THIS IS designed as an educational game, but in trying to make it suitable for all age groups, Mirrorsoft has made it not terribly suitable for anyone except puzzle fans - of which, of course, there are many, both in and out of classrooms.
The game starts in front of Crack It! Towers, which has eight numbered rooms. Collecting the golden keys to be found in each of the first seven rooms allows access to the eighth where the final puzzle must be solved to win the game.
The seven rooms can be entered in any order, and each contains a different challenge, with an arithmetical or spelling problem or two along the way to provide the educational content.
Room one, for instance, contains a Hangman-type puzzle, in which the aim is to spell what Oswald the Duck wants for dinner in less than nine attempts. Room three has a simple subtraction sum and a series of answers appearing in rapid succession.
Pressing the space bar when the correct answer appears, automatically fires the laser gun with which the player attempts to shoot five bats.
In another room, the object is to complete number sequences to get past the sharks exercising in the castle swimming pool. There's also a spider-zapping game involving some multiplication sums, an anagram game, and a minefield game in which you have to calculate the number of steps you can take in any direction before hitting a mine.
In each room, completing the challenge successfully wins a golden key, while failing it sends the player into the moat. There are also a number of extraneous hazards. If you fall into the moat, you are threatened by sharks unless you solve a sum in time. Occasionally, a green spider, a blue skull or a black bat will steal one of your keys, but on the other hand you might find a bonus key in the Maze of Skulls, unless you get blown up instead.
There are ghosts which hold you captive until you have filled in the missing letters of various words, and power failures which, as is their wont, can occur at any time: to get the lights back on, you must correctly spell a word that has briefly flashed onto the screen.
Crack It! Towers can be played on three levels of difficulty, and a fourth option allows teachers to change all the word problems in the game to give it a longer lease of life. Whichever level is chosen, the games remain the same, with only the sums and word problems being altered.
On the lowest level, there are sums like 3x1, while on the 'impossible' level (a gross exaggeration if ever there was one) the sums might involve the five times table and there are tricky words to spell like 'instinct' or 'receipt'.
Thus the educational value consists purely in random drill tests to be completed against the clock. Because several of the games are quite hard to play compared with the sums to be answered, the program might well prove too frustrating for younger pupils, while not teaching enough to the older ones.
The game has rudimentary graphics, with not even a hint of a splash, for instance, when you fall into the moat, and some very unsophisticated shapes to represent spiders, people or bats. That, however, does not matter too much.
Crack It! Towers certainly has plenty of variety and ingenuity to while away a harmless hour or two, and no doubt the odd correct spelling or sum will be retained in enough memories to add a touch of usefulness too.