(photo credit: Courtesy)
A ghost - which normally refers to the disembodied soul of a dead person that wanders among or haunts living persons - is an odd choice for a children's book hero. But Casper, the Friendly Ghost, has been with us since 1939, when Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo wrote a children's book showcasing a smiling white ghost, whose form allowed Casper to sneak up on people. As he wasn't a ghoulish character, he tried to make friends with people and animals instead of scaring them.
Fans argued whether he was a dead child coming back to haunt or merely the offspring of ghost parents. After becoming the main character of an animated cartoon in 1945, comic books and several feature films and TV series in the decades since, the friendly ghost has now been turned into a Hebrew-speaking computer game.
Although these other media had plots, this Casper character unfortunately has no connection to activities, but the friendly ghost is used as a peg on which to hang eight old-fashioned activities, most of which I remember from Compedia games sold a dozen years ago.
Players are brought to a slum-like lane that's about to be bulldozed. The problem is that eight puppies living there have to be rounded up before the bulldozer can be brought in. This flimsy, implausible plot is the basis for playing games and having the right to see dull Casper videoclips.
In one activity, click on animals according to a written description ("wings" and "flies" for a bird; "heavy" and "long snout" for an elephant) and color. Another game uses a "bacterium" sitting on a numbered key; add or subtract numbers on other keys to equal the creature's number. Shoot at sinking junk before it reaches fish that grow as they swallow it. Gobble up objects whose name is written out in a standard Pac-Man game, and in another, a cultured pearl must be hit like a ping-pong ball to get into their shells. Paint is sprayed by a fire truck into a windows of changing colors. How ho-hum can Compedia get?
Sophisticated seven- to-10-year-old Israelis will yawn. They deserve more imaginative and focused computer games than this recycled product in which Casper is a pale shadow of his 1930s self.
Casper: Hasimta Hasodit (Casper: The Secret Lane), a CD-ROM in Hebrew by Compedia, requires Windows 98 and up and a Pentium PC, for ages seven to 10, NIS 80.
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