Masters of the Elements

 

Genre:   Arcade-Adventure

Developer:    IJsfontein

Publisher:    Tivola

Released:   2002 (US), 2000 (Europe)

PC Requirements:    WIN 3.x / WIN 95 or 98, Pentium 60 PC, 16 MB RAM, 256 colours graphics card, sound card, double speed CD-ROM drive.

Walkthrough

 

 

 

by jenny100

Masters of the Elements

Quicklist

Kid's game - probably most suitable for young children playing with the help of parents or grandparents

Hybrid game - plays on Windows or Mac

Mouse-controlled, point-and-click (or point-and-drag) interface

Single CD

First person viewpoint

Deficient instructions on how to save, load, exit, and move about the game

Masters of the Elements 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.  

Well it 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.

Story

The story 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.

You learn 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 the story.

Installation

The game plays off the CD.

With Windows, the game autoplays, or you can run the install.exe manually. The installation is very small and an uninstaller is provided.

With the 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.

Documentation

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.

The 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 game.

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.

One 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.

Graphics

Graphics 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.

The 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.

Sound Effects, Voices, and Music

Sound 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.

There are 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.

Music is 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.

Interface

Masters of the Elements 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.

There are 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 one hand.

There is no inventory. You can pick up a few things, but you can only use them in that particular screen.

You don't 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 "Book."

Playing the Game

When you 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.

You move 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Whenever 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.

You also 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

The 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.

I'm going 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 *****

In one 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.

For 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 rooms interact.

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 appearances.

Another 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.

***** END 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.

Minimum System Specs

Windows:

Pentium 60

16 MB RAM

SVGA graphics card

sound card

2x CD drive

DirectX 5 or greater

Windows 95/98 

Possibly later versions of Windows work as well, but I don't have them to test

Mac:

PowerPC

16MB RAM

System 7.1 (works up through OS 9.1 and probably in OSX if using Classic)

2X CD drive

I would 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.

Recommendations

Although 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.

I think 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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