So you want to see what this multimedia mania is all about? Great there are an estimated 350 new CD-ROM titles coming out in time for the holidays. Finding the right disc is another story. It's hard to find reliable reviews, and sifting through the sheer mass of CD-ROMs can be daunting. And yet, potentially cool products are out there. Here's a quick Baedeker to the hyped and the hot.
MTV's CLUB DEAD (Viacom New Media) It's 2024, and virtual reality has been outlawed everywhere but at the exclusive resort the Alexandria. You're a cyberplumber named Sam Frost, and you need to figure out (a) why you were mysteriously sprung from prison and (b) why people are dropping like futuristic flies. Get past the hellishly complex interface, and you'll find 90 minutes of video footage dripping with MTV rude 'tude.
ONE TRIBE (Virgin Sound and Vision) An ambitious reference work, Tribe employs MTV International star Pip Dann whoever she is as host of a transglobal socio-histori-culturo thingie. Basically, you zoom into a country, learn all about its history and people, listen to a sampling of its music (via Peter Gabriel's Real World label), watch a BBC documentary, check out the map (one of 600), look at a picture (one of 3,000), fall back from your computer exhausted, and go watch Married ... With Children.
CHUCK JONES' PETER AND THE WOLF (Time Warner Interactive) For this multimedia redo of the Sergey Prokofiev family fave, Bugs Bunny creative mastermind Chuck Jones provides original new animation, Lloyd Bridges and Kirstie Alley provide the voices, and the Time Warner Symphony Orchestra (no, we've never heard of it either) provides the music. Your kids can click to learn about instruments, watch a documentary about the composer, or just plop in the audio CD that comes along with the package.
PEOPLE MAGAZINE: 20 YEARS OF POP CULTURE (Voyager) The artsy-fartsy Voyager company teaming up with Di-stricken People magazine is one of the season's odder multimedia marriages, but hey, if the kid turns out okay, who cares? The People CD-ROM rounds up all 1,038 covers and the stories behind them, and throws in a handful of pretty good morphs and an inspired celebrity star-map for extra fun. Just one question: How many doctors' waiting rooms actually have CD-ROM players?
HEADCANDY (Ion) More than a screensaver and less than an actual hallucinogenic experience, Headcandy is a dandy procrastination device for hard-working computer slaves. Put on the chintzy prismatic glasses that come in the box and you're transported to five ''oh, wow''-inducing landscapes, while original tunes by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp massage your brain.
UNDER A KILLING MOON (Access Software) A lot of CD-ROM strategy games call themselves ''interactive movies,'' but the long-awaited Killing Moon has the big stars to back up the claim. Well ... big by CD-ROM standards, anyway: Brian Keith, Margot Kidder, and American Indian Movement activist Russell Means (it's not that much of a stretch he once worked as a computer programmer). Of course, the main role-hard-boiled future gumshoe Tex Murphy is played by you.