Museum Madness: A Science & History Learning Mystery


Kicking off Edutainment Month 2018 is
one that I’ve been looking to cover for many years now. And thanks to a generous donation from an LGR viewer named Bryce it’s finally time to talk about Museum
Madness: developed by Novotrade International and published by MECC in
1994 for MS-DOS and the Macintosh. And yes that is the same Novotrade
responsible for creating Ecco the Dolphin for the Sega Genesis, as well as
a whole slew of edutainment games for various companies. Like Richard Scarry’s
How Things Work in Busytown, Paintbox Pals Around the World in 80 Days, and
Magic School Bus Space Exploration Game just to name a
few. But Museum Madness seems to be Novotrade’s most memorable educational title, at least if my inbox of frequent requests over the years is any
indication. “Solve a mystery, overcome chaos, save the day!” Sounds like a solid
educationally entertaining time in my book. And I’m incredibly curious to
finally see for myself since I unfortunately never got to play this as
a youngin’. I have a feeling I would have very much been into it though if only
because on this MS-DOS version it came on a whopping six high-density 3.5 inch
floppy disks. There was also a CD release later on but forcefully fondling fresh
floppies feels fiendishly fantastic, frankly. You also get a black-and-white
instruction manual that doles out dollops of delectable — dang it I need to
stop with the alliteration. Yeah the manual. It’s probably good to
read if you want to know how to install and play the game and stuff. Museum
Madness begins with a MECC logo and a title screen followed by several more
screens of colorful vga artwork and tastefully funky AdLib music. *funky yet tasteful FM synth tunes play* After this you’re promptly thrust into
the story, being introduced to our protagonist, a boy named… huh.
I just realized he doesn’t have a name. He looks like a Steven though. Stevie.
Steve. Whatever he’s got a hat and a bit of an attitude because it’s 1994. And
he’s talking to himself a lot about a problem accessing the National Museum
Interactive System Service. Just then you get a message from the Museum
Interactive Computer Kiosk, or MICK, who secretly happens to be a fully sapient
robot. Seriously, that fact is just casually tossed in there among the other
bits of lore. Apparently it’s no big deal though because the real groundbreaking
information here is that the museum’s computer system has a virus, oh no. You’re the only person for the job and must sneak into the museum and break in. Yeah even Steve here is befuddled at the request, legitimately asking how this
situation makes any sense. But in the end he accepts his fate because that’s just
what Steves do. Once you reasonably wait until morning, you reach the museum and
the first order of business is to find a way inside. Because of course the robot
with human intelligence that hacked your computer and told you to come here in
the first place won’t actually open the dang door. Nope, you just go around to the
side entrance and type in the passcode which clearly and conveniently is
displayed directly outside of the museum above the front door in the proper order
and everything. Oh well, still more secure than Facebook’s user data. Once you’re
inside you’re provided with–ugh what is this, a maze? Yep, it’s a maze. Complete with multiple locked doors, key cards, and dead ends.
Nrngguh and it’s one of those ridiculously confusing mazes where navigation and
visual perspective is entirely based on the character’s most recent movements. So if you go north then go south, what was once north is now south and vice versa.
Same with all the cardinal directions. This also means that some pathways can’t be seen unless you approach them from the opposite direction of where you came
from. Not only that but half the screens are indistinguishable from the others, making it just that little bit more frustrating. Fantastic. What’s the
point of this exactly? Especially since you can just skip this entire
introductory sequence by pressing the escape key. For real, just press
escape and you’re instantly inside the museum, leading me to think the
developers knew it was pointless but didn’t want to take it out for whatever
reason. Whatever man, at this point you’re greeted by MICK, the totally nothing-special robot with human intelligence that isn’t a big deal. His batteries are
running out so that’s not good. And this gives you a nice opportunity to test out
the game’s interactions and inventory. It works just like a point-and-click
graphic adventure because that’s pretty much what it is. The solution to this
puzzle is to open up a museum tour tape deck with your pocket knife, remove the
batteries, and provide them to MICK. So yeah, pointing, clicking, adventuring.
Graphically. You get the idea. MICK then lets you in on the details which is that
in the middle of the night all of the museum’s animatronics and computerized exhibits have been taken over by a malicious program of some kind. So you
need to go and repair each of the 25 exhibits before it turns into Five
Nights at MICK’s and then Shawn Levy decides to make a movie about it
starring Ben Stiller. Yeah the idea of inanimate objects coming alive at night
is a pretty common trope, but props to Museum Madness for at least doing
something a bit unique here. That being to use museum exhibits gone berserk as
an opportunity to teach science and history by way of returning each part of
the museum to its original state. You get five categories with five exhibits each,
broadly covering the topics of technology, space exploration, American
history, earth science, and world history, sort of — that last one is kind of a
free-for-all. The order in which you proceed is up to you, but really the
overall goal is the same no matter what. You just visit every exhibit and
complete the challenges within. Each of these are self-contained in terms of
puzzle types and gameplay mechanics, so there’s always a bit of experimentation
to find out exactly what the game wants you to do. For example this room has you
reconstructing a Rube Goldberg machine. You’ll know you’ve done it correctly
when the machine works, but finding out precisely where it wants you to snap
each object into place can be finicky, even if you mentally know what it should
look like. Still fun to watch it come together when you do figure out where it
wants you to put all the parts though. Same goes for this series of puzzles
surrounding the Wright brothers’ attempts to fly. You may know mentally what an
airfoil looks like, or you might be able to guess based on the feather on the
wall. But even if you do it can be hard to tell what the game actually wants you
to come up with in the context of this puzzle and its particular shapes and graphics. Not only that but it’s frequently vague in how to accomplish these puzzles. Like
here where it just expects you to pick up a wrench in a previous room and use
it to open these windows to create a wind tunnel. That’s just one of dozens of
examples in Museum Madness being a tad obscure in its intentions for the player
in each room. Like yeah I know that the people involved in the Salem witch
trials were falsely accusing people of being witches. But how do I prove that?
Well in this case it can only be done by moving this vase to higher ground and
poking a hole in the window shutters to make the light reflect a rainbow on the
ceiling. Well dang, who knew that historical tragedy could have been
avoided so easily? And then other times the solution to repairing an exhibit is
so simple it’s arguably just a waste of time. I’m really not sure what you’re
supposed to be learning by putting this torn up drawing back together again but
it has you doing this kind of thing multiple times. Or like what are you
supposed to learn from rigging a jousting tournament by consulting a
wizard about changing the background color of a knight’s coat of arms?
Seriously that’s how you solve this. You just obey the wizard’s crystal ball to
change the coat of arms and that ensures victory over the king’s knight. Yeah along the way it’s letting you
know things like heraldry and squires existed but that’s about it.
Oh well, I don’t want to be too harsh on this because you do get more, it’s just
inconsistent. Some of these sections involving subjects like computer logic
or thrust in the vacuum of space involved some legit logical challenge. These were tricky! Anyone was doing something trivial and/or tedious, like
say plopping animal silhouettes onto a cart in order to repopulate nature
dioramas four creatures at a time, you’re still getting plenty of artwork and
music that were pretty awesome in 1994. Or at least I would have been impressed
back then as an eight-year-old. I can totally see why Museum Madness brings
back such fond memories for those that played it as a kid. And even now as a
technical adult I’m still intrinsically drawn to these environments and the
general atmosphere of this maddening museum, if only for undefinable and
nostalgic reasons. I don’t know man, there’s a part of my brain that always
explodes with excitement when presented with 256-color graphics and FM synth
music. Charming is all that is though, I’ve got to say the ending is laughably
dumb. I mean look at this, you defeat the virus and it’s like “oh hey, you win.
Everything’s good now, all in a day’s work.” BAM! It goes black and you’re back
to the DOS prompt. No ending scene showing a happy museum, no credits
sequence, no robot make-out scenes, nothing but DOS. Dang. Yeah well that’s Museum Madness for ya. Filled with equal parts mid-90s
edutainment goodness and mid-90s game design weirdness. And it is all kinds of
amusing as a result. Well here we are it’s another
edutainment month. Time flies, I don’t understand, but that’s what it is.
So throughout the month of April there are more edutainment videos coming every Friday, and other stuff on Mondays. So stay tuned if you like this kind of
thing. And as always thank you very much for watching!

100 thoughts on “Museum Madness: A Science & History Learning Mystery

  1. I woudln't be surprised if the "Press Esc to leave the maze" thing was some kind of copy protection gambit.

  2. This video didn't show up in my subs ALSO it's showing that I've already watched it when I haven't. Just thought I'd mention this.

  3. have you considered to review the Knowledge Adventure edutainment games? 3D Dinosaur Adventure/Kids' Zoo, Undersea Adventure, 3D Body Adventure, Space Adventure/SPEED? I grew up with those edutainment games on a 1993 or 1994 Packard Bell computer with Windows 3.1 when i was a little boy, and i'd LOVE to see you cover them. I still think that 3D Body Adventure is probably the creepiest of them all, because of the graphics displayed when it covers the reproductive system, and even the narrator's voice quality is startling in those sections compared to the others in the reference library.

  4. "Dang it I need to stop it with the alliteration" And un-subscribed. :p

    But really, I love when you do that! MORE!!!

  5. "I don't know man, there is a part of my brain that always explodes with excitement when presented with 256- color graphics and FM synth music". Man that is why I love your channel…should consider it as a motto for it!

  6. Oh the early 90's, when a game that involves a friendly helper robot tell you that the computer and everything connected to the computer has been corrupted by a virus DOESN'T have the "shocking" twist that the helper robot either was the source of the computer virus or has been controlled by the virus all along… right?

  7. My deja vu buzzer just went off when you mentioned Richard Scarry,part of my childhood those books here in Australia.

  8. Man, I'd love it if you could help me figure out what this educational game was. It was about Dinosaurs, and I believe you had to basically navigate through different periods to study them and play mini games. It was from around 95' and on CD-ROM.

  9. one of the first PC games i ever played alongside "Fatty Bear" on my mom's macontosh…It was challenging and mysterious. The music brings me back!

  10. Please cover the Microsoft Magic School Bus titles. I thoroughly enjoyed these when my dad worked for Microsoft in the 90s.

  11. LGR do you have an edutainment game where the main hero has a redcap and goes around the school finding pieces to make your car to race a boss?

  12. i remember playing this as a kid! Back then, this game was one of the highlights of PC gaming for me. Thank you for showing it! Makes my day that much better!

  13. i remember my elementary school having a few educational games, include school house of rock, cluefinders, one about anatomy, and one about time travel. I barely ever got to play them though, it seemed some students got my chances to play it than most.

  14. Could you also review an old game that lets you buy stocks stuff, I forgot the name of the game but it came out in the 90's and it was pretty popular because it was pretty accurate. Also another video game like street rod for MS-DOS they're actually pretty informative to play.

  15. I played that game so much. I hated the sliding tiles puzzle though it seemed so much harder than all the other puzzles

  16. I really like this graphic style. I like it very much. Many adventure games, especially in the 90s, had this style. It reminds me a lot of my childhood.

  17. I can't believe you didn't mention that horrible Food Web sliding puzzle. That one puzzle stopped me from beating this game in middle school, and I didn't solve it till I was in college and had all the free time I needed.

  18. I remember playing this game, but then the computer broke and I lost the disc, I actually had a lot of fun with this game

  19. Goodness, I worked in a museum for years and nothing like this ever happened to us. Im very glad about that too lol My work laptop was very well behaved most of the time. The curator of archaeology (my boss) did once get a telephone cord wrapped around her chair and then dropped a box of finger bones while trying to get free.

  20. Loved this game so much as a kid.

    I was always stuck on the ecology sliding puzzle for a very long time though. I really dislike those sliding puzzles.

  21. I never thought I'd see this game again. How awesome! Thanks for the bit of nostalgia. My favorite exhibit was the witch trials lol.

  22. Do you remember "Monkey Island", with Guybrush Threepwood ¿¿¿¿, the intro reminds me of that xxx ¡¡¡¡¡

  23. I downloaded DOS Box along some DOS games, the problem is one of the games is Elder Scrolls Arena and I typed in the mount command to mount the game to c: dive using
    mount c c:es1a it either says " Mount : Illegal Command" or Mount c c:es1a doesn't exist"
    I need help with installing my DOS games, any tips or suggestions on how to fix the issue?
    Dennis Marshall II

  24. I remember loving this game as a kid, and really never getting very far. I couldn't remember any sort of plot, or actual goals, but I really enjoyed what I played.

  25. "Still more secure than Facebook's user data"

    Hahaha, this is one of the greatest lines I have ever heard! Kudos

  26. Holy shit i'm looking at a LGR video that is not 10 yrs old !
    Man, your channel started awesome and keep on being awesome to this day.

    I wish i had discovered back then and not only 2 weeks ago.

  27. I remember this! The Wright flyer wing was the only part I got to play in the school library. You had to eyeball it and even knowing what a wing should look like did no good. We were easily impressed then.

  28. This game is the epitomy of early 90s graphic adventure games! Nonsensical puzzles? Check. Lame ending? Check. Pixel hunting? Check.

  29. OMG love love love this game. I remember missing after school band practice just to play this in the after school computer lab!

  30. I had this game as a kid. I was actually thinking just other night that I wanted to see LGR review this game, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was called. Personally, I always thought it was fun, but I never had any clue what I was doing or supposed to do, but hey, it's a good example of 90s nostalgia.

  31. Wait, so the super sapient robot that controls the entire museum network runs off what looks like 2 standard for early 90s AA NiCd or NiMH batteries?
    wut?

    On a side note, I love adlib music. That very specific synth sound only adlib has makes me feel like I'm around 12-14 again.

  32. I have the 6 floppy discs from 1994 but no box or manual. I have no idea how to install the game. Does anyone know how to get it running? (couldn't find the manual online)

  33. Wow… that's got to be one of the most stupid and naive depictions of the Salem Witch trials I have ever seen… Solve it with science! Not like it was caused my mass hysteria, group think and mob mentality… no… they'll surely listen to reason… they won't burn both of you at the stake. >__>

    Should be solving it with psychology instead of science.

  34. this was one of if not the most popular game ever in elementary school. i always felt really lucky whenever i got a chance to play it cause everybody wanted to play this. ahhhh so many memories.

  35. Played museum madness when I was 11 in 1995 it was fun but very hard to play couldn't beat it, got stuck on the space satellite one and quit the game😊👻☃🎱

  36. Dear LGR.
    If you own the rare 'Crazy Bones Lost in Crazy Town' CD-Rom from Firebrand, which was a Canadian only game, please could you do a review or gameplay on it, there is currently 0 screenshots or videos of it on the internet it is so rare 🙂 thank you! sorry to write this here, Twitter isn't allowing me to sign up as I share this computer with others and they already made accounts on this I.P.

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