I know what you're thinking. "Oh no, not another game where your friend's hat gets carried away by a bubble, and you have to chase after it in your hot air balloon fueled by pure knowledge! When will game designers come up with some new ideas?" I understand. I'm sympathetic. But you still might want to try out the latest in the bloated Knowledge Balloon Hat Retrieval genre, seeing as it's by Amanita Design, the gently madcap Czech creators of Samorost. That's right, Amanita finally made another game, and it's awesome. Well, it's gently awesome. Amanita does everything gently, and being awesome is no exception.
Their newest game, Questionaut, is a commission for the BBC's Bitesize series of educational games, which attempt to combine video games with grade school quizzes. The goal of Questionaut is to track down your friend's aforementioned high-flying hat, but your vehicle can't reach that high until you answer enough questions correctly. On each of 8 levels, you must solve an environmental puzzle by clicking or pointing at hot-spots, and then answer 5 multiple-choice questions to inflate your balloon, so you can float up to the next sky island.
None of this is too difficult, although you might have some trouble if you've been out of school for a while. The questions are geared to students aged 7 to 11, and as Jeff Foxworthy is so happy to remind us, we don't always retain information from that era so well. If you get stuck, Google is right around the corner, and no one has to know that your brain is made from a leaky sieve. Except for you. You will know.
Analysis: Despite the fact that the target audience for Questionaut is grade school students, there is enough wonder and imagination here for gamers of all ages. As usual, Amanita has festooned its game with soothing mossy textures and rickety mechanical systems. Each level is a self-contained environment floating in the sky, with its own placid inhabitants, surreal logic, and gorgeously quirky music.
It's such a pleasure to explore these little worlds that it's almost a shame when the time comes for a pop quiz yet again. But thankfully the questions here (supplied by the BBC) are the opposite of trivia. They encompass Math, Chemistry, Physics, and even professional skills such as designing clear instructional diagrams. There's a lovely irony in being quizzed on the real world by inhabitants of a surreal fantasy world.
Even better, the individual islands often share a theme with the questions for that level. You might solve an ecological puzzle before facing a battery of biology questions, for example, or a physics-based puzzle before a physics test.
Even with eight totally separate environments, Questionaut feels like a cohesive whole. It's like stepping into a story book and becoming one of its characters. And thanks to Questionaut's memorable imagery, it feels like a living universe that continues to exist even after you've shut down your browser. Just delightful.
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(sans answers to the questions — you'll have to do some of the work(!)
Click on the leaves on the right of the island. They will fall and reveal a wire. Click on it do discharge it and the man won't be able to read. Click on him and he will ask you questions.
P.S: all of the questions are about literature
Scroll your mouse over the tree on the right and leaves will start growing. When the tree is fully grown a man will appear from the left side. Click on him to get him to ask you the questions.
P.S: all of the questions are about maths
Click on the cat, then the bird, then the hole in the tree, then the worm, then the bird, then the rabbit and the bird again. The bird ( owl ) will ask you questions.
P.S: all of the questions are about biology
Click on the key, use it on the first lock. A football will appear. The fisherman will kick it. While he is doing that you must grab the key and use it on the second lock. A box will appear. Click it and use the key inside on the third lock. A jar will appear. Click on the man when he comes to drink of it and he will start asking you the questions.
P.S: all of the questions are about proportions, rotation and translation
Click on the ice-shards and put them in the big jar. Light one match from the matchbox to create a fire. A man will appear. He will ask you the questions.
P.S: all of the questions are about chemistry
Check out the numbers on the satellite dishes.
Think how they can correspond to the colors of the dishes.
Try clicking the little squares under the scientist dude.
Click the boxes until there are the same amount of boxes per color that it says on the dishes. i.e. make one yellow box, two greens, three blues, and four reds.
The scientist will ask you the questions.
P.S: all of the questions are about arithmetics and probability
Put the battery on the appropriate space. Click the bulb to turn it on. Flip the little switch in the lower left to switch all the power to the large bulb, et voila! A man comes out and starts asking you questions.
P.S: all of the questions are about physics
This one is really easy. You can handle it on your own.
P.S: all of the questions are about grammar
Posted by: Nikola | March 15, 2008 7:47 PM
Questionaut's Diary, Page 1
My Thought Air Balloon has been itching for a test run for a few days now, and today I finally got a chance to test it out. My wife's hat was carried away by a bubble, and I volunteered to fetch it. Now I'm on my way across the landscape of islands. I can't wait to test the filling procedure.
Questionaut's Diary, Page 2
I just landed on a novel little island. An eccentric scholar was lost in reading while his wife typed feverishly, presumably to create more books for him to read. It must have been a happy marriage. I had to unplug his reading lamp to get his attention, but when I did, he was quite cooperative. We traded knowledge concerning literature and the written word, and my Thought Air Balloon filled up in no time. Now I'm off again. Maybe I'll visit him again someday to read a book or two.
Questionaut's Diary, Page 3
This time around I landed on a peculiar figure-eight-shaped island where a single tree grew. It bore buds in the form of pluses and minuses, and before my eyes an insect-keeper sent out a series of number-flies to pollinate the buds. The insect-keeper turned out to be a math specialist, so we had a nice discussion about arithmetic and so forth. The knowledge we shared was sufficient to fill the Thought Air Balloon once more, and I bid him farewell. Maybe the next time I come there, I'll talk to him about what it's like to raise number-flies...
Questionaut's Diary, Page 4
The places I arrive at are getting more and more peculiar. This time I landed on a land populated by nothing but animals. After a cat jumped between branches, a small bird plucked a worm out of the ground. A flower then grew, which a rabbit jumped over and munched on a leaf of, and then an owl flew over to me and spoke to me. Not only did he speak in words I could understand, but he was very well learned in the field of biology. Unusual for an owl, but very beneficial for the Thought Air Balloon's fuel supply. Someday I'll ask him where he got all that knowledge.
Questionaut's Diary, Page 5
My Thought Air Balloon touched down near where a surveyor was inspecting the hemispherical island with a weight on a string. I picked up a key and unlocked a drawer, in which a soccer ball was sitting. The surveyor came down from his post to kick away the soccer ball, at which point I swiped his key and unlocked another drawer, which contained a third key. The drawer that key unlocked contained a glass of soda, and it wasn't until the surveyor began to drink the soda that he really noticed me. I suppose I should've expected him to be a geometry specialist, but the Thought Air Balloon runs on any subject, so I didn't really care. Where will I land next...
Questionaut's Diary, Page 6
This was a particularly cold island, covered in ice. I broke off an icicle and stuck it in a gigantic flask, which resided above a Bunsen burner which I lit and turned to full power. When the icicle melted and then evaporated into steam, it drove a windmill which rose a lid. An ice skater jumped out, skated around, and then stopped to chat with me. His knowledge of chemistry and state-changes was perfect fuel for the Thought Air Balloon. I wonder if he'll teach me how to ice-skate the next time I come by here?
Questionaut's Diary, Page 7
The resident of this island reminded me of that book-reading old man on that earlier island. This man was busy trying to sort out data he was gathering from something or other. After I helped him out, we had a chat about graphs, charts, and probability, and my Thought Air Balloon filled up quite nicely. I suppose I could learn a thing or two from him about data management... but that will have to wait until another day. I've got a hat to save.
Questionaut's Diary, Page 8
This island's electrical system was in disrepair. I fixed it up, and its single resident, who seemed fond of sunbathing in its bright light bulb, was more than happy to talk with me about the science of sound, light, and electricity. He knew so much about it that my Thought Air Balloon filled up in no time, and I bid farewell. All I have left to say is, I'd hate to be him if that big light bulb burned out.
Questionaut's Diary, Page 9
Two folks in white were hard at work on this island here, sorting out sentences by chopping out words and pulling out stray punctuation marks. I moved a pot over to find a valve wheel, and used it to stop the flow of letters they were working on. They seemed happy to have a break, and we discussed the finer points of grammar and punctuation, a topic that made excellent Thought Air Balloon fuel. Now I'm ready for the last leg of my journey. Hat, here I come!
Questionaut's Diary, Page 10
At last, my wife's hat is back in safe hands. It's a bit of a shame that I lost the Thought Air Balloon as I fetched it, but I don't really care, and neither does my wife. What matters is that I did it! My journey will be one I'll remember for a long time.
Forgive me for all this. I love to let my creative streak out sometimes.
Posted by: SonicLover | March 16, 2008 1:26 PM