Recently, while bored and in something of a nostalgic mood, I had come to the decision that I would go visit my old elementary school. Pauline Johnson Elementary School was the name and it was a fairly small school situated just out of the way of all the busy Hamilton streets. I had attended the school from grades 1 to 5, which spanned across the later half of the 90s.



As I grew closer and the schoolyard began to come into sight, a flood of memories started rushing back. I was standing on the very spot I once walked home, chattering excitedly with my friend about the new game, "Super Mario RPG". Soon I came to the side of school which we lovingly referred to as the "ball wall" as it was commonly used for games involving throwing a ball at it. (Red Ass anyone?). The strongest memories, however, came to me when I saw the school itself. While some of them were personal moments of my childhood that may or may not be relatable, there is one thing that definitely stood out in my memories- the focus of my story today.

It might be worth noting that I grew up with a single mother and little money to go around, so while my father and grandparents would happily supply us with video games and consoles from time to time, we never really had a computer while I was young. Like video games, I was always interested in them, though. There was just something so mystifying about all those symbols, menus and programs being displayed on the screen. So it was no surprise that I was extremely excited when my Grade One teacher introduced me to the heaven of heavens- the computer lab.

I don't recall what kinds of computers they were but my young mind was racing at the thought of being allowed to sit down and do as I pleased with a computer- a pleasure I had not been afforded previously. Our teacher quickly gave us an explanation on how to use the simple menu system the computers used- select a program from the list and press enter- and then encouraged us to experiment with them ourselves- a request I was more than happy to oblige. I played around with a few educational games first, Reader Rabbit and Math Blaster. I was young at the time, though and it was obvious that the games were trying to teach me something so I wanted nothing to do with them. My gaming experience was used to the likes of Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, so I was interested in something a little more... adventurous. It was then that I, and a few of my close friends at the time, became enamored with a game that has stuck with me all these years.

Treasure Mountain.

The name seemed to leap off the computer screen at me. As I moved the cursor down towards the title my young mind filled with visions of a legendary treasure-filled mountain, just waiting to be conquered. I hit that Enter key with determination, and away I went.



The game started up. "TREASURE MOUNTAIN -A Super Solvers Adventure- " was displayed prominently on the screen and to the right of it, stood our hero. The Super Solver himself. In the distance loomed an ominous castle-topped mountain. There was no mistaking it- this was the legendary Treasure Mountain.

"Press ENTER to go on"? Gladly.

Once I got into the game and learned how to play- it was quite simple. You used nets to capture elves, The elves would then have you solve a riddle in order to obtain a clue word. Eventually, you'd obtain three clue words. (for example- THREE, SQUARE, TREES.) You would locate that landmark the clues were referring to and throw a magic coin on the ground to pick up your key and make your way to the next level of the mountain. You only had a limited number of coins so you couldn't just throw them away haphazardly. You could however, find treasures by throwing a coin beneath a landmark that only matched two or three of the clue words (THREE TRIANGULAR TREES, maybe?). So even with only one clue word, you were eager to search related areas for treasure.



The game promoted reading comprehension by having you solve word puzzles to obtain the clues and there was some wonderful chip-tune Classical music playing at all times, so there was no doubt this was an educational game though to it's core. As kids, though. We barely noticed. Even on the title screen our eyes were immediately pulled away from "The Learning Company Presents" and focused immediately on the game's gigantic title. Yeah, we were learning things, but we didn't care! We were far too busy taking back the sacred treasures of the mountain from the evil Master of Mischief to possibly address such menial concerns.

Later, I would discover that Treasure Mountain was only the first of many excellent edutainment titles made by The Learning Company. More than once throughout my elementary school years, I would be compelled to step into the shoes of the Super Solver and save the day.

In Treasure Mathstorm, the legendary Treasure Mountain had been covered in a layer of snow and the word puzzles were replaced with math and number sequence puzzles.

In Outnumbered, I had to save the fine town of Shady Glen, as the Master of Mischief attempted to take over the local TV station with his army of robots. This game was more involved and had some much higher-grade math problems to solve.




Then, was probably the most fun of the series, Midnight Rescue. In this game you had until midnight to save Shady Glen Elementary school from the Master of Mischief and his five robot minions- one of whom was the dastardly villain himself in disguise!



This game was like a higher-difficulty Treasure Mountain. The same "solve riddles-collect clue words" mechanic was present, but the riddles were harder, you were constantly being ambushed by the robots and you had an entire school to explore. Eventually, once you were certain you had enough clues, you'd accuse one of the robots of being the Master of Mischief and end his charade. The various features of the robots would randomize from game to game so it was never the same experience.

Although the Super Solvers series included other games. My experience with them was limited to those four. I can't help but fondly look back at my elementary school days and think of how excited I would get when one of my teachers suggested a trip to the computer lab. My friends and I would look to one another and nod in agreement, then make our way towards destiny.

Forget learning. There were treasures to be found.