Pepper's Adventures in Time
Pepper's Adventures in Time was released as a part of the Sierra Discovery Series under the heading 'American History', so it is not surprising that the educational content is perhaps of less relevance to children outside of that country. Despite this the game itself is quite captivating and, although it has its problems, it contains some very good ideas and some very funny moments which, I am sure, would keep younger players entertained for many an hour.
It is a game that should draw in younger players from the very start and a good deal of effort has been put into maintaining their interest. It is divided into 6 Acts and for each act a set of objectives is posted on the screen for them to follow. 'Meet Ben Franklin' for instance, or 'visit the mansion.' I particularly liked this idea because it would mean that younger children may need less help to get them through the game than they might with other similar games and, consequently, they would feel more satisfied with having completed it themselves. I also liked the quiz at the end of each act although I am not sure that the game's intended audience will be quite so impressed. Fortunately the questions don't need to be answered correctly to continue, so they should not deter children too much.
As I have said, Pepper is very funny, but unfortunately the humour doesn't all work. In fact the writers seemed to completely forget about their audience part of the time as the game is littered with Monty Python jokes as well as various other more mature allusions such as cracks about academics. This humour seemed quite incongruous in a game so obviously aimed at pre-teenagers.
Also, the whole story revolves around Pepper's mad uncle and his time machine, and his turning Ben Franklin into a good-for-nothing hippy. Of course, with Ben into nothing more than wallowing in hot tubs the whole course of (American) history would be changed, so Pepper is charged with his rescue. Amusing idea, but I am wondering just how many under 12's will appreciate the intricacies of hippy culture and understand how it works in with the plot.
It is a shame that in a game in which so much thought was given to guiding younger players, that they should be promptly forgotten in the script. Still most children will not even notice this problem. More than likely they will just skim over what they don't understand.
When I installed Pepper my first impression was that I was playing something rather special but it just didn't live up to early expectations. Still, despite the misdirected humour there is nevertheless quite a lively little children's adventure game lurking in the background. Overall it's not the best title in Sierra's Discovery Series, but it is one of the funniest.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1995.
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