The Boston Globe from ,  on December 17, 1995 · 66
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The Boston Globe from , · 66

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Sunday, December 17, 1995
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66 THE BOSTON SUNDAY GLOBE DECEMBER 17, 1995 A veritable gush of children's software awaits you ence Fiction (WindowsMacintosh, Grolier Electronic Publishing, $59.95) has 4,500 science fiction entries in a revised and updated book and CD-ROM combination. There are 70 film clips and stills linked to the science fiction entries, plus 1,700 pictures of books and magazines and 321 author portraits. "Neat, detailed with a lot of content and a good example of the diversification in new home and educational software titles," said Buckleitner. 3-D Body Adventure (Windows-Macintosh, Knowledge Adventure, $35), highly-rated by Family PC magazine, is an anatomy adventure featuring graphics and learning games. Parents and teachers, the magazine said, were impressed by the detail and reference section. Buckleiter agreed the format works well but found "not enough substance." A Passion for Art Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse and Dr. Barnes (WindowsMacintosh, Corbis, $49.95) is a collection of high-resolution reproductions of famous artists and their work. It is easy to use and offers excellent graphics and audio and text information on painters and their paintings. "One of the better art programs," said Buckleitner. Science Sleuths Volume 1 (WindowsMacintosh, Videodiscovery, $59.95) uses a virtual lab with 600 experiments to unravel science mysteries in six levels of difficulty. One game calls for determining whether a beach is safe for swimming. It requires using the computer as a microscope to look at molecular structure, determine properties and even measure atoms. Family PC magazine said its testers liked the richness of the program but noted other testers found it difficult, although challenging, for children who like science. Guide lists software to avoid from the Sahara to the dense rain forests of Zaire. The program has 1,000 photos and video clips shot from the actual transcontinental bicycle expedition of explorer Dan Buettner. "Africa Trail has good detail," said Buckleitner, "but while our kid testers said they learned from it, it is not as much fun compared to Oregon Trail II, which has better simulation, playability and choices." Oregon Trail II is also published by MECC. Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia (WindowsMacintosh, Grolier Electronic Publishing, $49.95) is the 1996 edition with 33,000-plus articles. It also has the ability to link into online information, notably CompuServe Information Service, for an additional 12,000 selected articles. The software also has a yearbook feature covering January 1994 to June 1995. There are more than 8,000 images and 900 maps. The software lets users browse and tag articles to review again. The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain (WindowsMacintosh, Sierra-on-Line, $49.95) has nine puzzles that start with the doctor's brain accidentally transferred to his laboratory rat Rathbone. The goal is to solve the thinking, music, logic and spatial puzzles and restore the good doctor's thinking cap. The program has offbeat humor, superb graphics and appealing music. "Intense cranium play for the whole family," said Family PC. Multimedia Encyclopedia of Sci- tests children on geography, history and science. This program was voted Best of the Best by Parents Digest It includes 45 interactive games, live action video, an illustrated glossary and narration by singer Richie Havens. "A fun title that works well with enough content in 3,000 questions," said Buckleitner. "But the pace is a bit slow." AGES11-PLUS Opening Night (WindowsMacintosh, MECC, $50) lets children create and direct their own multimedia theater play by choosing realistic actors, sets, props and sounds. They can also write dialogue and hear it read back to them by the computer. This program, aimed at children 8 to 16, lets them move actors about the stage, have them sit, stand, walk and portray emotions such as fear, guilt, happiness or surprise. The program includes interviews with professionals from the Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis. There is also an on-line theater guidebook to key theater terms. MayaQuest and Africa Trail (WindowsMacintosh, MECC, $48) lets children explore the people, geography and life of Africa as part of a bicycle team pedaling through the continent. The MayaQuest expedition allows users to explore the mysteries behind the collapse of the ancient Mayan civilization by retracing the route of the real-life MayaQuest bicycle expedition. In Africa Trail, players travel n LISTINGS ': Continued from previous page ' 'eluding a flying logo for players' own lmovie production company." The 'program "sets the new standard in movie creation and animation titles," said Buckleitner. Juilliard Music Adventure (Win-Ws, Theatrix Interactive, $35), an Introductory music program developed with the Juilliard School of ..New York, allows children to create and animate their own music. Budgeting musicans enter a magical world where they are introduced to rhythm, melody and orchestration in a variety of muscial styles. J : - ; Internet In A Box For Kids (Win-dows only, CompuServe's Internet Division, $49.95) is a combination of ;1 Internet access and SurfWatch software, a program that tracks and hiits out undesirable Internet sites. 1 Included is multimedia World Wide Web browser that integrates grpa- hics, color, sound, video and text, '! electronic mail, low-cost Internet access, an instructional video and a ' free subscritpion to FreeZone, a children's Web community. Free-Zone also includes a Home Page Builder that lets children create personal home pages on line. "Useful and a very strong concept," said Buckleitner, though he warns parents to watch for hidden charges, since they must also subscribe to CompuServ. Oosafari Multimedia (Windows-Macintosh, Educational Insights Interactive, $49.95) is a quiz game that Ronald Rosenberg GLOBE STAFF new software guide published in Brookline not 0 omy recommends some titles out also sug- gests software to avoid. Lr "Anders CU-KOM Survey 1996" (Andiron Press Inc., $12.95) rates 600 titles on content, design" and have poor animation. Also some of the facts are not very accurate. Anatomy: An Adventure Into the Human Body (rVI Inc.) takes 8-year-olds and up on a spaceship journey through the human body. While giving them a comprehensive look at the body, it is "crudely animated and exasperating to navigate." This is a "failed experiment at grafting together video games and anatomy lessons." Rand McNally Children's Atlas of World Wildlife (GameTek Inc.) is indeed an authoritative resource and is, therefore, useful for school reports, but its dull presentation, poor quality video and mundane games will not keep children coming back for more. Travelrama USA (Sanctuary Woods), a cross-country geography game in which players search for popular American tourist sites and collect postcards, was found attractive. However, there is little information on each state, so player strategies get reduced to random guessing. In short, it's an electronic version of Go Fish, aimed at young children. Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing for Kids (Mindscape) for 9-year-olds and up is an animated, scaled-down version of the highly rated adult program, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing Version 3.0. This children's typing program, however, has "bland" graphics and an animated visual finger demonstration that is "too small to see clearly." This title fails to honor Beacon's reputation as the Queen of Typing. Infopedla (Softkey International), a computer encyclopedia, is not user friendly, despite a lot of content. It is, rather, "user annoying," with "lightweight" information and unimpressive multimedia aspects. Despite some very good maps, "it needs a lot of improvement to catch up with Microsoft's Encarta, Grolier's and Compton's LEARNING-SCHOOLS usability and overall quality. Some are educational for children, and many are games for children and adults. The guide uses a 25-point grading system based on feedback from users and from magazine and newspaper reviews. Richard and Judy Anders, the publishers, compiled the list with ComputerLife Magazine editor Chris Shipley. The programs listed below were all rated among the lowest of all titles. The quoted comments are from users and printed reviews in the book. KidsArt & Writing (Jostens Home Learning) is described as "easy to use for very young writers," but "not as good as other storybook making programs." America's Civil Wan A Nation Divided. (Softkey International) contains tons of information, but a bad interface makes this CD almost unusable. This is "truly horrific shovelware" that even "dedicated Civil War buffs should avoid like the plague." Stickybear Preschool (Optimum Resource Inc.) is too hard for toddlers and too simple for older children. Although the program offers "good content," it's an early learning program without an audience. Fisher Price 1-2-3's (Davidson & Associates) "falls short" with no animation. It lacks well-designed counting and sizing activities. This ia a title that "will likely be collecting dust" before you know it. Gus Goes to Cyberopolf": (Creative Labs) includes nine learning activities that are "uneven in quality and Bentley's educational resources have never been more valuable. 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