The Manhole is brothers Rand and Robyn Miller's first release before they went on to design the best-selling game in PC history (hint: it rhymes with "gist"). It is also noteworthy as the first product ever to be released on the new medium of CD-ROMs – way back in 1987! Unlike that overrated collection of puzzles set in an empty world, The Manhole is teeming with lively cartoon characters that kids will like, as well as many educational tidbits disguised as mini-games to be discovered.|
In many ways, the qualities that make The Manhole a unique and outstanding edutainment title are the same that later made Myst a best-seller: the freedom to explore the rich, well-realized gameworld at your own pace, and the one-click-does-all interface. As a kids' game, The Manhole is even better at utilizing the concept. The game opens with a simple-looking manhole cover; clicking on it leads to one of the game's many exploration choices that make it replayable many times: should I do up or down? Each location, many of which the player will miss on his or her first time, is jam-packed with objects to play with, friendly cartoon characters, and fun animations. Educational nuggets are cleverly presented in the game's context (talking to the rabbit, for instance, is a French lesson in disguise), and since the game dispenses with any pretext of a plot, children are free to explore as long and as randomly as they wish without worrying about "finishing" the game. The one-click interface that became many player's complaint about Myst is a boon in The Manhole, as it makes the game playable to kids of all ages with no learning curve whatsoever.
With creative locations, a great balance between education and pure fun, and colorful characters, The Manhole is highly recommended for kids of all ages, especially to young toddlers who are learning to read. Brøderbund also released the updated "CD-ROM Masterpiece" edition of this game in 1997, obviously to cash in on Cyan's success. It is a great buy if you find it somewhere, since it has many more locations, vibrant SVGA graphics, and multimedia elements.
The PC version came out later than the original Macintosh version by almost two years, but it sports better graphics and smoother animations.
Reviewed by: Underdogs