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Review CornerSoftware
The ClueFinders Reading Adventures Ages 9-12
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This program helps children develop reading and thinking skills while solving a mystery, searching for clues, and playing arcade-style as well as problem-solving activities. The characters and story line are engaging, and the program is exceptionally designed with outstanding "smart" features.
Ages: 9-12  Subject: Reading/Pre-Reading/Spelling  Brand: The Learning Company
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
image Product Overview
This program has players solving a mystery with the group of kids called the ClueFinders, who have been mysteriously transported to a far-off planet. It appears that two of the kids are trapped by a wicked sorceress, and it is up to Joni and Owen to find the missing halves of an amulet, rescue their friends, and save the planet Millennia. Kids can play the game as an adventure or in practice mode.

There are 2 main areas to explore on the planet — Crystal Caverns and Mystic Mountains — each of which contains activities and clues that help find half of the amulet.

In Crystal Caverns:

  • Kids need to play the ThermaGems activity periodically in order to collect enough gems to play the other activities. This is an arcade-style game in which players must think fast, dodge obstacles, and determine which word from a group of 4 words doesn't belong. For example, words might be "hotel, church, hospital, yard".
  • Ice Breaker reminds us of the game Pong. Players help break ice blocks by directing bouncing spheres at them, and determine which of the falling words answers the question. Kids may, for example, have to determine that "withdraw" is the antonym of "proceed", find the word that completes a sentence, and choose "careless" as the synonym of "reckless".
  • Jukebox Jumbler is a form of a small crossword puzzle, but the numbers across and down are not given. Instead, kids are given a number of definitions, letter tiles, and some suffixes or prefixes filled in on the grid.
  • Crystal Gateway can be played once the 10 clues have been collected. These clues are used to unlock the secret passageway.
In Mystic Mountains:
  • Similar to ThermaGems in the first level, players need to play the LavaRocks activity often in order to collect enough LavaRocks to play the activities. Here, kids need to determine which of 4 pairs of words doesn't belong. They work with antonyms, synonyms, analogies, and attributes.
  • In Rock Muncher, players are presented a passage and must answer questions that test their comprehension as well as their understanding of such things as main idea and detail.
  • The Bridge Builder activity tests children on their grammar. Players need to build a bridge over a chasm by determining the parts of speech for each given word.
  • Once all the clues are collected, players use the clues to solve Mystic Gateway.
  • The final activity in this level is Mystic Messages in which players use contextual clues to determine the missing words in a given paragraph.
Once all of the above activities are completed, it is off to the Mountaintop. Here players will find one more activity, after which they can complete their mission.

In Gates of Mount Valdrok, players use their knowledge of spelling as well as some deductive reasoning to crack the codes and determine the password to get through the gates.

  • Kids can take an optional pre-assessment test that will determine their placement in the activities in terms of difficulty levels. Practice Mode allows kids to play any of the activities directly. There are 4 levels of difficulty, and there is an option to turn auto-leveling on or off.

Disc 2: Personalized Learning Center (in the Deluxe 2-CD-ROM Edition only) contains:

  • The Master Progress Checker allows you to see, for each user, the progress made in each A.D.A.P.T. program they have played. For each skill, the number of problems attempted in each difficulty level and the success rate is given.
  • Printable Workbooks are customized for each player according to their performance in the different skill categories. A child who is having difficulty, for example, in determining synonyms will have more workbook sheets devoted to that topic.
  • Printable Activities can be picked out for the different skill areas.
  • Personalized reward certificates can be printed out once certain skill levels are completed in the Personal Rewards section of the disc.
It can be difficult to find an educational software program that kids in the upper elementary age group actually want to play for very long, so The ClueFinders programs are refreshing. The story line in this title is somewhat absorbing, but the activities seemed to be the drawing point for the kid testers. One tester was pleased to work in practice mode for quite some time, and he enjoyed the option of playing his favorite activities as much as he wanted.

The graphics are improved and have the feel of a Saturday morning cartoon. Basic arcade skills are required to play this game, and in some activities (such as ThermaGems, Ice Breaker and LavaRocks) kids must think quite fast in order to succeed. Testers enjoyed the challenge of these activities.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements for PCs are Win 95/98, a Pentium 90, 16 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM. Mac users will require any Power PC, 16 Mb RAM (8.5 Mb free), System 7.1 or higher, and 4X CD ROM.

Skills Covered
reading for meaning, using context clues, analyzing information, making inferences, ignoring extraneous information, spelling patterns and rules, vocabulary, synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, main idea/details, prefixes and suffixes, parts of speech, sentence structure, critical thinking, analogies, sequencing, categories, attributes, problem solving, hypothesis testing, logical reasoning, following directions, ordering

Educational Value
We found that this program taught the younger testers loads of new vocabulary words. In addition to strong reading skills content, this program requires players to solve problems and use logic and reasoning skills. The addition of printable (and customized) workbook sheets and activities helps to extend learning away from the computer.

Entertainment Value
The characters are well-developed, and are a delight to watch. The 10+ activities contain a mix of arcade action and problem-solving play.

The care taken in developing this title is evident throughout the program — straightforward navigation, difficulty level options, different modes of play, customized worksheets, and help options.

The 4 difficulty levels provide an excellent range and add life to the product. Most children in the suggested age group will be motivated to work through the adventure until the end.

Dollar Value
This retails for about $30 US, $35 Canadian. We consider this to be an excellent investment.

Released: 1999