Grind your mind-- Microforum MindGrind

by Alan Zisman (c) 1996. First published in Computer Player, November 8, 1996

You're an alien, looking to take over the Earth. But you're not going to do it by sending huge, high-tech flying saucers to wipe out major cities, as in this summer's hit film, Independence Day. Instead, according to the Toronto creators of Mind Grind, you'll be more subtle... by showing off your knowledge of Earth trivia, you'll demonstrate your potential to rule the planet.

Of course, this plot, like that of most games, is basically a thin veneer-Mind Grind is a trivia contest. One or two players can take part-the sci-fi overlay lets you choose from a collection of comically ugly characters... think of the bar scene in the original Star Wars film for examples.

Players have to correctly answer questions in order to successfully pass through a number of challenges; the same categories of questions are used in each level. There are knowledge based questions about mythology, inventions, sports, and a rather loosely defined horror category. Brain teasers include some fairly subtle questions ("How many eggs can a hungry man eat on an empty stomach" stumped the group I tested it on-the answer is one. Think about it!) Two categories test players' powers of observation and listening. The questions range from truly trivial to thought-provoking, without becoming too frustrating for non-addicted players. The Pop Culture questions are, perhaps, too focused on the 1960s, but random Canadian geography questions are a nice touch from the Toronto developers (and may prove a real challenge for American players!)

Each level is organized differently. At the first level, players need to get four squares in a row, from an 8x8 board. The second level involves climbing a forest of pillars. (Watch out for the tornado, which may knock you back a couple of rows). Next, a maze, with 45 locked doors. The 'Platforms of Insight' starts each player on top of a pile of platters-one for each category. A  correct answer removes a platter, an incorrect one adds one. I found this level the hardest-the program seemed to have figured out that I had problems with Horror questions, and when I made a mistake, added an additional one... at one point, my character stood on a pile of eight Horror questions.

Finally, you emerge in a spaceship, flying to Earth. Along the way, you still need to correctly pass ten trivia stations, while avoiding meteors and other space debris.

If you enjoy trivia games, you'll find this a nice twist on the genre. Generally, the game's interface is discoverable, but we had to refer to the manual a few times-to learn to use the cursor keys rather than the mouse in the maze, for example, or to discover that we needed to press F10 to get options to save a game or to quit. And we could never figure out what to do in the spaceship, even with the manual!

The game runs under Windows 3.1 or Win 95, and despite being CD-ROM based, takes about 13 megs of drive space. It ran acceptably on its minimum recommended platform, a 486/66 with 8 megs of ram and a double-speed CD-ROM; play was improved when tested on a Pentium with more ram and a faster CD player.

Mind Grind

1 Woodborough Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M6M 5A1
1-800-465-2323/ 416-656-6406

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan