Edutainment Odyssey, Episode 1 — Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?

Convincing your parents to buy a new computer in the 80s and 90s wasn’t as easy as it is today.

“What do you need one of those for?” was the question you were usually confronted with.

The answer, of course, was “I need it for school! Yeah! It’ll help me learn!

So, in order to back up schoolchildren’s lies and keep the computer industry afloat, an endless array of educational games were churned out in the 80s and 90s. Sure, the occasional piece of edutainment still gets produced today, but it’s nothing like it was — back in the 80s and 90s you really had to search the shelves for a computer game that wasn’t supposed to teach ya some sh-t.

Most of these games are almost entirely forgotten today. Some say good riddance, but I wonder, is there still something of value to be gained from these relics of the “learning can be fun!” era? That’s what I’m going to find out with this series. Each week (or whenever I feel like) I’m going to take you all on a ride with me — a ride of discovery — as I play a classic era educational game and then report what I learn.

The first game I’m tackling is “Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?” I’ll admit I mostly chose it because of residual good feelings created by the PBS kids show. Sadly Rockapella and the Chief lady from Law and Order are nowhere in the actual game. Too bad, I was hoping for a rocking MIDI-version of “Zombie Jamboree”.

They can find anyone anywhere in the world, but they can’t empty a garbage can. 

So you start the game on this screen, and I’ve got to say, Acme Headquarters are looking a bit drab and run down. They’ve got access to a time machine, but can’t find the money to plaster their walls? Come on now.

As you can see, you have access to various floors from this elevator, which had me moderately psyched. You can explore all over Acme headquarters? They didn’t have to put that in. That’s really going above and beyond!

This is life kids. Soak it in. 

Or not. This is what happens when you go the “Lounge”. You place your cup in a coffee machine, it promptly falls over and coffee pours all over the side of the cup. That’s it. That’s all that happens. Just an inspiring little message from the developers of the game…

“You think being a time traveling Acme agent would be fun kids? Forget it. It’d just be a job by the end of the week. Every day you’d haul yourself in — the only thing keeping you going being the promise of a steaming cup of terrible vending machine coffee — but you wouldn’t even be allowed that. No, your cup would fall over and the machine would pour your coffee all over the floor. That’s life kids. Those are your dreams on that floor.”

You know you’re not fooling anyone when you call it “coffee”, right?

You can also visit the “Lab” which treats you to an animation of a beaker exploding with the above caption. “Coffee” huh? I’ve heard tell of a stimulating explosive substance cooked up in tubes and beakers, and it sure as hell isn’t called coffee. So that’s how this place can afford a time machine.

Heh…Jack Goff.

Time to go to personnel, where this off-putting pig-nosed lady confronts you. In a nice touch, the usual “Enter Your Name” form is actually a liability form. Yes, in the games Carmen Sandiego and associates have no trouble straight up killing your ass apparently.

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