Review by Enigma
All right, I'll confess it again. I'm an education junkie. After
I thought I'd revisit a more conventional edutainment adventure
game that follows the same basic theme, one released in 1996 by
the Discovery Channel. The game is based on James Burke's original
TV series Connections, and it uses abundant video taken
directly from the series. It's a fairly traditional puzzle game
that focuses on various technological inventions, and as adventure
games go, it's on the easy side. While some of the "connections"
between inventions seem a bit tenuous, it's full of humor and
may even pique your interest in science history.
Although it's a bit dated now, the game holds up pretty well.
Yes, the Quicktime video loads slowly and sometimes displays white
spaces while it loads. Movement follows a slideshow style grid.
It isn't as gorgeous as games with up-to-date graphics such as
III: Exile or Beyond
Atlantis. Still, Connections presents some
interesting, well-done screens and some fun, deliberately mixed-up
You begin in James Burke's modern study and move into history
from there. In each of the four playing areas you'll find modern
characters right alongside folks from the Middle Ages or ancient
Egypt. As you're making your way through the Sphinx during the
last chapter of the game, for example, you might be surprised
to meet a modern mom in a weird kitchen who wants you to help
her bake a pie (or is it a "pi?"). British lawn bowlers
from Elizabethan times eat lunch in a fifties-style diner. A modern
appliance repairman sets up shop next door to a medieval apothecary.
Connections manages to find a slim storyline that ties
everything together, and that is: someone is trying to tear everything
apart. It seems that the force of chaos, personified by a jeering
mad scientist character whom you'll meet from time to time, is
trying to dismantle "the web" of science and inventions
that hold history together. James Burke himself explains all of
this to you as he pops up in unexpected places throughout the
It's up to you, of course, to make the connections that link
everything back together again. Each time you and James Burke
think you've managed it, another level of chaos appears, until
you and James finally face the villain and vanquish him. Pretty
simple, but it works to explain why you're playing.
You play Connections as a standard solve-the-puzzle, get-the-inventory-item,
straightforward adventure. Some puzzles stand alone, and some
are, well, connected to others. A few of its fairly conventional
puzzles might even stump you for a while. You'll find a few logic
games, such as the card game with a gambler in an Old West saloon
that features a modern pay phone and the matchstick game with
an archeologist outside the Sphinx. You'll do a math puzzle involving
fractions as you measure the flour for "Mom."
Yes, you'll find a maze and a slider puzzle in the Old West chapter.
Actually these are on the easy side, but if you hate them you'll
also find "magic buttons" that solve them for you in
the "hints" section. Remember the infamous "furniture
moving" puzzle in The
11th Hour? Connections has something similar, but
there's a magic button for that one too, and I confess that I
used it. In fact, the game features a complete walkthrough that's
always accessible, unless you decide to avoid temptation and turn
it off when you begin the game.
Many of the puzzles are of the simple "find the inventory
item and put it somewhere" type. You need to fire a cannon
at one point in the game, but you can't aim it properly until
you've found another item in a bank. A really interesting puzzle
involves reading cemetery headstones, and figuring out who's related
to whom leads to that discovery. You'll find a few "turn
on the power" puzzles. There's a safecracking puzzle with
the clue to the combination within arm's reach. In fact, you'll
find fairly obvious clues scattered about for most of the puzzles.
When you try to place an item on the screen and you haven't yet
completed a necessary action, a disembodied voice will taunt you,
"Not yet," or "unh uh." Often you'll get a
"significant item," such as a pencil, that will materialize
in one of the links in a chain at the bottom of your screen. Fill
up the chain, finish one more puzzle, and you'll move to the next
Lights, Camera, Action
Despite the loading problems, the Quicktime videos blend into
the game very well. You'll meet lots of folks who'll talk to you,
including Galileo. Most of these are fairly well acted, although
a few manage to be a bit embarrassing. James Burke himself dominates
the game, and he, of course, is a wonderful narrator. You never
know when you'll find him. He might be in a desk drawer or hiding
in a suit of armor, or a tapestry, or even a tomb.
One of the major features of the game is the tie-in to the Connections
TV series. As you find each significant item and place in
its link on your chain, you can click on it to see a clip from
the TV series. Some of these are fairly extensive, and they're
all well produced. In a few you'll find clues for puzzles, but
it isn't necessary to watch these videos at all. I enjoyed them
and usually waited until I had all the items in each chapter before
I watched them. They do tend to make the "connections"
If you're not as interested in technological advancements as
James Burke, you can still enjoy the game's tongue-in-cheek humor.
A spoof of a training video for your new "Acme Drawbridge
Opener" gives you a vital clue and is fun to watch as well.
A bank clerk plays her part deliberately over the top, and a policeman
is a bit on the dim side. You'll also find plenty of visual humor
scattered about, such as the newspaper pictured in the right column
here. James Burke provides plenty of his trademark wry comments
as you go along, making the game entertaining even if you don't
care about the education it offers.
Other than the slow-loading Quicktime videos I had no difficulty
at all with the game, despite its age and despite the fact that
I was playing it on a newer iMac.
Connections won't go down as a classic adventure game,
but it sure is cute and fun to play. I think it's worth a couple
of evenings' play. If you're an experienced adventure gamer that's
about as long as it will take. If you like James Burke, history,
or science, you'll probably enjoy it. If you just like puzzles,
you'll find most of these easy, but a few might challenge you
And don't forget, only you can rescue the web from the forces
Release Date: 1996
Four Fat Chicks Links
Windows 3.1 or Windows 95
486/33 or higher processor
8 MB of RAM
2X CD-ROM drive
Windows-compatible sound card
VGA display (256 colors)
MSCDEX version 2.2 or later
Macintosh Performa, Centris, Quadra, or Power Mac series
68040 processor or better
System 7.0 or later
2X CD-ROM drive
8 MB of RAM
640x480 display color monitor with at least 256 colors
Where to Find It