LGR – Super Solvers Spellbound! – DOS PC Game Review

LGR – Super Solvers Spellbound! – DOS PC Game Review


[typing]
You ever think back to games you played as a kid
and wonder “why the crap did I play that so much?”
Super Solvers Spellbound!
is one of those games for me,
and I don’t wonder that because
it’s a bad game or anything,
because it’s certainly not.
I wonder that because…
well, it’s just freakin’ spelling.
You spell words.
That’s it!
Whatever the case may be, this
game was awesome to my young self.
Maybe it had something to do with the fact
that you played an androgynous character
wearing nothing but a hat, hoodie and boxers.
Or maybe it was because your
character rides a skateboard
that’s not in the game whatsoever
and I subconsciously adored deceitful cover art.
I dunno. But what I do know is that Spellbound
is either the fifth or the sixth game,
depending on who you ask,
in The Learning Company’s Super Solver Series,
succeeding games like Midnight Rescue!,
Out Numbered!,
and Treasure Mountain!
The game was originally
released for DOS PCs in 1991,
with slightly upgraded
Windows and Macintosh versions
arriving in the years to come.
Following in the footsteps of
previous Super Solvers games,
Morty Maxwell, aka The Master of Mischief,
is once again planning on taking over the world
by almost being a nuisance,
this time entering the Shady Glen School Spelling Bee,
along with his Paintbrush-inspired robotic minions.
It’s up to to leave him spellbound
by out-spelling him every step of the way.
A silly setup that has absolutely no bearing
on what happens in the game, but hey!
It’s meant for ages 7 to 12,
so what do you expect?
Inside the box, you have a piece of blue foam,
which is absolutely ideal for not quite
piquing the curiosity of your lazy cat.
You also get a “read this first” paper
that nobody ever reads first,
a set of low-density 5¼-inch and 3½-inch floppies
to please those who derive pleasure from disks
both big and small,
a manual covering all the
expected manually manual things,
and this Learning Company software catalog,
showing what must have been one heck of a party.
I mean it.
These ’90s kids are undoubtedly having way more fun
than should be allowed.
Red-faced ginger kid here with
his mind sufficiently blown.
Striped-shirt braces kid striking a
successful golfer fist-pump pose.
And this random kid completely passed
out on the couch in the back of the room,
the insanity of Learning Company games
just too much for him to handle.
Start the game up and you’re
greeted with some music,
and the game’s colorful intro
screen showing off its use
of 256-color VGA graphics.
Your Super Solvers character walks in
from…some…where…
and stops to read a message
about the Shady Glen Spelling Bee.
Once you enter your name,
you’re then given the option
to choose the word list that you
want to use throughout the game.
There are quite a few already included in Spellbound,
covering a variety of age-
appropriate words and subjects.
However, there is also the option
to create your own word lists,
which really opens the opportunity
for the game to get some more
targeted usage.
Just be sure THESE words are spelled correctly,
as that could get very confusing during gameplay.
Then choose your difficulty,
which only affects how many
puzzles you have to solve
to reach a spelling bee and nothing more.
Once you’re finished,
one of the magic garden gnomes
from previous Super Solvers games
shows up with a fancy red Spellbinder,
which is kind of a chunky PDA
that only does word puzzles.
At this point, you can choose
one of three different activities,
each of which will reward you with points
toward a set goal to reach
the current spelling bee.
There are five spelling bees,
or levels, throughout the game,
and the further along you are,
the tougher things get.
The first activity is Word Search,
which is exactly what it sounds like.
It’s a word search puzzle
comprised of a selection of
words from the list chosen earlier.
At first, it’s exactly what you would expect
where you’ll find a word that’s
placed pretty normally in the puzzle.
Sometimes the words will be backwards,
but otherwise it’s not that big of a deal.
Until you reach the later levels, that is,
where the word will start
to be grouped in diagonal
and even totally irregular shapes.
I really like these later-level word puzzles
because they require a
little out of the box thinking
that really appeals to my brain somehow.
Next is Flash Card,
which is pretty much the only activity where
you might not earn all possible points.
You’re presented with a set of flash cards
with the Master of Mischief
mischievously printed on them,
lending some evidence to the theory that
he is in fact the one that
gave you this Spellbinder.
But I’m not going into conspiracies, heh heh.
Just press Space to be flashed with a word
and then type the word in correctly
from memory.
Each time you’re correct, you get some points,
but if you miss one, then you
won’t get the full point total.
In later levels, you also get the
option to enter a bonus round
where the eight words that were
flashed earlier are then scrambled.
Descramble them, and spell them,
and earn extra points toward your grand total.
Lastly, there’s Criss Cross,
which is just a simple crossword puzzle.
No gimmicks here, just enter
the words from the word list
in such a way that they cross
each other in a logical manner.
If you fail, well, you really suck
because you can’t fail.
It’s just trial and error.
Once your score reaches or passes the target score,
the spelling bee for the level will be unlocked.
And if you have a sound card
that plays digitized sounds,
you’ll hear an off-screen spelling bee host
introduce the contestants,
accompanied by a short little
musical ditty for each one.
[female voice]
[MIDI rock music plays]
It’s worth noting that is
the only point in the game
where any kind of actual
sound effects are heard,
and that’s the digitized speech.
While there are sound effects
in other parts of the game,
all are done through MIDI instruments,
not unique effects files,
so things will sound quite different,
depending on the hardware you have.
Anyway, the spelling bees are just like
the flash card activity from earlier,
except now you have to outlast the others.
Once you do that, you’re then
rewarded with a podium scene
and are moved onto the
next spelling bee location
where you have to do
everything all over again.
It follows a pretty logical
path of spelling bees,
from classroom to school-wide,
to citywide and statewide.
All the way up to nationwide
on the freakin’ White House lawn.
Eventually, you’ll reach the final
battle against Morty Maxwell,
who lasts a few words longer
than the previous robots.
He’ll eventually screw up, though.
And hooray! You’ve won
the game and saved the world
from absolutely no threat whatsoever.
And that’s really about it for Spellbound.
Just three activities and a spelling bee.
Do it five times in a row,
with only slight variations each time,
and there you go.
Game over in about 15 to 30 minutes,
depending on the difficulty chosen.
Once again, I’m not really sure why
I played the game so much as a kid,
but…I did,
and I had other games I could have been playing,
so it must have been doing something right.
Sure, it’s incredibly repetitive and
really kind of stale, as far as gameplay goes.
But it has bright graphics, cheerful music,
some simple but effective animations,
and I know for a fact it helped to fuel
my current sensitivity to proper spelling.
For a kid, it’s fun
and teaches some valuable stuff,
so I see no real problem with it.
And, yes, with the word lists,
you can effectively exploit the entire game
by using words that are
almost impossible to get wrong,
but that’s beside the point.
When it’s used properly,
Spellbound is an awesome little learning tool
and I still think it holds up quite well,
even to this day.
[MIDI music plays]

100 thoughts on “LGR – Super Solvers Spellbound! – DOS PC Game Review”

  1. 😀 – Guess part of the beauty of the game is the fact you can put your own words in – much like the way you can enter your own names in SkoolDaze and Bak2Skool, as there are no limits to what you could put – other than the size of the words (or names). Games which allowed such things always seem to be something more special in some regards than others due to this. Like entering a high score in the arcades I guess. Gives a sense of pride to see your name or initials at least for a short time.

  2. Wow. I've played this game at the library when I was in middle school. Gotta say those paintbrush enemies freaked me out and so I never played much of it.

  3. this reminded me of a game I used to play a metric crapton when i was young (also a super-solver game) Super Solvers Gizmos and Gadgets that game was also speaking i which i need to track down a copy

  4. i remember playing this when i was young. since i was already very good at spelling, this game bored me to death. ah well.

  5. TREASURE MOUNTAIN, FUCK YEAH

    I still have the CD in my apartment, and boot that shit up in dosbox sometimes

  6. I actually wouldn't mind seeing some of these classic Learning Company games re-released on GOG(dot)com, but of course they'd have to pick and choose what would actually "fit" with their catalog. Something like Zoombinis and certain Super Solvers titles I'd think would sorta work, not so much JumpStart, though. 😛

  7. Wow, I feel really dumb now. I played this game numerous times as a kid and I never knew that there were more spelling bees. I always completed the first one and then turned off my game because I thought I was done.

  8. Man… you have Robocod!! you gotta do a review for this one! It's the best in the series in my opinion even though I haven't played the first and third all too much. One of the classic platformers of my childhood,

  9. Math For The Real World was probably the most bizarre game of my childhood. You had to use math problems to help members of a band make their own music video and make it big in the music industry. Making the music videos was rewarding, but pretty underwhelming when you got right down to it

  10. I'd love to see you review Solver Solvers Challenge of the Ancient Empires at some point, as it's the only Super Solvers game I know of that DIDN'T use the Carmen Sandiego-esque "take a case and solve it, then move on to the next case" formula. Instead, it was pretty much a straight-up puzzle platformer with basically no educational content in it whatsoever. Instead, it just had lots of bats and spiders, and the SLOWEST-MOVING LIGHT BEAMS EVER. Yet it was oddly very fun, like all SSolvers games.

  11. Oh phreak, you've helped me once more.

    I've been looking for the "Ancient Empires" game in this series for ages, but could never remember the name.

  12. The Super Solvers games always reminded me a little bit too much of Zynga games, except instead of trying to get you to harass your friends and nickel and dime you, they were trying to educate you.

  13. I still remember playing Spellbound, and I still have the disk with me. I always remembered that I put Pokemon names as custom words.

  14. I didn't really play much of the Learning Company games (The Trail games don't really count because they are MECC but have the learning company logo).
    Though I did play one Learning Company game, Operation Neptune, it was a Math arcade maze game. Me and my brother played it for hours when we were young.

  15. Can't believe Gizmos and Gadgets wasn't in this. Then again it might have come out after you stopped playing edutainment games.

  16. Please spell the word…. "vmmhmph…*
    (repeat?)
    "vmmhmph…"

    Yeah… I never could understand some of the words, her voice was so muffle, this coming from internal speaker on an IBM 286.

  17. Oh man! I could just imagine making a spelling list of nothing but anagrams. The flash card bonus game would be a nightmare!

  18. I used to play the hell out of the OutNumbered! game.  I think most computers in our elementary school had it installed.  Never knew there were others in the series, or that it was even part of a series.

  19. I feel the same way about the whole "Why did i play this so much as a kid" when it comes to Super Solvers.  I had Super Solvers Spellbound, Super Solvers Reading Comprehension, Operation Neptune and a couple other educational games that I played the crap out of.  I can kind of see why I played Operation Neptune as often as I did, but the others…  I have no idea.

  20. I used to play a weird Crayola game instead of y'know…..actually colouring in a colouring book. I have no clue why I played it all the time.I can't remember the name of it :Y Also i played Reader Rabbit a lot and some…Arthur Reading Race thing…

  21. the game i have played much when i was 7 in 2001 were Need for Speed Unleadsed and GTA 3 on my AMD Athon with 800mhz and 256mb ram Running Geforce 2400 i just give this pc away for someone

  22. I had this game along with the reading one at my house. At school in the third or fourth grade they had the science and math versions. My classmates and I would always try to see who could get the farthest in the game. The math one was pretty difficult. I was happy when I could go home and play my own two games and not worry about having to race anyone haha.

  23. I used to play Midnight Rescue so much as a kid in school. It was my go-to after rushing through class work.

  24. what is those gnomes are traveling back in time and the antagonist of the game is the player in the future and the reason he's trying to stop them and stuff is because of how f**** stupid and pointless it is ( aka the puzzles and junk)?

  25. For me I kept playing the treasure one for the amazement that I had the game that was on all the PCs at my school. Don't know why but I thought it was only sold to schools from some reason, ah to be 7 again.

  26. I played "Midnight Rescue", "Treasure Cove" and "Outnumbered" at least 100 times each on my grandma's windows 95 PC. I had a lot of fun!

  27. The custom spelling list looks like a great place for kids to type in curse words and amuse themselves for hours on end… :3

  28. My parents actually had that game for our computer from the early 90s. I was really young when we had it along with a Mickey Mouse puzzle game. The things I vaguely remembered about the game were the cover of the game and my older sister playing the spelling bee game with those robots.

  29. I didn't know there were that many entries in the super solvers series. I had "Midnight Rescue" when I was really young. Years later I played "Mountain!" at a friends house, and I had a neighbor that Gizmos and Gadgets.

  30. Do you have Super Solvers Outnumbered? Also there was one where you walk along the side of a mountain a lot. And pick up gold. I don't remember the name of that one. Or the point. But it was a Super Solvers game.

  31. We actually had the CD version that had voice acting on this one when the robots spelled the words out. So we made custom spelling lists so they would say funny things.

    "Please spell the following flashed word:
    Imapos
    EYE EMM A PEE OH ESS
    Spell the following flashed word
    Urapos
    YOU ARE A PEE OH ESS
    Impp
    EYE EMM PEE PEE
    Icup
    EYE SEE YOU PEE
    Fuunu
    EFF YOU YOU ENN YOU
    Urpp
    YOU ARE PEE PEE
    Ifu
    EYE EFF YOU

  32. I bet you liked the game as a kid because you would make a custom list full of cusswords and then laugh your butt off when you read them.

  33. Please cover Midnight Rescue for edutainment month! I played the mess out of that one as a kid. Scared the hell out of me!

  34. I actually played one of these games in elementary school with that nasty purple and blue green colors lol.

  35. If I had to pick a game that was "Why did I play this so much as a kid", definitely would be Kings of Chaos. Just one of those games you can never win.

  36. Thanks for this. I really only got familiar with 2 SS games when I was a kid (one had a similar amount of screens; and similar simplistic gameplay, only it's about reading. Google says it's Midnight Rescue, um, okay, I guess that title wasn't memorable to me …). Anyway, I think the SS series would be a great full length video subject. I will have to try Spellbound; since I never got to play it, and this retro game looks possibly useful for actually any age. Because you can put in all words that you have the most trouble with spelling. I'll have to see how many letters this retro game can do… It's supery solvery quirky and jerky; however, if you have not played (Challenge of the) Ancient Empires I recommend checking it out. I feel it's worth an episode itself (if you are so inclined and in a kind-of-educational title mode sometime) .I mostly played CGA and PC speaker, and remember being amazed at the audio and video options when I latter played it on more capable hardware. it's just awesomely retro on all, and surprisingly playable. I know that the PC speaker is annoying, but these 2 SS games I played at least had surprisingly good use of it. And I am aware I may have overused praranthesiseses,es,ys? um). Anyway SS Ancient Empires is kiddie to adult, edutainment, retroey, simplistic goodness…

  37. When I was young we all played Tap' touche. It's the french version of Typing pal. The version I played had some bugs bunny like sequences and was actually quite hilarious at the time.

  38. Please do an outnumbered review! When I was growing up I played it ALL THE TIME! Especially if you could play it on an IBM P/S2 386 Processor!!!

  39. I played the old-school Mac version Treasure Cove in fourth grade and Windows version of Treasure Mountain at my cousin's house.

  40. E erytime i hear the music in this game elsewhere i have flashbacks .. i played one of the other ,likely previous titles in this franchise tho .. there was one where you walked the halls of the school defeating the enemies

  41. To this day I thought the character was a big hairy blue guy with a red head. Finally realised its a coat and a hat

    I played the one in the TV station. It was so hard but I loved running around zapping the TV's with my ray-gun thing. Zapping them would enter you into a mini-maths game which I'd always fail at. I'd pretty much last 5 minutes before running out of energy and just starting the game again.

  42. the protagonist and villain look identical to the characters from treasure Mountain. Did they use those characters in all of their games? And are there edutainment games made in 2018? I haven't heard of any modern Windows 10 edutainment games

  43. I owned a later game in the Super Solvers series, Gizmos and Gadgets. Played a lot of that game. I think it's better than the games that appeared previously because, in addition to having puzzles, the gameplay surrounding said puzzles was tight and responsive. It wouldn't be out of place on a game console of the time.

    Also, I have to give props to Morty, Dr. Wily's half-witted cousin. Keep trying to conquer the surprisingly diverse location that is Shady Glenn and perhaps one day you will achieve basic competence.

  44. I played the hell out of Midnight Rescue in elementary school. I recognized the paint tool robots from that game appearing in this one.

  45. WHY is there such a descrepency over the placement of this game? Does this have anything to do with the raging debate over weather to count Chalenge of the ancient empires, which was originally a stand alone game that was retconned into the super solvers universe when the windows version came along?

  46. I went to a private school up until 8th grade, and the computers in the computer lab had almost this entire series of games. Some of them were actually really good, like full on games. I can't remember what they were called but my favorite was the one where you explore an entire underwater world in a submarine. I also have some memories of one that was a platformer in an aztec temple or something.

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