At a creepy fair, players try to elude a rampaging killer, an Ebola-like plague and a demanding IRS agent. The concept and music are the work of the Residents, an alternative San Francisco band; the eerie illustrations were created by cyber-artist Jim Ludtke. The same team produced the 1994 cult hit The Residents' Freak Show. Midway is a worthy and welcome sequel for players who like their amusements off-kilter. (CD-ROM for Mac and PC, Inscape; $49.95)

This CD-ROM version of Pie?kowski's bestselling pop-up book is aimed at 4-to-8-year-olds. All the stars of the original are here, including the alien-eating alligator in the bathtub. Hidden throughout the 10 rooms are games and keys to the creepy cellar, where more fun awaits. Two benefits of the CD-ROM over the book: superb sound effects and music—even classical snippets parents may recognize. (CD-ROM for Mac and PC, Philips Media, $34.99)

Your friend Janie, played by Erika (Under Siege) Eleniak, begs you to sneak into her father's crumbling Skyview amusement park at night and find the park's deed before dawn; if you fail, her evil twin, Jamie, will tear the park down and sell it. That's the plot of this role-playing adventure, with a cast of shifty characters and Madame Zolanska, the fortuneteller machine. With over 200 possible outcomes, you can be certain of a surprise ending. (CD-ROM for PC; WarnerActive, $40)

Designed-to be a child's first computer experience (for ages 2 to 5), this game is operated by simple voice-activated commands. Not included are the microphone and the patient parent needed to make it work. The goal is to help Marty find cheese. In his quest, he encounters giant bullfrogs and a chameleon. The tale is short—a mere 25 minutes. But given children's love of repetition, Marty's appeal should last for many hours. (CD-ROM for Mac & PC, Maxis, $34.95)

>Lauren Elliott

CARMEN'S CREATOR

GROWING UP IN RIIINEBECK, N.Y., Lauren Elliott was fascinated by construction kits for things like radios and strobe lights. When he bought his first Apple computer in 1982, Elliott, now 48, thought it was so simple that even kids could use it. Elliott felt that the computer, like the construction kits of his childhood, offered "learning experiences that suck you in." In 1982 he left his job as an architect and, with a friend, Gene Portwood, sold the software firm Broderbund on the idea for Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Ten years later, after several spinoffs such as Where in America's Past Is Carmen Sandiego? and a Carmen TV show, the games are still bestsellers. Carmen teaches geography by having players search the globe for a master thief. Elliott says Carmen caught on because it requires active participation. "Everything before it was arcade stuff," he says.

Carmen left him well-off but not rich, Elliott says; although he was a designer, he got only a small piece of the profits. In 1992 he and Portwood started their own Petaluma, Calif., firm. Now the team is specializing in games for young children, like Elliott's son Julian, 3, who helped develop the new voice-activated game Marty (see review). There's one drawback, Elliot says: "Now he talks to the television and expects it to talk back!"

  • Contributors:
  • Stan Young,
  • Erik Ashok Meers.