The old admonition "Don't play with your food!" has no place when teaching children about nutrition on the computer. Children get to jump in, get messy and play with food in "Millie Meter's Nutrition Adventure" and "Pajama Sam 3: You Are What You Eat From Your Head to Your Feet!"
The two titles approach nutrition in different ways. The aim of "Millie Meter's Nutrition Adventure" is to teach children about the body and nutrition--and make it palatable to kids by weaving an adventure into its presentation.
On the other hand, the focus of "Pajama Sam 3" is to provide a gourmet adventure. As it entertains, "Pajama Sam 3" also exposes children to information about nutrition.
'Millie Meter's Nutrition Adventure'
Children meet Millie Meter as she is walking in what appears to be some mountains. Players quickly discover that the mountains are really giants. The smallest, named Bulk, has a tummy ache. Millie offers to hop into her magical shrinking helicopter and fly into Bulk's body to discover why he is unwell.
So starts this gastronomic adventure in which children visit the inside of an animated body. Children explore six areas within the body including the mouth and throat, the esophagus, the stomach, the liver, the small intestine and the large intestine. Each area is presented as the workstation for an animated character. The characters share their knowledge of what happens to food when it arrives at their stations.
For example, in the esophagus, players meet Fussy, a methodical worker in charge of the epiglottis. With him, children see what happens when food goes down "the wrong pipe."
In addition to meeting an animated character in each area, children can play a game that rewards them with a piece of the Golden Pyramid. Only by collecting all six pieces can children solve the mystery of how to help the baby giant.
"Millie" presents a lot of information about nutrition and wraps it up in an adventure. But it falls short of greatness because it has technical flaws that make it hard to play, and it is a little too preachy.
If a player exits the game in the middle, the software remembers which pieces of the Golden Pyramid have been earned. But when the player returns, the game goes back to the beginning of the adventure. Also, players are forced to listen to facts and watch animations they have heard or seen before because the program doesn't allow click-throughs.
This software hails from Europe, and the English version is really British. Children will notice some cultural differences.
'Pajama Sam 3: You Are What You Eat From Your Head to Your Feet!'
Pajama Sam is a boy who becomes a superhero by donning his pajamas and a red cape. In this adventure, Sam visits an island, which looks a lot like the inside of the human body, in hopes of settling a conflict between feuding food groups. Upon arriving, he discovers that an emergency Peace Conference has been called for representatives of the six major food groups. Unfortunately, four of the delegates are lost on the island.
Players join Pajama Sam as he tries to find the missing delegates. Players explore more than 40 hand-drawn scenes and, in the process, solve problems involving the inhabitants of the island.
These inhabitants, all animated foods, include such epicurean delights as Florette, a broccoli stalk and the Peace Conference representative for the vegetable group, and the bulky Muffin Trio--Bran, Corn and Wheat--who are exercise fanatics and artists.
Children cannot find a better computer playmate than Pajama Sam. He is polite, plucky, disarming, sweet and really fun to hang out with. He is a great role model who shows kids how to deal with difficult situations.
"Pajama Sam 3" shines in its ability to captivate children and, in the process, teach them how to solve problems. It also manages to teach some useful information about nutrition.
Jinny Gudmundsen is editor of Choosing Children's Software magazine.
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"Millie Meter's Nutrition Adventure"
Ages: 5 to 8
System requirements: On the PC, a 486 with 8 MB of RAM. On the Mac, System 7.1 or higher.
Publisher: Tivola Publishing
The good: Lots of interesting nutrition facts
The bad: Doesn't save games well and has too many areas that can't be clicked through
Bottom line: A fact-heavy adventure that teaches about nutrition
"Pajama Sam 3: You Are What You Eat From Your Head to Your Feet!"
Ages: 5 to 9
System requirements: On the PC, a Pentium 90 with 16 MB of RAM. On the Mac, an 80-MHz Power Mac with 16 MB of RAM.
Publisher: Humongous Entertainment
The good: An engrossing adventure featuring animated food characters
The bad: Not much
Bottom line: A gourmet adventure that teaches problem solving and nutrition