Nowadays, it seems as if virtually every classic card, tile, and board game is making the transition to the home computer. Heck, even puzzles have migrated to the silicon platform. In most instances, these media-enhanced translations have been quite satisfying - 3D animations, sound effects, array of game variants, and the inclusion of a multiplayer mode often breathe new life into a tired old favorite. Unfortunately, some publishers have drawn a false sense of security from these celebrated remakes, sensing vindication as they feverishly port over every conceivable product in their vast gaming inventory.
In the case of Mastermind, Hasbro Interactive may have been better off leaving well enough alone. The original game of Mastermind owes its success to its logical if simplistic design: You have ten tries to guess the order and composition of a set of four multicolored pegs secretly hidden from your view. With each guess, the opposing player places a scoring peg alongside your row of pegs, intended to graphically depict how many pegs have been correctly identified and how many have been placed in the proper position. Typically, a white peg is used for each colored peg correctly identified while a red peg indicates that a peg has been placed in the corresponding position. Based upon these results, you must then deduce which pegs have been correctly identified and which have been placed in the right sequence, juxtaposing one, several, or all of the remaining pegs to match the hidden pattern before your tries run out. Simple enough.
Mastermind CD-ROM seizes upon this theme, integrating an assortment of colorful 3D graphics in lieu of ordinary pegs. Sound effects have been incorporated into the game, invoked when an orb has been plucked up from its cradle then repeated when the piece is placed on the game board. Several uninspiring game variations have been added, including a side-by-side, head-to-head challenge board, which pits two players against one another to see who can decipher the code first. All in all, gameplay remains the same throughout each of the eight variants, providing, at most, a few minutes of respite other games could easily match.
To put it in simple terms, Mastermind CD-ROM teeters on the brink of overkill. What began as a budget title - which could be purchased for as little as $5 in a travel format - has been repackaged, another attempt to court the growing audience of gamers migrating to the computer for home entertainment. In the process, this simple game has been injected with a series of 3D graphics and obligatory sound effects, seemingly in an effort to drive up its cost somewhere in the neighborhood of five times its original asking price. Frankly, the publishers might be wise to consider bundling the game with all future versions of Windows, available, like solitaire and hearts, free of charge, instead of hyping it as a dynamic stand-alone product. As it stands now, Mastermind has succumbed to an ironic twist of fate; what was once a classic game of logic and deduction has itself been outfoxed by a wily marketing scheme, outwitted by the irrepressible urge to port everything that isn't already nailed down.