This series of software from Holmes McDougall is different from the rest in so far as the computer programs in most instances provide a relatively short introductory "adventure" leading into other language work provided in very comprehensive sets of Pressure-Fax Duplicating Masters.
Many were first published in 1985/6 so, bearing in mind the speed with which things move in the field of computer software, it's not surprising that several, e.g. Spellbound, Pirate's Treasure, Spooky Towers, are somewhat dated - poor Mode 7 graphics and the rather weak themes do little to hide the fact that they cover a number of fairly basic language skills, i.e. drill and practice.
There are, however, two packs I'd be happy to use, because I can see them providing useful material to enhance and extend a topic and help develop some of the higher order skills. The first, McGinty's Gold, fits in neatly with any topic on newspapers or communications and therefore might link with Sherston's Fleet Street Phantom/Typesetter (reviewed in January's edition) and British Telecom's Scoop, which I'll come to later. The second is Wrecker's Rock, which links into a number of themes: the police, safety, the sea.
Following these instructions successfully in part two, which involves solving codes, using an on-screen gazetteer and crossing a marsh, results in finding the gold, the arrest of the only member of the gang free, a promotion and a reward. The sound level option - available in all the programs - is very useful, as is the teachers' option which enables the reporter to be saved from the marsh if necessary. Graphics are used in small doses so are not unpleasant.
Wreckers' Rock is an adventure using colour graphics and sound - the latter is quite effective - to simulate the detective work involved in finding out the plans of a gang of modern-day wreckers, and then thwarting them. It begins when a conversation is overheard about a plan to attack a lighthouse, smash the light and so wreck a ship. The story then proceeds by detective work on the part of the player or group. Research skills required include the reading of bus timetables - 12 and 24 hour clock, a telephone directory and a simple map; code-breaking using a key; and the sending and receiving of simple Morse Code signals.
Sheets 11-20 of the activity sheets introduce a new adventure called Private Eye in which the pupils become a private detective to track down a missing person. Again, this calls for a wide range of reference skills, with samples from the Yellow Pages, Street plans, telephone calls, using atlases and encyclopedia, etc.