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Review by Scott Baret

After a hiatus of five months, I return with some new content. Quite a bit has changed since June both in my life and the Apple community. I have moved to Charlotte and am now working full time as a first grade teacher. Apple has overhauled most of its products, introducing new lines of iPads, iPhones, iPods, and iMacs, among other products. Outside of the company, a much-anticipated product has finally come to fruition: The Fool and His Money.

In 1987, Cliff Johnson released a game for the Macintosh known as The Fool’s Errand. It was a puzzle game, filled with challenges such as word games, jigsaw puzzles, figuring out sequences, and even a few word searches. It did have a protagonist — the wanderer known as the Fool — although it was not possible to die in the way a character does in most computer and console games.

I played The Fool’s Errand in the day and have in fact beaten the game. I’m not exactly known for beating video games, but when it comes to puzzles, I hold my own.

I also played Cliff Johnson’s other offerings — At the Carnival and 3 in Three — thanks to the downloads he offers from his website.

In 2003, Cliff Johnson indicated he would be producing a sequel to The Fool’s Errand. As a fan of the original game, I made a mental note to purchase it once it was done. Nine years later, after much hard work and overcome obstacles, the game has arrived.

I bought The Fool and His Money almost as soon as it came out. So far I’ve only completed a few puzzles, as I no longer have the time to relax with puzzle games as I did when I was younger, but it’s been worth the wait. The original feel is back, as is the Fool himself.

A few things have changed over the years. The graphics, which were stunning and white bitmaps in the original, are now full-color and beautifully done. Say what you want about the latest 3D games, but Johnson’s graphics may be some of the best computer graphics I’ve ever encountered. He has also added sound effects past a few simple beeps and buzzes. Although the game does not have background music, it has very musical sound effects and occasionally some soothing background noise. The effects add greatly to the gameplay, making the created atmosphere all the more memorable.

All the old puzzles are back, this time with more Tarot games, and I’m sure I’ll encounter some exciting new challenges as I play my way through this gem of a game. It may take me a while to finish, but hopefully that will give me enough time to wait for a potential sequel to 3 in Three to arrive. The game is huge, especially in comparison to Johnson’s earlier offerings, yet isn’t a hard drive space hog.

The Fool and His Money is even more amazing in the fact it was programmed and designed by one man. Most large-scale programs these days, games or otherwise, are created by large teams. Individual efforts are typically seen in small apps for iOS, not polished software products for desktop systems. As modern and refined as the game is, it’s a throwback of sorts. Even the activation system is old-school in the fact one must wait for a code to be e-mailed to them, much like how shareware worked in the olden days before automated activation systems. All of this brought a smile to the face of this grizzled Mac veteran, who broke into the Apple world just a few months after Ronald Reagan left office.

I highly recommend this game to folks who love puzzles, remember The Fool’s Errand game fondly, or simply want a diversion that doesn’t require expert hand-eye coordination. I’m not a gamer by any means — the only other game I have on my Mac right now is Out of the Park Baseball, which is a statistics-driven simulation — but I have been enjoying my time with Cliff Johnson’s latest masterpiece so far. The ten year wait was worth every day, and I hope we get at least one more great game from the man who I still regard as the foremost expert at puzzle game design.

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