Essentially, Computer Facts in Five is an exercise in the organizational relationship between general and specific. At the beginning of each game, five categories are displayed on the screen. Alongside each of the categories, the computer supplies five letters. The object of the game is to enter specific names which begin with those letters and are associated with the more general category. For example, if the category is "Famous Novelists" and one of the letters is "F", the player can enter "Faulkner". If the player cannot supply an answer for any given letter, he may skip to the next letter within the category or go on to the next category. Because each match is timed, scoring is determined at the end of the match.
Variations and options abound. The gamer can choose from three basic game modes (solitaire, doubles and party) and five variations for each mode (normal play, sequential play, random play, timed sequential play and timed random play). Either the computer or the player selects the categories, depending upon the option used. The player can also determine the type and manner in which the letters are chosen.
One of the game's variations even includes the use of wild cards; that is, instead of having a preprogrammed category appear on the screen, the user can type in his or her own subject. It is this variation which enables the program to be used as an educational tool. By writing in their own categories, parents can test their children's knowledge on any given subject.
Unfortunately, the biggest drawback to the program is that Facts in Five, unlike a crossword puzzle (to name another game based on knowledge), doesn't provide any answers. Players are told to challenge any dubious answers and decide on the answer's validity by either a vote or by referring to a reference book. This means that any parent using the program for educational purposes must make sure he or she knows all the possible answers beforehand.
The existence of Avalon Hill's Computer Facts in Five raises an important question: why create a game for the computer if all the program does is the book and time keeping? In its original non-electronic version (designed for party use), Facts in Five was an excellent way to spend some time. The computer version, on the other hand, has not only added very little to the traditional game, but perhaps has taken some of the enjoyment away from it. The graphics, except in the title page, are virtually nonexistent because text is the primary form of on-screen data. The color scheme - white lettering on a maroon background - is definitely not user-friendly.
Despite all of this, Computer Facts in Five can stimulate learning - when used appropriately.