Software Round-UP
Summer Learning on the Computer

Looking for some hot fun in the summertime? Want some answers to that age-old nothing-to-do complaint that seems to waft about on the summer breeze? Just turn up the cool with these wildly original titles designed to engage the imagination of kids and parents alike.

Bioscopia, Tivola; Windows 98/ME/NT/2000, XP or MAC (two CDs); age 10 and up; approx. $20;, 1-800-728-4000.

In this game where science conquers evil, “Big Brain” is the database that periodically appears during strategic moments of play to help users discover fascinating facts of science, which are then used to unlock Bioscopia’s secrets. Extraordinary visuals make this game appealing to all ages. When evil robots pump deadly gas laden with germ molecules into the atmosphere and a curious young scientist finds herself trapped in an abandoned lab, it’s up to the player to find and save her. But it’s not easy. The player needs knowledge of human and cell biology, genetics, botany and zoology to solve the puzzles that unlock the doors that lead to the trapped scientist. In this science-fiction-like drama, biology becomes an adventure. This one-of-a-kind program is vivid with color, fantastic 3-D structures, futuristic environments and unpredictable turns.

AMILY: 'New York'">Moop and Dreadly in the Treasure of Bong Bong Island, Plaid Banana Entertainment; Windows 95/98/ME/2000Pro/XP, MAC; age 5 and up; approx. $20;, 1-866-257-2183.

Those who were enamoured by Pajama Sam, Freddi Fish, Putt-Putt and BackYard Sports will want to rush out and invite Moop and Dreadly to join their permanent software library. These two animated heroes become stranded on an exotic island where they are faced with a jewel of a problem. Chief Earwig’s treasure is missing and it’s up to this dynamic duo to get it back. A treasure map (what could be better?) guides players – but wait! There are pirates! Using all the fun storytelling expertise displayed in the adventures of Sam, Freddi and Putt-Putt, Moop and Dreadly encounter a great sailing ship, a princess, lots of colorful scenery, fluttering seagulls, a volcano, a treasure and more. Color matching, counting and decision making are a few of the skills learned here.

AMILY: 'New York'">Answer This! Whales and Dolphins, Tivola; WIN 95/98/ME/NT, MAC; age 8 and up; approx. $20;, 1-800-728-4000.

Whales and Dolphins is part of Tivola’s new Quest for Knowledge Series, which is designed to teach fun facts in an exciting, race-the-clock, trivia quiz-show format. Packed with more than 600 questions, the game allows for multiple players, high-score recording, three levels of difficulty, an Internet high-score challenge and a whales and dolphins dictionary. A “quiz” screen allows players to find the right sound or picture to fit the questions. A “hidden picture” screen gives players a chance to, piece by piece, find the secret behind a scene, and a “find the mistake” screen allows players to employ use of that popular brain-tickling concept, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Combination puzzles allow players to piece these great animals together, while authentic images engage players of all ages.

yText>Mia’s Math Adventure, Kutoka; WIN 95/98/ME/NT/XP,  MAC (two CDs); ages 6 to 10; approx. $20;, 1-877-858-8652.

yText>The extraordinary feature about this learning game is that Mia the mouse actually follows the movements of your own computer mouse. You can get Mia to talk at any time by clicking on her head. If what she says is not a precise enough clue for you, just click again. Guiding Mia may take a little practice, but it’s worth the effort – it’s a program that truly allows kids to feel in control. Four different players can save up to 12 different games, so you don’t have to feel rushed to complete the journey in one sitting. Mia has a skateboard that is available at many locations of the journey so she can hop on and move to places more quickly. Children playing this game get a sense that they are playing with a live, little cartoon mouse. It’s highly engaging, but even more important, it’s a strong learning tool that teaches a wide range of math fundamentals. What’s more, if your child bonds with Mia, he or she can go on to play Mia’s Science Adventure and Mia’s Reading Adventure as well.

yText>KidzMouse, KidzMouse Inc.; all systems; age 2 and up,

yText>This is a mouse for your home computer that responds to the squeeze of a child’s hand instead of the traditional mouse click. Designed to fit a child’s hand, KidzMouse comes in four bug-like characters: MollyMouse, CoolBug, BenjieBee and MarinaBug. The “computer bug” bridges the gap between computer work and computer play – its toy characteristics encourage children to interact with the computer. Players may even use two KidzMice on the same computer together.

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Janice Stickley-White reviews software for United Parenting Publications several times a year.