GRAY AREAS MAGAZINE SOFTWARE REVIEWS

5 FT. 10 PAK COLLECTOR'S EDITION (Sirius Publishing, Inc.) This collection of 10 CD-ROMs includes several games (The Journeyman Project Turbo, Dragon's Lair, Mad Dog McCree), educational programs (Webster's Concise Encyclopedia, Sing-Along Kids Vol. 3, Dr. Ruth's Encyclopedia, Exploring Windows 95), music programs (Prince Interactive, Intro To Classical Music) and a disc to access the Internet via SiriusNet. The idea here is that new CDs only sell so many copies and then the market of people willing to pay full price for them dwindles. However, combining titles into compilation packages opens a secondary market of people who buy the package for one or two of the 10 discs at a cost of less than buying just one of the titles when they are brand new. I found this to be one of the better such collections around and although I'm not really a fan of either Prince, classical music or Dr. Ruth, the price to explore what they had to say was right. Worth a look. (Netta Gilboa)

9 (GT Interactive Software) This adventure game was produced by Robert De Niro and includes the voices of actors Christopher Reeve, Cher, and James Belushi and rock stars Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith. The plot involves a mismanaged vacation resort which you inherit. You must explore the resort, and stop the destruction. Incredible graphics and an interesting plot, with lots of challenge even for experienced gamers. Much better than average for the genre and a project worthy of the talented people behind its development. (Netta Gilboa)

AFTERLIFE (LucasArts) In this unusual simulation game it's your job to create both heaven and hell. Full of "comic mischief" and "suggestive themes," this comes with over 200 rewards and punishments, 300 detailed tiles and buildings and plenty of maps, graphs and charts. Your job is to lay down roads and set things up for the dearly departed and then keep the people in your afterlife while everything from money problems to headaches from the planet to supernatural disasters try to make sure you fail. A must for simulation game fans and a good first choice if you are new to the simulation genre. (Netta Gilboa)

BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD IN CALLING ALL DORKS (MTV Cheap Clicks/Viacom New Media) This budget-priced title includes eight desktop themes for Win95 users as well as a puzzle game. Also available is a party trivia game package called Wiener Takes All and a package of games called Little Thingies starring the animated characters which includes three new games and four games from the previously released Virtual Stupidity title. If you like the TV show you can't go wrong with any of these. (Netta Gilboa)

CAPITALISM (Interactive Magic) This strategy game offers a good manual and is playable by all experience levels. You pick either a manufacturing, retail, real estate or MegaCorp venture and compete against other companies who outspend you, introduce new products and try to hire your staff. This contains all of the problems of corporate life including cash flow, balance sheets and stocks. Good graphics using SVGA, play that changes each time and significant learning value for those who think running a company is easy or even fun. (Netta Gilboa)

CLASSIC ROCK GUITAR (Ubi Soft, Inc.) This Learn & Play title offers 84 guitar lessons and 180 exercises to help you improve. You'll learn eight songs including "Hey Joe," "Wild World," "No Woman, No Cry," "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Dust In The Wind." Far better than a book, here you can watch videos, zoom in, use a built-in metronome, etc. While this assumes a basic skill level, it's designed by guitarists for guitarists and includes everything from a review of how to read tab notation to the complete score for each song. The box says volume one so more titles are probably coming soon. (Netta Gilboa)

CYBERSTRIP BLACKJACK (Rapture Interactive) This adult CD-ROM is set in the future and offers an interactive experience where you pit your skills against three sexy women to play blackjack. Combines the traditional card game with the allure of sex on a hybrid CD usable by both Mac and PC users. (Netta Gilboa)

CYBERSTRIP POKER (Rapture Interactive) This hybrid adult CD-ROM offers the ability to play poker against three sexy female dealers. It's exactly like the blackjack game above except for the difference between the two card games themselves and the use of different females on each CD. Worth a look but probably not worth owning both. (Netta Gilboa)

CYBERXPERIENCE (Az Multimedia) Made in Spain, this 4 CD adult title is by far one of the best adult CD packages made. The plot concerns a stunning female who has undergone genetic experimentation to remove her sexual desire. You must help her discover her sexuality and hope that when you get to the game's seventh level she will agree to have virtual sex with you. Offers full screen video, original music, multiple levels, save option and choice of languages to play in, including English, French and Spanish. Tech support is offered through a web page and more titles are coming soon. If you like adult product, watch for both this title and this company. (Netta Gilboa)

DARK SEED II (Cyberdreams) This nightmarish adventure game features the art of H.R. Giger. The plot involves a man who can't remember being with his high school sweetheart on the day she was murdered and who must clear his name as he's a prime suspect in the case. He gets sucked into the Dark World (which builds on the plot from the original game) and must keep the Ancients there from escaping into the Normal World. Great plot, characters, 3-D landscapes and playability. If you've never been exposed to Giger's creatures before (he worked on both Alien and Species), it's a good bet this game will make you a fan. (Netta Gilboa)

DEADLINE (Nova Spring/Vic Tokai Inc.) If you've ever thought you'd excel at handling terrorists, here's your chance. In this strategy game you lead a squad of firearms officers and try to save your team, the hostages and yourself. The game has 17 levels, full-motion video briefings, animated violence and more. Quite unique! (Netta Gilboa)

DRUID (Sir-tech Software Inc.) In this action adventure game about a missing druid, you explore over 100 3D locations, view over 10,000 frames of animation and enjoy an action-based combat system. Things are not what they seem here and the story provides an excellent challenge as well as the ability to totally submerge yourself into a different world. As is common now, there's a hint book available to those who find this too hard to solve alone. (Netta Gilboa)

FRONT PAGE (Microsoft) Although lots of packages have flooded the market to help people make Web pages, this one has the advantage of looking and working like Microsoft Office. It converts text to HTML, offers templates, automatically verifies and updates links and offers ten bots to work with forms, threaded discussion groups and full-text searching. Powerful tools for those who need them. (Christopher Schanot)

FURY 3 (Microsoft) Requiring 10 megs of disk space under Windows 95, and suggesting 55 megs be devoted to this game, Fury 3 is obviously graphics intensive. You fly through eight worlds and shoot at targets above you, below and on each planet's surface too. Offers six degrees of freedom so that you can easily move in any direction. There are multiple missions, stereo sound echoes and much more here, enhanced if you own a joystick or flight control device. This is not my favorite genre of games, but Fury 3 is certainly an excellent representation of the best of them. (Netta Gilboa)

HIND (Interactive Magic) This Russian combat helicopter simulation allows you to play solo or to use a LAN or modem to play with up to seven others on two teams. If you own the popular Apache game, this new title works with that and alllows for head-to-head combat. Offers several difficulty levels, a new set of missions and the ability to control your wingmen when flying single missions. A must have if you like flying games. (Netta Gilboa)

I HAVE NO MOUTH, AND I MUST SCREAM (Cyberdreams) The Harlan Ellison short story comes to life here in this adventure game. You can assume the role of five different characters and play an adult-oriented game full of psychological dilemmas. Great graphics, but it's the plot you'll remember here. Very well done for both its genre and for a translation of a popular short story. (Christopher Schanot)

INCREDIBLE 65,000 IMAGE PACK (T/Maker Company) This collection of five CD-ROMs full of clipart includes alphabets, borders, fonts, cartoons, business images, religion, symbols, celebrities and almost everything else you could think of or search for. A large, illustrated manual displays each image and there's an online browsing tool included as well. Images are in .WMF format for Windows users and .EPS for Mac. Even if you already have a collection or two of ClickArt's images this is worth having, and if you don't this is surely the collection to start with. ClickArt is well-known for offering high quality images at a low price and this outstanding package certainly delivers. (Netta Gilboa)

INSIDE MAGIC (Houghton Mifflin Interactive) Both Mac and Windows users can enjoy this CD-ROM which explores and demystifies 50 magic, coin and card tricks. Hosted by a real magician, this offers performances, step-by-step instructions and password protection so you can show friends parts of the CD but keep the secrets to yourself. Necessary props are included in the package and this is simple enough to be used by children over 10 years of age as well as adults who've long been curious about the subject. A unique and well put together collection of tricks and solutions. (Netta Gilboa)

THE JOY OF SEX (Philips Interactive Media) This superb package includes both a CD and a compact edition of the best-selling book. The CD has a game on it, a questionnaire and allows users to select sequences and advice based on individual interests. Although you probably know the basics about sex by now, here's an opportunity to make you sex life shine by overcoming your fears and ignorance and learning how to please yourself and your partners more. (Netta Gilboa)

KAI'S POWER GOO (MetaTools) This inexpensive and fun program allows you to alter photographs by exaggerating features in them. Make the Mona Lisa smile more, have three eyes, have different hair, etc. There are 80 images included, but of course it's your own photographs you'll most want to alter. You can create and print photos, make movies from them, create screen savers or use the photos in newsletters, web pages, letters or anyplace else photos are appropriate. So easy to use that I had the program up and running, and a photo altered, within fifteen minutes. Deserves to win lots of industry awards! It really has no flaws except that it requires you to have the CD inserted before the program will boot up, not a problem but unclear until you read it in the manual. Don't miss this if you work with photos or wish to start doing so. (Netta Gilboa)

KAI'S POWER TOOLS (MetaTools) Version 3.0 of this amazing plug-in package now offers computability with more programs as well as new effects. If you own the newest versions of CorelDraw!, PhotoShop, Matisse, Painter or Picture Publisher, and you work with photographs, KPT is a must to own too. It will tweak your photos into unbelievably vivid and psychedelic fractals, textures and gradients. This is as good as software gets and allows novice users to work at home with the same tools that a Warhol or Picasso of today with unlimited funds would surely utilize. This gets our highest recommendation. (Alan Sheckter)

KPT POWER PHOTOS (MetaTools) Four collections of multiple CD-ROMs contain hundreds of royalty-free .TIFF images for desktop publishers who use photographs. The volumes encompass sports, food, urban textures, natural backgrounds, outdoor scenes such as sky, water and landscapes, flowers, toys, holidays, African culture, paper textures and business images. The images are unusually good and include things unavailable elsewhere. The packages also make it easy to create shadows, use picture frames, load objects into other images and add dimension to the photographs. Well worth having if you already work with color photographs, or if your work will allow you to make use of at least one of the previously mentioned categories. (Netta Gilboa)

LEST WE FORGET (Logos Research Systems, Inc.) This history of the Holocaust features over 40 minutes of film footage, over 500 photos, 65 detailed biographies and over 40 minutes of audio. There are maps of concentration camps, Nazi speeches and even excerpts from Nazi propoganda films. Even if you have other Holocaust CD-ROMS this one has material not available elsewhere. If you don't already have other packages, this is a great place to start. (Netta Gilboa)

LIGHTHOUSE (Sierra On-Line, Inc.) In this Myst-like adventure game, your mission is to enter a world where technology has gone mad. You explore, solve puzzles and try to save lives. Although the game contains some animated violence, the fantasy elements and general theme should make this title appealing to women who generally shy away from adventure games. It seems like almost every Sierra title released is a masterpiece and this is no exception. (Netta Gilboa)

MAP 'N' GO 2.0 (DeLorme Mapping) It is rare nowadays that a software product works as advertised, and even rarer when it outperforms any expectations. The producer of the original travel planner combined forces with AAA, another travel leader, for this new release. Now in addition to finding the best route, the traveler will find all the AAA rated hotels, restaurants, points of interest along the route in the USA, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. The quality of the maps is excellent and, when printed, the selected route is highlighted. The DeLorme Web site provides up-to-date road construction and weather condition updates. Before your trip, check it out. A serious traveler should also have DeLorme's other products like Street Atlas & Phone Search USA, and Global Explorer on their shelf. All are highly recommended. (Itzchak Gilboa)

NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP BASKETBALL (GTE Entertainment) Basketball has never looked this good before as you get to lead your favorite team to the championship. Includes 64 teams, 3-D animation, choice of three game types and even the ability to play via a modem or network. Sure to be a hit with sports fans of all ages. (Netta Gilboa)

ORNAMATICA (JASC Inc.) Unlike other clip art packages which include page borders, this title allows you to choose from over 5000 design elements in order to quickly make your own customized borders. You can also import .WMF and .CDR files to make borders from your own artwork or from other clip art. Saves a fortune on fancy writing paper and can also be used to make flyers, newsletters, ads, etc. Very impressive! (Netta Gilboa)

PAINT SHOP PRO (JASC Inc.) Version 4 of this popular program comes on CD-ROM and works with both Win95 and Win NT. For well under $100 you can paint, retouch photos, convert images from one format to another, capture the screen and take advantage of all sorts of special effects. Ideal for web page creation, this even has an option that allows you to instantly make web buttons from any graphic image. Many of the features here have previously only been found in the most expensive graphics packages and while this program has always been useful it is now quite a bargain. Highly recommended. (Netta Gilboa)

THE PANDORA DIRECTIVE (Access Software Incorporated) Consuming six CDs, this interactive adventure game is set in the future and stars Tex Murphy who also appeared in the hit game Under A Killing Moon. Your job is to find a missing person who it turns out knows the truth about the Roswell UFO incident and has many other people looking for him too. The game has 50% more gameplay than Moon, seven combined endings, two difficulty levels, three narrative paths and almost four gigabytes of data. It's at least as good and probably better than the original. Music by Richie Havens and Nicole Tindall and acting by Barry Corbin, Tanya Roberts and Kevin McCarthy. A must if you like these games even slightly. (Netta Gilboa)

PERSONALITY FONTS (T/Maker Company) Here's a CD full of fonts designed to look like hand writing. Alas they are offered in True Type format only, but these are probably not fonts most people would use for business and output at a service bureau anyway. Ideal for flyers, letters, invitations and anything a child or teenager would design. (Netta Gilboa)

SIDEWINDER 3D PRO (Microsoft Corp.) This superb joystick comes with its own software to help you precisely control its movements in DOS, Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 programs. Featuring the ability to configure lots of trigger and joystick buttons for whichever feel most comfortable to you to use as well as a 3rd degree of freedom control which rotates the handle so you can change your point of view on the fly as you are playing, this joystick also features optical tracking to eliminate the drift problems common in traditional joysticks. Designed for Win95 games like Fury3 (reviewed elsewhere), this also offers base buttons for those games that can take advantage of them. Definitely worth the money, this is a far cry from the original joystick I once purchased for my 386 PC. If you play lots of joystick games and find them frustrating, or avoid them because you don't even own a joystick, this is definitely the best one I've ever used. (Netta Gilboa)

TOTALWEB (Quarterdeck Corporation) Designed to help beginners make Web pages, this includes sample images, a way to make graphical images transparent, a copy of Mosaic (or it'll work with your current browser), and a converter so you can turn your words into HTML language instantly. Lots of other products do some of these tasks, but this does multiple jobs for one price. (Christopher Schanot)

TRUESPACE 2 (Caligari) Although I use this for lettering and web page design, this superb 3D graphics package has far more complex uses such as ray-tracing, animation and 3D modeling. 600 3D objects are included to get started with and the program also accepts your computer's fonts and can import and export all sorts of file formats for clip art and photos. This is not a beginner's art program. Most people who buy this will have a good idea what they wish to accomplish with it. It does more than I will ever use it for but it does what it does better than any other package on the market. Highly recommended for graphics professionals, aspiring animators, people interested in architecture, and especially people who already own other computer graphics programs but find limitations in what those packages can do with an object. This program's strength is its lack of limitation, assuming you are creative enough to work from scratch. (Christopher Schanot)

THE UNEXPLAINED (FlagTower) Mysterious phenomenon is the theme here, ranging from ghosts to vampires to UFOs to out-of-body experiences. Over 500 stories and facts are covered here, illustrated with over 1000 photographs and over two hours worth of video and sound footage. There's also a great resource section which lists Web sites, magazines, UFO networks and research institutes and societies. This is a must if unusual encounters interests you even slightly. (Netta Gilboa)

VIRTUAL CORPORATION (Microforum Inc.) This innovative game is designed for Windows 95 and is totally voice activated. It includes a microphone which can also be used for the many Internet phone programs which now require the use of one. You play an employee who starts at the bottom and tries to become President of Pogodyne Systems, an Internet based corporation. Acknowledging the chaos, anarchy and insecurity of the Net itself, the game is full of intrigue, espionage and surveillance which must be overcome in order for you to succeed. Using live actors and interactive 3D, this has a challenging storyline that feels much more real since you speak instead of merely clicking buttons. Impressive. (Netta Gilboa)

VISUAL C++ (Microsoft) This is an outstanding program no Windows developer should be without. It gives you the ability to create 16 and 32 bit Windows or DOS applications. You can now compile professional-looking Windows programs complete with graphical interfaces and menus. The online tutorial and sample programs will get even novices up and running quickly. If you are interested in creating applications for Windows, this is the software to get. (Christopher Schanot)

WEB*MAX (Berkeley Systems) This collection of Internet utilities includes a retrieving program that works with existing WWW search engines, a phone program for chatting on the Net, a TV program that lets you access up-to-the-minute news, a downloading program that lets you take web sites so you can avoid connect charges and browse them off-line and a security program for your files, bookmarks and desktop. For those without Net access, or people eager to try out new providers at no cost, this offers 120 free hours (over five days) on EarthLink Network and a copy of Netscape. Although the ease with which this allows you to steal copyrighted web sites troubles me (especially since nothing here warns you this may be illegal), it is otherwise a superb collection of tools and a great value for the price. The web phone feature requires use of a microphone (not included). Definitely worth having if you aren't already overloaded with similar programs. (Netta Gilboa)

WINPROBE 95 (Quarterdeck Corporation) If you don't already have a product that troubleshoots Windows 95 problems, you should. This prevents crashes, allows you to perform hardware diagnostics, helps you clean up the Registry and optimizes general system performance. It's not the kind of product you want to think about buying, but it can prevent and allow recovery from disaster. If it saves your data even once it more than paid for itself. (Netta Gilboa)

WOODEN SHIPS & IRON MEN (The Avalon Hill Game Co.) Here's your chance to take command of one of 18 historical ship-to-ship scenarios or to design your own from an incredible choice of 131 types. You can play solo, with a friend or even via email. Included are American, British, French and Spanish warships from as far back as the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. Good graphics and a guaranteed good time. (Netta Gilboa)

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