With a mission--to return books to the library on time--firmly in mind, preschoolers help direct Dora and Boots over the troll bridge and the "big rock" while honing some basic academic skills. Dora the Explorer: Backpack Adventure is the first software program based on the hit television series, a show that emphasizes problem-solving skills. Because the show in some ways mimics a computer game, it seems a natural fit for the computer. This title does the show justice in some ways, although it's not without a few problems.
Preschoolers are faced with the choice of playing the game in either of two ways: the adventure format features a distinct story line and a linear progression of activities, while the "free play" mode allows players to enjoy the activities in any order.
In adventure format, which is generally more satisfying than free play mode, children's first task is to click on each book, distinguished by its color, that Dora asks for. She may ask, "Find the book that is green...verde", for example, on level 2. On the highest setting, level 3, Dora requests colors in Spanish without the English translation. The adventure continues with small problems to solve (such as finding an object that will help Isa plant seeds in her garden) and an assortment of activities to play. One activity requires children to pay the grumpy old troll's toll by completing patterns of shapes.
Children can turn to The Map for a nice overview of the steps needed to complete the adventure. In free play mode, kids use the map to get where they want to go quickly. The games are essentially the same in this mode, except for the first activity at Dora's house. In free play mode, kids need to find an assortment of objects (such as a pair of pants, a helmet, and a kite) instead of books.
There are three difficulty levels to the game. These settings affect the challenge level of the shape-matching and number activities, as well as the amount of Spanish words used. Although children select a level at the beginning of the game, they can adjust this setting at any point during an activity.
Successful completion of each activity earns players stickers for their sticker book, delivered enthusiastically by the Fiesta Trio. Kids can use the stickers they have earned to decorate a number of colorful scenes.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/Me/XP, Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM (64 MB RAM for Win XP), 8X CD-ROM, and 85 MB free hard disk space. Mac users require a G3 processor, 233 MHz or faster, OS 8.6 or higher, 32 MB RAM, 24X CD-ROM, and 85 MB hard drive space.
color recognition, number recognition, shape recognition, problem solving, pattern completion, following directions, listening skills, memory, classification, visual tracking, and basic Spanish words and phrases.
The bulk of the program's educational value lies in its inclusion of Spanish words and phrases in an informal and effective manner. However, we feel that there was room for more educational content in terms of basic academic concepts. For example, an activity that introduces letters of the alphabet would have helped boost the overall value of the game.
The colors of the game are vibrant, although the graphics are uneven in quality (sometimes smooth, other times grainy). Fans of the show should enjoy the format of the game and the familiar songs. However, we would have liked more clickable surprises, or hotspots with multiple responses.
There are three levels of difficulty to choose from, along with an option to adjust levels at any point during the activities. Navigation is easy and clear, making the program appropriate for independent play.
Factors that support the program's longevity include three difficulty levels to choose from and two ways to play the game. However, for many young children, the adventure is too short. Although there are 7 activities in all, many of these are fairly simple.
This CD-ROM retails for approximately $20 US.
Reviewed: September 2002