Review by Orb
I fondly remember, when I was a child, one of the highlights
of our family Christmas season was a trip to the famous FAO Schwarz
toy store in San Francisco. Wandering through the wide, well-lit
aisles, I would be overwhelmed by the unusual colors and sounds.
One of the things most consistently striking about these trips
was the omission of run-of-the mill American toys we watched advertisements
for on TV every Saturday morning. Here there were no Barbies.
No Slip and Slides or Milton Bradley board games, no Tonka trucks
or Slinkys. Instead, the building was bursting at the seams with
strange, intricately designed wonders from Europe, hand-carved
wooden puzzles, stuffed Steiff lions and bears, beautiful Madame
Alexander dolls with big eyes, luxurious hair, and crisp pinafores,
and instructional toys that were at the same time intriguing.
It was really just like visiting another planet.
Physicus, an edutainment title from Tivola, evokes these
images in my mind's eye. It has the same sort of craftsmanship
that is reminiscent of the quality and care evident even to a
child in those toys and really makes one feel that the creators
understand that a learning tool for children can be beautiful
and fun as well as instructional.
Physicus is designed to teach the subject of physics in
a fun and easy-to-understand manner. One of the most appealing
aspects to the game is the overall look of the game environments.
It is a charming, lighthearted version of the Myst style
of game-making, which is a pleasant combination as it makes Physicus
as enjoyable for an adult as any other adventure game he or
she might play.
The story is a simple one. Earth has been hit by a meteorite,
which has caused it to stop dead in its tracks, one side in perpetual
sunlight, the other in perpetual darkness. By studying and using
science materials contained in the game's encyclopedic interface,
the player must solve puzzles and progress toward the ultimate
goal of getting the rotation of the Earth to begin again.
The game is a first-person adventure, and the player explores
every nook and cranny of what seems to be a small village and
its surrounding buildings in a hilly, picturesque countryside.
There are houses to explore, and municipal structures, and a town
square packed with things such as stores, a town jail, and offices,
among other things.
The graphics in this game are irresistible, with a sort of old-world
European charm reflective of the home of the game's creators,
Germany. The environments are very elaborately drawn, and the
3D rendering is as good and well put-together as any adult adventure
gamebetter than quite a few, actually. The endgame is a
brief but amusing animated sequence that is also well-executed.
The game screen is simple and well-designed. Inventory is stowed
in a machine at the bottom of the screen, and the player scrolls
through to choose an item to be used. One nice aspect to the inventory
system in this game is that the inventory is usually pretty sparse,
and at any one given time throughout the game will only contain
a small handful of items.
Physicus teaches the subjects of electricity, aggregation
states of different materials, mechanics, optics, and acoustics.
The player is given an electronic interface, accessed within the
game, that allows the player to research these subjects to solve
the problems encountered during the game. The interface itself
is well-done, and all subjects have visual explanations, in many
instances with animations, and interactive components that are
helpful in guiding understanding.
But don't be put off by the subject matter included to help solve
the puzzles. In many instances, at least for an adult, they involve
common sense and things about physics that most people do have
a basic understanding and grasp of. The puzzles, based on the
subject matter, are obviously mechanical puzzles, which increases
the Myst-like atmosphere of the game.
This is not to say that the puzzles are simple. This is definitely
a thinking man's (or boy or girl's) game, so if you are accustomed
to solving puzzles through trying everything, or sheer dumb luck,
this is not the thing for you. If you enjoy a little note-taking
and some research into how things work, you will find the puzzles
a fun intellectual change from the usual panorama of slider puzzles
Tivola sells this game as something for people from ages 10 to
102, and this is certainly truth in advertising. I had just as
much fun with it as any adventure game played just for fun, without
the added bonus of learning something. As a home-school parent,
I recommend this highly as a supplement to regular science materials.
Release Date: 1999
Four Fat Chicks Links
PowerPC 166 MHz
16 MB RAM
Thousands of colors
8X CD-ROM drive
Pentium PC 133 MHz
32 MB RAM
SVGA graphics card
8X CD-ROM drive
Where to Find It
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