|a game by||Cyan|
|Editor Rating:||8/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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One of the most unusual games seen in a long time comes to the PC-compatible world from the Macintosh, where it attracted considerable attention as the first commercial HyperCard game and one of the first games ever available on CD-ROM. PC users don't have HyperCard, of course, so Activision's challenge was to create a user interface that would be equally slick and easy to learn. In the PC version of The Manhole, they've done it.
To play The Manhole, you need a mouse. But you don't need it to pull down menus or manipulate windows. Once the game loads (there are no setup screens and no copy protection), you simply use the mouse to point the on-screen arrow wherever you want and then click the mouse button. In most cases, the scene will change to something new.
In other words, you don't fool around with cursor keys, keyboard commands, or anything else. The only time you need to touch the keyboard is when you press Esc, which takes you to a screen that allows you (by using the mouse) to turn the sound and music on or off, to save the game on disk, or to exit the game to DOS. That's it.
As far as the game itself goes, it will probably appeal to everyone initially. After several plays, however, it will most likely hold its appeal primarily with children. The Manhole is very much an Alice in Wonderland kind of game in which you visit strange locations and meet even stranger creatures. A walrus, a rabbit, a dragon: All will talk to you and some will even help you. There isn't a real plot to concern yourself with (although the dragon's lair supplies a couple of subplots). You don't have to fight anybody, and you're not forced to move in particular directions. Just click on the scene and you'll find yourself in a new location. Once there, explore to your heart's content.
The Manhole is really a game of exploration. Enter the walrus's study, for example, and you'll see a roll-top desk. Click on the desk, and the screen zooms in on it. Click on the roll-top, and it opens to reveal a notepad, a telephone, pens, and some drawers. You can click on the drawers to open them and see what's inside. You can click on the notepad to read what's there. You can click on the telephone to call Activision (too bad there's not a real modem hookup). And when you click on the pen, jets of ink spurt toward you.
But that's okay, because this whole game is cartoonlike. Fish swim by and produce bubbles. Tortoises swim away, speaking in French, and produce more bubbles. Seahorses produce bubbles. And colorful bubbles at that.
If you see a painting on a wall, click on it and see what happens. If you see a light beside the castle, click there as well. Inside the dragon's lair is some electronic equipment; why not click on it, too? And on and on, until you've gone everywhere there is to go. (Don't forget floors and ceilings.)
The Manhole works with most popular sound boards, including the Ad-Lib, Creative Music, Roland MT-32, and Tandy Dac. With these boards, you'll hear background music during some of the scenes, and the characters will speak in digitized voices. It's all part of the experience. The game has limited play value, though, because eventually you run out of new things to explore. Mostly this is a limitation of the medium - only so much data fits on a floppy disk. As this new genre of entertainment software expands, its worlds will expand as well, and so will the player's options. But The Manhole gets things started with an absolutely wonderful children's adventure, and one of the only truly intuitive interfaces in all of computer gaming.