be necessary to help the kid understand what is going on.
In any case, the game wasn't what I was expecting. As for the 8 to 102 age
rating, I think it's more the sort of game that parents or grandparents
could play along with young kids than a solo game for any particular age
group. But I decided to review it since many Gameboomers members do have
kids or grandkids and might be interested in knowing more about the game.
is cute, but simple. I'd say it was more suitable for age 6 than age 8.
The Master of Chance has lost his pet cat. To make matters worse, the
other Masters of the Elements (the Masters of Gravity, Warmth, Time,
Electricity, and Light) have gone hunting for the cat and the properties
they are in charge of have started going haywire. Its up to the gamer to
discover what has become of the cat and to save the world before the
natural order of things collapses and plunges everything into chaos. This
may sound serious, but it doesn't seem like it when you play the game.
Instead of being portrayed as powerful godlike beings, the Masters of the
Elements are depicted as whimsically eccentric people who enjoy playing
with electric trains and other toys as much as any kid would.
about the story from the narrator and the Book. Every time you see a new
page in the book to read, the narrator will read it to you. You can click
ahead, though the narrator will not always stop talking immediately. Some
pages of the book are missing and as you find them you discover more of
plays off the CD.
Windows, the game autoplays, or you can run the install.exe manually. The
installation is very small and an uninstaller is provided.
Mac you just stick the CD in your drive and double-click on the Masters of
the Elements icon when it appears. The only thing saved to the hard drive
are your saved games.
The game I
played had practically no paper manual at all. There was only a piece of
glossy paper folded over once and inserted in the CD case. It contained
basic instructions for installing the game and for installing Adobe
Acrobat Reader 3, which was included on the CD. You'll need some version
of Adobe Acrobat Reader installed in order to view the Help.pdf file,
which is the only other documentation there is.
Help.pdf file is located on the game CD. It gives a brief synopsis of the
plot and what your ultimate goal is. This is essentially a repetition of
the information the narrator gives you at the start of the game. But there
is also a section with tips on what to do if you can't figure out where to
start. And if you are totally confused, there is a "solution" which
briefly tells you what needs to be done in each room to progress in the
Unfortunately the Help.pdf file is deficient in telling you about how to
access the main menu, save your game, or even how to move about or
accomplish things. You must learn these things by experimentation (or by
reading this review). The Escape key takes you to a screen that includes
both the credits and Save, Open, Quit, and Help options. The in-game Help
found in the main menu is merely a repetition of the mole's speech at the
beginning of the game - not very helpful at all.
important part of the game is the "Book." Some rooms are inaccessible
except through the "Book." The Help.pdf file tells you that you can access
any rooms in the game from the "Book," but nothing in the game or in the
Help file gives a clue how to access the Book. What I discovered was that
by using Escape, saving the game, and then loading the save, I would
always start at the table of contents in the book. In some rooms you can
access the Book through a painting or some paper on the floor, or even, in
one case, an egg. But other rooms seemed to have no exit at all and I
would have to do the save/load thing.
are displayed full screen at 640x480 in 256 colors. The game's Help file
advises that if you have problems you should change your desktop settings
to this resolution and color depth.
graphics are cheerfully colored, similar to the pictures in a children's
book. They are noticeably grainy. I'm not sure how old this game really
is. Tivola published it in 2000, but that was a republishing. According to
the glossy folded-over paper in the CD case, Masters of the Elements
was first published in Dutch under the name Meesters van Macht.
But I can't find any original date of publication. However the files in
the Data folder on the CD are mostly from August 1996, so I'm guessing
that the game was first published around the end of 1996 or early 1997.
That would explain the graininess.
Effects, Voices, and Music
effects were good. Since the game is mainly about experimenting with what
you see in the Masters' rooms, sound effects may help solve a couple of
the puzzles. They also make the objects you're manipulating seem more
realistic. There is background noise in some of the rooms. It is nothing
fancy, but it gives the rooms more character.
only two voices you hear in the game - that of the narrator and that of
the mole. Both are fine for this sort of game.
very sparse. There is some at the credits screen. There is a little
electric music box you can play, though that's more of a sound effect. I
don't remember there being music anywhere else.
is controlled entirely by the mouse and the Escape key. Loading, Saving,
and Quitting the game is done via the main menu, which can be accessed by
using the Escape key. Whenever you "Open" a saved game (the game calls it
"Open" instead of "Load"), you start out at the "Book." The Book lists
chapter headings which correspond to the rooms currently available to you.
As you progress in the game, more rooms become available.
five rooms, each belonging to one of the six Masters of the Elements. The
first room you visit after meeting the mole is the room that belongs to
the Master of Gravity. It is in this room that you meet your little blue
helping hand, which assists you with some of the games. It helps you with
juggling and climbing. You can flip it upward by dropping a medicine ball
on a seesaw and it will fly into the air and grab things you couldn't
otherwise reach. It's there to assist you in tasks that require more than
no inventory. You can pick up a few things, but you can only use them in
that particular screen.
actually meet any character except for the mole. And you don't have a
conversation with him. He speaks to you but you aren't able to answer him.
The rest of the characters you see and read about in the pages of the
first enter the game, you hear the sound of snoring and see a black screen
- black except for a pull chain at the right. Guess what you have to do.
Once the light is on, the mole awakens, grumbles at you, and eventually
instructs you that you need a new cursor. You pick up the white glove and
it becomes your new cursor.
about the game by using a click-and-drag motion. You can tell you're doing
it properly by the way the cursor changes size. To move into a closeup,
you click and drag the cursor in the direction that makes it shrink. To
back out of a closeup, click and drag the cursor so it grows.
gameworld consists of static screens. You can zoom in and interact on
different parts of them. There are usually three "puzzles" (or games to
win) per room.
of the Master of Gravity is the first room you visit. It includes a
seesaw, juggling balls, a toy plane, a cuckoo clock, and a couple of items
you can balance on your glove cursor's finger to win a clover leaf. It is
important to collect clover leaves because they will help you win the game
of chance at the end (where you need them for luck). You gain a clover
leaf after accomplishing certain tasks, such as balancing a pencil on your
finger for a sufficient period of time. I was never able to figure out how
to check how many clover leaves I'd gathered, but I earned at least two.
you enter a room you haven't entered before, it will be in
black-and-white. Every room will have a ring that belongs to the Master
who lives in that particular room. You must first spin the ring in order
to see the room in color. Not only does it look better this way, but you
must spin the ring in order to interact with objects in the room.
need to collect the missing pages of the Book, which will supply new
chapter headings you can access when you load a game. Each chapter is only
two or three pages, each with a whimsical illustration. Maybe I shouldn't
call them chapters since they're so short. While viewing pages in the
book, you can always get back to the table of contents by clicking the
picture in the upper left corner. You turn pages by using click-and-drag
to page forward or back. On the last page that is available, you enter the
picture by using click-and-drag to make the cursor shrink into the picture
- or you can go back to the table of contents instead. Once you've found
all the missing pages, you are able to access the Garden of Chance for the
final contest. The Master of Chance apparently doesn't have a room - or if
he does you don't get into it.
puzzles include what are described as "reality games" or "games of skill"
in the Help.pdf file that is found on the CD. Much of the game involves
finding these puzzles and manipulating the mouse in such a way as to
achieve your goal - or at least achieve it "well enough," as in the case
of the juggling and balancing games where you only have to succeed for a
short amount of time. I found some of these "skill with the mouse" puzzles
to be quite difficult, but younger fingers may have less trouble.
to describe some, not all, of the puzzles in this section. I don't know
how else to give an idea of what kind of thing to expect when you go to
play the game. I've never played a game quite like this before.
SPOILER ALERT *****
case you have to figure out how to cook a pancake for your little blue
helper hand. But in order to do that, you must first light the stove, and
that's a puzzle in itself because the breeze from the window keeps blowing
out the match. Even after lighting the stove, you have to figure out how
to flip the pancake. The little blue hand wants his pancake brown, but not
burned. So part of the puzzle is figuring out how to flip the pancake
without it landing on the floor. This part is not so much a logical puzzle
as figuring out how to manipulate the mouse to flip the pancake. I hate to
think how many pancakes landed on that floor before I finally got one
properly cooked and on the plate. Periodically the flame on the gas stove
would go out and I'd have to relight it.
another puzzle you have to figure out how to deliver a battery to the next
room using a toy electric train. Sound simple? You have to time the start
of the train's trip so it coincides with the time when the tracks are
shifted to allow the train to move to the next room. And the switch is
controlled by a dripping faucet. The faucet drips into a tiny bucket
attached to a mechanism that will switch the tracks. When the bucket is
full, the tracks will switch for a couple of seconds - barely long enough
for the train to get through, provided it is approaching the switched
tracks at the right time. You control the speed of the drips by turning
the faucet. The train leaves the toy station when it has enough fuel.
Fuel, in the form of logs, is dropping from above. The cuckoo from the
cuckoo clock is attempting to build a house. He is a thorough incompetent
and the logs he drops rain down on the train station. You have to grab
them and put them on the conveyor belt that dumps them into the train.
Sometimes they fall onto the conveyor belt by themselves and save you the
trouble. You never actually see the cuckoo in the act of dropping logs.
You see a still picture of him doing so in the Book. When the train has
two logs, it takes off on its journey around the tracks. Hopefully you
eventually get the timing right and the train delivers the battery into
the next room, the Room of Electricity, for further processing. As you can
see, these puzzles can be fairly complex and the different parts of the
One of the
most frustrating puzzles involved grabbing a bat and flying upward with it
until one of the missing pages was within reach. It was nowhere near as
amusing as it sounded and took me about an hour and a half. You'd pass
many windows on your way up, and if the bat flew over one of them, you'd
drop all the way back down to the floor. The bat would head straight for
the nearest window unless you jiggled him around "fighting him" and
managed to keep him away from the windows. Not only do you have to avoid
the windows, you have to maneuver the bat over the missing page. And if
you pass it on the way up, you'll never get it on that try. The most
annoying thing about this puzzle was catching the bat in the first place.
You have to wait for it to come into view before you can click on it to
catch it. And the wait could be as long as 26 seconds between bat
puzzle that I had difficulty with involved moving a wire loop from one end
of a bent rod to the other without letting it touch the rod. At that
point, you're supposed to be able to remove the loop from the end of the
rod. If you touch the loop to the rod at any time, you won't be able to
get the loop off the end of the rod. When you get your loop to the other
side, a toy clown laughs at you. I took this laughing to mean that I'd
touched the loop to the rod at some point and I'd go back and try again. I
forget how many times I repeated that. As it turned out, the clown was
unimportant and the reason I couldn't get the loop off the end of the rod
was that I hadn't properly activated the rod ahead of time. I thought I
had activated the rod back when I first entered the room and spun the
ring around. Nope.
SPOILER ALERT *****
As you can
tell from these examples, the puzzles mostly require more dexterity than
thought in their execution. But they are more original than the usual
arcade puzzles. And figuring out what needs to be done is not always
obvious. Some things looked impossible at first, so I didn't bother to try
them until I checked the Help.pdf file and discovered they were necessary.
16 MB RAM
later versions of Windows work as well, but I don't have them to test
(works up through OS 9.1 and probably in OSX if using Classic)
add that a smoothly working mouse is essential, no matter what the species
of the computer you're playing on. Some of the "games" would simply be
impossible with a skippy, or even slightly skippy, mouse.
the arcade-like aspects of this game probably wouldn't discourage a very
young gamer, I do think the puzzles that involve waiting would. I think a
kid would get impatient when he had to wait for the bat to appear. I know
I did. As to whether a kid would be able to solve the game by himself, I
have no idea. I was not able to, but part of that was because I assumed
things couldn't be done because of the level of difficulty. Or because I
could see no reason to do them. For example, why would I want to persist
in grabbing a bat and throwing it out the window when doing so numerous
times didn't seem to accomplish anything? Of course that wasn't what I was
supposed to be doing, but I didn't know that at the time. An in-game hint
feature would have been an improvement. As it was, the game had the
Help.inf on the CD. But consulting a file like that seems more like
cheating than availing yourself of an in-game hint feature.
this game would require more patience than most kids have, unless they
were playing along with a parent or grandparent, which adds to the fun.
But I don't have a kid handy to test the game with so all I have to go by
is whether I'd have liked the game back when I was a kid. I think I'd have
enjoyed playing it along with my Dad. I think I'd have enjoyed learning to
master the mouse movements. I'd have enjoyed dropping pancakes on the
floor. And once I knew what to do, I'd have enjoyed grabbing the bat and
flying upward with it too. But unless my Dad was there offering moral
support, I think I'd have become frustrated with it. I also think I could
have enjoyed it at a younger age than 8.
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