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Pick Your Adventure

'Scooby Doo! Phantom of the Knight' and 'Lego Island 2' are both fun. But the groovier one is also the more educational of the two.

April 26, 2001|JINNY GUDMUNDSEN | jinny@choosingchildrenssoftware.com

Children love adventure--in their backyard, with a good book or on their computers.

In "Scooby Doo! Phantom of the Knight," Scooby Doo, the Great Dane of cartoon fame, leads children on an adventure that not only is fun but challenges them to think logically.

With "Lego Island 2: The Brickster's Revenge," children explore various Lego worlds on their quest to defeat the quasi-evil Brickster. The adventure is fun and fast-paced, but there is less intellectual challenge than with the "Scooby Doo" program.

'Scooby Doo! Phantom of the Knight'

Scooby Doo and his human friends--Shaggy, Daphne, Fred and Velma--are traveling in Nova Scotia when their car is scorched by what appears to be a fire-breathing dragon. They stop at a nearby castle to investigate.

The castle is the home of the Joust for Fun dinner theater, which has been plagued by mysterious occurrences--including the appearance of a phantom knight and the kidnapping of a star actress. With the player's help, Scooby and the gang offer to investigate the mysterious happenings and find the missing actress.

So starts this fun adventure.

To solve the mystery, children talk to characters, collect items, look for clues and solve problems. Some of the problems include disentangling an actor from under a pile of armor and organizing flags to match a designated sequence.

Once players have met all five suspects and collected the six clues, they use deductive reasoning to unmask the perpetrator. The clues and the perpetrator change each time they play the game.

"Scooby Doo! Phantom of the Knight" works for many reasons. It parallels the television show by providing similar humor and groovy dialogue. Solving the mystery provides just the right amount of challenge for 7-to-10-year-olds, but it might be too difficult for 5-to-6-year-olds--even through they are in the publisher's recommended age category.

"Scooby Doo! Phantom of the Knight" does a nice job of challenging children to think deductively and to use their memories. The activities provide some educational challenge, and the two arcade games are fun. The adventure can be played on three levels of difficulty.

The downsides to this program are few, but they're worth noting. At times, children can become stumped. A better hint system would have helped. Kid testers found one of the arcade games difficult to play.

'Lego Island 2: The Brickster's Revenge'

This sequel to the blockbuster "Lego Island" provides quite a romp. Although it is an adventure, the heart of this software is a cool driving simulation in which players operate a number of vehicles as they zoom through 3-D Lego worlds.

There are two parts to the program. In both, the player becomes the hero, a pizza delivery boy named Pepper. In the first part, the player delivers pizzas to the wonderful citizens of Lego Island. Each time players find the correct person and deliver a pizza, they are rewarded with Lego bricks to build their own house.

In the second part of the adventure, Pepper's arch nemesis, the clever trickster Brickster, breaks out of jail. He steals the island's Constructopedia, a book containing the building plans for all the structures on the island. As he scatters the pages far and wide, the buildings disappear. He also unleashes a horde of silly robots.

Players scour Lego Island and investigate new islands in search of the Brickster, the missing Constructopedia pages and other needed items. To win this second part of the adventure, players must accomplish 18 mini-quests consisting of different arcade-type challenges.

For example, on Castle Island, players repair a bridge by swimming under it and collecting bricks in a limited amount of time.

There are many fun areas to explore and more than 56 inhabitants to talk with. Children who enjoy driving simulations will be in heaven. Kids get to drive helicopters, police cars, ambulances and even a dinosaur as they chase down the Brickster.

Although fun, this adventure has flaws. Frequently, players are forced to wait while the program loads. Also, our kid testers were disappointed that all the vehicles seem to move at the same speed.

Parents, this is not educational software. It's entertainment that appeals particularly to boys. Also, note that it uses the newest version of DirectX--version 8.0, which requires the mostcurrent drivers for your 3-D video card. So make sure you have updated them before installing this program.

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The Skinny

"Scooby Doo! Phantom of the Knight"

Price: $30

Ages: 7 to 10

Platform: PC

System requirements: Pentium 166 with 32 MB of RAM and 40 MB of available hard disk space

Publisher: Learning Co.

The good: Scooby leads children to think

The bad: Needs a better hint system

Bottom line: A fun mystery adventure

* "Lego Island 2: The Brickster's Revenge"

Price: $30

Ages: 6 to 11

Platform: PC

System requirements: Pentium II 266 with 64 MB of RAM, 600 MB of available hard disk space and a graphics accelerator with 8 MB of video RAM

Publisher: Lego Media

The good: Lots to drive and explore

The bad: Long load times and little to make you think

Bottom line: An entertaining driving adventure

*

Jinny Gudmundsen is editor of Choosing Children's Software magazine.

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