Hoyle's Official Book of Games, Volume 3. (Evaluation)
by Alfred C. Giovetti
In Hoyle's Official Book of Games, Volume 3, Sierra returns once again to the tried-and-true games format used in its two earlier versions. Hoyle's 3 presents us with six new game challenges: Checkers, Backgammon, Dominoes, Snakes and Ladders, Yacht (a variation on Yahtzee), and Pachisi (a variation on Parcheesi). The third Hoyle's presents board games as opposed to the card games that were offered in Hoyle's 2.
I was pleased to see that the computer opponents presented in Hoyle's 3 are, as in the first Hoyle's, nine heroes and nine villains of other Sierra games. (Hoyle's 2 is a solitaire game; there are no opponents other than you and the cards.) You can now pit your Pachisi prowess against Passionate Patty and her pulsations. You can overhaul Vohaul's Yacht. The nine heroes are arranged in order of their difficulty as opponents, from Mother Goose, whose digitized voice prompts you when you make a mistake, to Sonny Bonds, whose ruthless play is mirrored in his squinty-eyed computer visage. The villains are similarly ordered according to their play proficiency. If you don't like computer opponents, you can play against human ones.
Checkers is by far the cutesiest game in the box, with little green and red frogs sitting and croaking on lily pads configured in the familiar 8 x 8 checkerboard pattern. A frog can jump from anywhere to anywhere, even to the top of your opponent's head. It will then jump back to its original position, while your opponent's digitized voice informs you that you've made an illegal move. If a legal move is made, the game proceeds as usual. If you make a double jump, your opponent will acknowledge your obvious demonstration of skill with a compliment. Once jumped, frogs dive deep into a pond. Should you choose, traditional button-shaped checkers can be used, but I strongly recommend playing with the frogs at least once.
Yacht and Pachisi are similar to the board versions of the games Yahtzee and Parcheesi, but not identical. In Yacht, you use five dice to build poker hands. The flashy color-cycling background where the dice are rolled is animated to increase variety and interest. In Pachisi, you can play with up to four players, either computer-controlled or human. Cowrie shells, which were used in the ancient game, can be rolled instead of dice, with the clear or slitted side of the shells indicating the number of moves. An alternate board layout can be selected for gameplay. Neither Yacht nor Pachisi has a board exactly the same as that of its respective board game.
Dominoes, Backgammon, and Snakes and Ladders are the traditional games with no differences in this version. Dominoes can be played with two players and six different sets of rules. Backgammon can be played with two players and allows for use of the doubling cube if desired. Backgammon also lets you play with aceydeucy rules against a human, and two board designs are available. Snakes and Ladders is played with up to four computer or human players. The playing pieces are animated children who automatically climb the ladders and slide down the snakes. The animation is fluid, well done, and fascinating to watch. The rules can be varied, and the game can be configured so it prompts younger players to make the correct moves.
Hoyle's backgrounds, opponents, and playing pieces are animated, with digitized voices and a varied musical score accompanying play. The music is impressive throughout, as are the digitized voices. While playing the games, you can carry on conversations with the computer players to get information on the history of the games. Hoyle's 3 comes in 256-color and 16-color VGA and EGA with two sets of 3 1/2- and 5 1/4-inch disks. Modem play is not supported by the game. If you wish to play a human opponent by modem, you must subscribe to The Sierra Network (TSN), a new electronic database service recently established by Sierra, and play Hoyle's 3 on the TSN board. Some voice bugs have been reported, such as conflicts with the mouse and partial rather than complete phrases and words.
On the whole, Hoyle's 3 is a great game for adults and children alike. Small children will learn about the games by choosing opponents like Mother Goose, who will not only teach them how to play but also tell them about the history of the games. If my experience is any indication, grownups will be equally entertained. Hoyle's 3 will probably be a permanent addition to my hard drive.