The Superman TV show may live in the large shadow of the excellent Batman series, but that's not to say there are not any merits to it. Like Warner Bros' other animated classic, each episode still holds up as an entertaining and intelligent half hour. It was popular enough to get a number of game adaptations - some good, most bad - and just like the bat, the PC got an Activity Centre for the kids.
Gryphon Software again took on the development duties and brought Superman: Activity Centre to store shelves in 1997, a year after Batman. It follows the same basic formula, with a number of diversions scattered across several locales, but the gameplay is a lot more varied and involved here - at least for a mid-90s edutainment title.
You'll be treated with a nifty animation once you've collected the ship parts.
We begin on Krypton, where Jor-El, father to Kal-El (or Superman to us lot) rushes to save his son from the dying planet. You do this by playing a couple of rounds of Simon Says to find out how long you have left, then build a spacecraft for Kal-El to escape to Earth in. The latter has you guide a grabber using commands. These will have to be pre-planned on the hardest difficulty or controlled in real-time on the easiest.
Finding all of the hazards is fun, though I doubt that certificate will help with job applications.
After you played with an art tool, you'll be able to follow the story on to Earth. In particular Martha Kent's kitchen. Here you can doodle some more in a scrapbook or help Clark find hazards throughout the farm. While it's not always easy to see given the low resolution, this educational Where's Wally is actually quite fun. You'll have to look for hazards such as broken glass, frayed wires or knives stuck in trees.
You can create your own front page of the Daily Planet, words and pictures too!
From here, it's off to the city of Metropolis. There are multiple locations here, including the Daily Planet where you can create your own front page. The pictures are chosen not just from a pre-arranged selection, but also any creations you've made thus far. he text is also completely customizable too, making the novelty of it a far more involved affair. There's also a word search to while away your time if you like that kind of thing too.
You can also visit the streets of Metropolis where Livewire has taken over the TVs in an electrical store. This puzzle is essentially Pairs but with a twist. Livewire will pop up in one of the TV screens and you have to guess where the connected screen is. You most likely won't get it the first time so it's a game of memory and patience as you wait for her to show her face.
Trapping Livewire in an offbeat take on pairs (left)
Playing Othello with Lex Luther, the pushover (right).
For more traditional fare, you can play Othello (aka Reversi) with Lex Luthar at LexCorp. This classic board game is common amongst adventures and I always bemoan that fact whenever I see one (7th Guest's version is the worst). In a mini-game collection aimed at children such as this, it becomes a welcome addition that requires a little bit of skill. Lex is a pushover even on the hardest difficulty so no-one should have a problem winning but it remains one of the standouts in this collection.
Once you're done with Lex, you can travel to STAR Labs for some more activities. There are two spacesuits to be found here. One takes you to outer space where you join star-dots to make constellations and even learn some trivia about them.
Find the constellations for some educational history of them (left)
Then rip your hair out trying to play the Star Maze (right)
The second suit, on the other hand, leads to disaster. Like Batman's subterranean maze, the Star Labyrinth is a platformer of sorts controlled entirely with the mouse. You have to guide Supes to the special suit, then hunt down one of the supervillains before they reach the surface. It would be a good little timewaster if it didn't control so abysmally. Not once did I manage it, even on the easiest difficulty. I'd simply waste time wrestling with the controls trying to get through that one gap the Man of Steel keeps stubbornly walking past. Not very fun at all.
That's not to say the entire package is without merit. The level of originality to the mini-games games may be pretty low - par the course considering the target audience - but it's all wrapped in a nicely presented bow. It gives the more well-known time-wasters Disney put out at the same time a run for their money. If your child scoffs at Disney classics in favour of superheroes, then Superman: Activity Centre will be right up their alley.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox running Microsoft Windows 3.1 to get the game working on modern systems. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 69.8 Mb. Install Size: 203 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Superman: Activity Centre is © Gryphon Software
Superman (the series) is © Warner Bros
Superman (the character) is © DC Comics
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me