Cosmic Osmo and the Worlds Beyond the Mackerel and Spelunx and the Caves of Mr. Seudo are two superb educational games disguised as open-ended adventures. Similar in design to The Manhole but much more obscure, both games were designed by Myst creators Robyn & Rand Miller and released only for the Macintosh.
Both games are similar in many ways: they were coded with Apple's Hypercard, there is no set goal in either game, and like The Manhole they are full of cleverly enchanting and well-hidden mini-games that teach kids on various subjects. Cosmic Osmo is more similar to The Manhole in that it was designed primarily for toddlers, except this time with a sci-fi theme. Kids will enjoy the wide range of activities and options in a relaxing gameworld that is filled with colorful characters and dozens of surprises. Spelunx was designed for older kids, as here you can learn about the principles of math, biology, physics, and many other "serious" subjects. My favorite activity/mini-game in Spelunx is the "Tree Gene-orator", which allows you to pick the traits of a tree, plant it, and watch it grow over time.
Like The Manhole, much of the fun in both games lies in replaying them over and over to discover new routes or options that you did not find in previous sessions. For example, when faced with a sinkful of dirty dishes in Cosmic Osmo, you can wash them, break them on the floor, or put them through the garbage disposal. Hand-drawn by Robyn Miller, the graphics are very good for their time – very clear and crisp even in the restrictive black-and-white palette. The only gripe I have is that the maze-like structure of Spelunx makes navigation a bit too frustrating, as you need to map certain areas of the game if you don't want to waste time retracing your steps. With numerous hot-spots for kids to discover, excellent cartoony graphics, and well-hidden edutainment elements that kids will hardly notice, both games are two well-designed rarities that are well worth a look, even if you are not a Mac fan. Like Winnie the Pooh or Alice in Wonderland, this pair of underrated gems will captivate kids and adults alike in ways that are no less addictive than the better-known The Manhole. Two thumbs up, way up!Reviewed by: Underdogs