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Kids' Software

Adventures in Learning

In these interactive games, children are the sleuths who solve the mysteries.

January 24, 2002|JINNY GUDMUNDSEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

One of the most popular genres of children's software is the interactive adventure. Good ones will teach while children play. Two new interactive adventures, "Mia's Math Adventure" and "The Mummy Mystery," do a good job at both tasks.

"Mia's Math Adventure"

Mia is an adorable girl mouse who has starred in two other computer adventures. She is ensconced in her cozy home in the attic of an old Victorian house when a fire forces her and her family to evacuate.

Devastated by the loss of her home, Mia sets out on an adventure to rebuild a friend's time machine, go back in time and stop the fire before it starts.

Mia solicits the player's help in finding four things necessary to rebuild the time machine. Players shrink to Mia's size to accompany her as she explores her world. Careful observation is the key to success.

Children wander with Mia through gardens, a tool shed, a mole hole and other locales. That hole in the fence may lead to a new universe, so don't miss it.

Once the four parts are found, Mia and her friend Marty assemble the time machine and travel back to the time right before the fire. Players help Mia investigate her Victorian home to discover the cause of the blaze.

Throughout the adventure, Mia encounters obstacles that can be overcome only by playing some mathematical games.

For example, to find the correct key to start the time machine, players must click on a number that is "larger than 37,400 and smaller than 37,700."

There are nine excellent multileveled games, and they can be played separately from the adventure.

Mia's world is wondrous to behold. The graphics are lush and detailed. She is charming and sweet, determined and clever--in short, a fabulous role model for children.

Her world is populated with fanciful characters including a bumbling mole, a professorial spider, a fortune-telling gypsy mouse and a bad-guy rat.

This is one of the best interactive adventures on the market for children and well worth their time.

"The Mummy Mystery"

Mercer Mayer's literary character, Little Monster, stars in this mystery adventure set in ancient Monster Egypt. Little Monster Private Eye and his sidekick Detective Kerploppus investigate the disappearance of archeologist Professor Pickle.

The professor appears to have locked himself inside the famous Tomb of Thanxfurnuthen. As players join the detective duo in sleuthing throughout Monster Egypt, they quickly ascertain that the only way to open the Tomb is to find five legendary magic rings.

Players search for the magic rings by visiting 25 locations, including such exotic places as the tombs of Tootafroota and Pharaoh Phaucett, and the lost city of Hamonrya.

Embedded in these locales are 11 games and activities that require children to use logical thinking. For example, youngsters may need to match the outline of a hieroglyph to the picture, or listen to sounds made by scarabs in a concentration-type game.

In addition to searching for the rings, players need to find scarabs (the currency of this virtual world) and other items to collect. Scarabs can be used to purchase necessary items such as a camel to ride. Items collected in one scene may be essential to moving the mystery forward in another scene, so careful sleuthing is a must.

"The Mummy Mystery" is a wonderfully engaging mystery to solve. It is ripe with humor, the mystery is complicated and intertwined and the embedded games are fun and challenging. And, it is inexpensive at $15.

Although the box recommends a target age of 4 and older, this software works best with children ages 7 to 10 since reading is required to solve part of this mystery. If you want to play it with younger children, be on hand to be the designated reader.

*

The Skinny

"Mia's Math Adventure"

Price: $20

Ages: 6 to 10

Platform: PC/Mac

System requirements: On the PC, a Pentium 233 with 64 MB of RAM and 40 MB of available hard disk space. On the Mac, a G3 233 with 64 MB of RAM and 40 MB of available hard disk space.

Publisher: Kutoka/Topics

Entertainment

The good: The adventure, the graphics and the math games

The bad: The adventure doesn't change when played again

Bottom line: A wonderful mathematical adventure

"The Mummy Mystery"

Price: $15

Ages: 7 to 10

Platform: PC/Mac

System requirements: On the PC, a Pentium 100 with 16 MB of RAM and 5 MB of available hard disk space. On the Mac, 68040 processor with 8 MB of RAM and 5 MB of available hard disk space.

Publisher: Infogrames

The good: A challenging and humorous mystery

The bad: No difficulty levels available for the embedded games

Bottom line: A winner*

*

Jinny Gudmundsen is editor of Choosing Children's Software magazine. She can be reached at jinny@choosingchildrenssoftware .com.

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