Have You Played… Encarta’s MindMaze?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I was thinking of what else to include in this series and MindMaze bubbled up from the recesses of my brain like a sunken mafia victim, suddenly afloat. Bloated and warped with childhood memories. The details of this ancient trivia minigame come to me now like bits and pieces of an old dream. I know it was included in an Encarta 95 CD-ROM, and I know it was absolutely impossible to complete. You had to be some kind of genius to know the answer to these questions. Or, like, some kind of adult.

You were stuck in a medieval castle, I know that much. There were some tickboxes, with subjects of interest in them. And you’d be questioned by the inhabitants of the maze depending on this. In one corner there was a minimap of the maze you’d uncovered so far. There were little torches you could use to… light the next area? I don’t know. There was a strange man with a trap door. Why?

Encarta died to the endless power of the incubating cyber being we call the Internet. But with it went MindMaze, and the countless hours lost to its jesters and their cross-examinations about geography. The dream memory fades. Goodbye parrot man. Goodbye lady with a letter. Goodbye… weird king on a box?


  1. Faldrath says:

    Damn it, Brendan. Now I want to play it again. It’s pretty much the only thing I remember from Encarta (I did use to love it, just randomly browsing it).

    • Anti-Skub says:

      That and the start up sound thing. Every now and again, out of no where I’ll get “You don’t understand, Willy was a salesman…doo do doot do doo doo doo” stuck in my head.

      • ansionnach says:

        …and being able to play sound and video clips on a computer! I remember listening to Pete Seeger singing Little Boxes, The Message by Grandmaster Flash and (?) the original version of It’s Like That by Run-D.M.C.

        Think I finished Mind Maze.

  2. Cooper says:

    I was just thinking about this the other day… Then I completely forgot, I was gonna see if anyone had created an online version.

    So, turns out there’s a version for wikipedia:

    Albeit designed for phones…

    • Cooper says:

      Also, RPS is now the first result on google for ‘encarta mind maze’. Amazing SEO skills there…

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        Phasma Felis says:

        Google has “customized” search results for a while, nosy creepy bastards that they are. Presumably the search algorithm gives RPS pages higher priority because it knows you read it often.

        • nil says:

          I have no google accounts, block first- and third-party cookies, and third-party requests to their domains.

          I also see RPS as first search result for ‘encarta mind maze’.

  3. Kirrus says:

    Damn, I’ve not thought about that game in a loong time. Dad used to take us to Epsom library, where they had Encarta on the computers and Internet there. We’d either sit and chat on random chatrooms, or play MindMaze.

    It’s a really fond memory, me being a little wee thing, sat on dad’s knee, answering questions…

  4. grve says:

    My sister and I played this so, so much. “The world is your oyster. Choose a path and a pearl will appear!”

  5. nullward says:

    Wow, yes, I did have this CD and play this game. The matches would light up the map to the current area, but you only had so many matches, and there were… infinite areas? I can’t remember.

    I think I remember figuring out some way to cheat and find the answers to the questions. Although it was in an encyclopedia, so, I guess the answers were probably not hard to find…

  6. bhauck says:

    This game introduced me to the cliche “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” My 3rd-grade mind tried to concoct a scenario where every broken clock was advancing faster or slower than an unbroken clock such that they coincided exactly (or at least?) twice a day. I think, but am not positive, that I figured it out a minute later, but it’s also possible I didn’t get it for a decade.

  7. General Ludd says:

    Was there also an interactive pirate ship that approached being a game in Encarta? I have memories of spending hours clicking around it in year 7 in the school library.

    • General Ludd says:

      Google says I’m going mad. Who knows what I am remembering.

      • HuckKidd says:

        Sounds a bit like Stowaway – interactive cross sections of a Man-of-war. And it was brilliant. I loved it as a bairn and have the same nostalgic memories of it that are described for MindMaze.

        • Thulsa Hex says:

          Oh wow, I remember this! It was published by Dorling Kindersley and was a sumptuously illustrated as their books. One thing that stuck with me was that, despite being for kids, it didn’t shy away from some of the nastier aspects of the era. Some animated scenes included the surgeon sawing off gangrenous limbs while a patient screams, and some guy getting whipped till his back was covered in bloody scars.

          God, I could never find that stowaway in most scenes, either.

  8. smuppet says:

    For a while at least 60% of all my homework was copy and pasted from Encarta

  9. napoleonic says:

    I loved that game. If there were a MMO quiz game released I would play that.

  10. FroshKiller says:

    I played quite a bit of the 1994 edition’s version of MindMaze. To this day, whenever someone acknowledges their ignorance, I respond like one of the maze inhabitants: “The ancient Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu says to know that you do not know is the best.”

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    particlese says:

    Yeah! But only a little bit. It was a bit difficult, and at the time, I was more interested in poking around reading and listening to MS Musical Instruments, and hitting the ball out of bounds to explore the clubhouse in MS Golf. Those and one other piece of software had all come in some bundle my dad had gotten.

    • ansionnach says:

      “Looks like you hit the tree!”

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        particlese says:


        My dad and I had hours of fun cutting those sound clips together with bits of Frank Zappa tunes and the 1812 Overture, making monstrosities which would play whenever he started up his computer. He also used the duck quacks and various other sounds from MS Golf for Windows errors, warnings, printer events, and so on. I prefer my own computer to be silent, but ahhhhh, those were the days!

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    cultiv8ed says:

    Encarta came with my first PC so I remember playing this in-between Doom and Quake sessions :)

  13. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Oh wow, memories flooding back! Was it Encarta that had the moon orbit ‘game’, where you could ping the moon off on mad never-ending orbits? I loved that too

  14. Merus says:

    I remember the design of the game changing significantly between Encarta ’92 and ’95; in ’92, you picked a subject and slowly levelled up in it, while in ’95 it didn’t bother giving you a score or goal per subject like that and I liked it less as a result.

    • Merus says:

      Dammit, it was ’94, not ’95. And what I remembered about later versions wasn’t quite accurate: in later versions you had to score 20,000 points across all subjects.