First we had the 'compu-novel' from Melbourne House, now we have the 'arcational' game from A & F. Alpha-Beth is supposedly a 'new concept in computer games' The cover blurb tells us with interesting use of grammar and punctuation, that you find yourself stood on a computer keyboard, the VDU is displaying a question which you must answer, once you have the full answer typed in, you must jump on the enter key dead easy!!'
These language errors did not inspire initial confidence, and having tested out the game, I can safely say that this really is one of the poorest 'educational ' programs I have seen.
Mike Fitzgerald from A & F who had the initial idea for the game, told me that its main purpose was to increase general knowledge through what is basically rote-learning, which he described as 'a well tried philosophy', and he added that his wife, a former teacher, had tried out the game and was happy with it. Surely this is the wrong way to go about devising an educational game?
Alpha-Beth is really nothing more than an arcade game with a vague educational aim superimposed upon it. The player has to answer questions like 'which famous queen of Egypt killed herself with an asp?' and 'where would you go to watch a play" As you move Alpha-Beth around the keyboard, spelling out your answer, you have to watch out for hazards like the school bully and the flying dictionary. If you don't know the answer to a question, you can press the cheat key which will display it briefly on the screen.
There may still be a place in ' education for general knowledge games like this, but it seems to me that non-specialist designers of educational pro grams have to remember that the school curriculum has changed vastly since they were pupils.
I A & F have also published Alpha-Gen, which is a database generator for Alpha-Beth, and this may be useful for certain subject areas (or, as Mr Fitzgerald pointed out, for parents who with to devise their own quizzes for in-family). I would love to hear from any parents who use it.
: Q/A up/down; O/P left.right , M to select (the keys can be redefined)Keyboard play
: good responseUse of colour
: not very imaginativeGeneral Rating:
poor. It annoys me greatly when so-called educational games feature errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation. If, for instance, the player cannot answer a question and selects the pass key to goon to the next one, the computer responds with 'Too hard for you? Your (sic) not trying'. In Alpha-Gen, too we are informed that 'The instructions that follow can for your convenience (sic) be printed out'