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Where in the World Is the Perfect Kids' Geography Game?

February 22, 2001|JINNY GUDMUNDSEN | jinny@choosingchildrenssoftware.com

Do your children know where Spain is? Can they find the seas and oceans of the world? Do they know the capital of China? Children need a basic grasp of geography. Many schools participate in geography bees or other contests that test a child's knowledge of geography--and software can help build that foundation of learning.

"GeoSafari Knowledge Pad CD-ROM Learning Game--The Plato Collection" and "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Deluxe Edition" both teach geography, but their approaches are very different. With "GeoSafari," children challenge themselves to a knowledge-fest or, even better, take on their friends or family in a contest of knowledge. With "Carmen," children solve a series of detective cases that take them around the world.

'GeoSafari Knowledge Pad CD-ROM Learning Game--The Plato Collection'

The name may tax the memory, but "GeoSafari's" content is worth the effort. It includes 96 quiz games. Although the format of each game is the same, there is wide diversity in subject matter.

The Knowledge Pad is a gizmo that looks like a funky notebook computer with eight categories on the screen. Within each category are 12 quiz games.

A game consists of dragging and dropping answers to corresponding questions or visuals on the Knowledge Pad. For example, one of the geography games presents an unlabeled map. Players drag names of countries to the matching spot on the map. Every correct answer earns the player points.

In each game, children can obtain more information on any subject by clicking on the proposed answers or on the locations where the answers belong.

Kid testers found the clean and straightforward format fun and easy to use once they figured it out. Testers also liked being able to play with a friend.

On the negative side, "GeoSafari" does not talk to children. Despite ambient sounds and music, children have to read or use visual clues to learn. Since some children learn best by hearing information, "GeoSafari" would have been better if children had the option of having things read to them.

'Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Deluxe Edition'

Carmen Sandiego, the grande dame of crime in children's software, has been eluding players for 16 years. In this classic game, she and her henchmen are attempting to steal the world's famous landmarks. Kids join the ACME Detective Agency to help restore geographic order in the world.

After receiving a case assignment, budding gumshoes grab their cyber-passports and jet to the scene of the crime. There they interview witnesses and look for clues. Each of the 50 game environments offers a 360-degree scrolling landscape based on photos of actual locations.

The witnesses provide hints to the whereabouts of Carmen or her thieves, but they are a jet-setting gang that never stays in one place for long. For example, a witness might say that a thief mentioned the gang was off to the Louvre to look at the Mona Lisa.

Children chase the thief around the world, using an on-screen database if they don't understand what a clue means. Deductive reasoning and geography knowledge are key weapons in this fight against crime.

Since its initial release in 1985, "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?" has undergone numerous upgrades that make it a wonderful addition to any software library.

"Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?" is the benchmark against which all other geography titles should be judged.

*

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

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The Skinny

"GeoSafari Knowledge Pad CD-ROM Learning Game--The Plato Collection"

Price: $24.95

Ages: 8 and older

Platform: PC/Mac

System requirements: On the PC, a Pentium with 16 MB of RAM. On the Mac, System 7.01 or higher with 16 MB of RAM.

Publisher: Educational Insights

The good: 96 learning games and two-player options

The bad: No talking

Bottom line: A collection of fun quiz games covering geography and other topics

"Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Deluxe Edition"

Price: $20

Ages: 8 to 12

Platform: PC/Mac

System requirements: On the PC, a 486 33 with 8 MB of RAM and 15 MB of available hard disk space. On the Mac, a 68040 PowerPC with System 7.1 or higher and 6.5 MB of RAM and 15 MB of available hard disk space.

Publisher: Learning Co.

The good: Funny mysteries that teach geography

The bad: Nothing

Bottom line: The top geography title for children--period

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