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Review CornerSoftware
Freddi Fish 4: The Case of the Hogfish Rustlers of Briny Gulch
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
Another exciting adventure from Humongous, Freddi Fish 4 delivers a fun underwater Wild West theme, a colorful cast of characters, and plenty of problem-solving fun for kids aged 3-8.
Award
Ages: 3-8  Subject: Thinking Skills  Brand: Humongous Entertainment
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
Usually I have no problem remembering the full names of software titles — until now. What a mouthful! Humongous has done it again, folks. They've produced another spectacular production — and "production" seems to me to be the best word for their Junior Adventures. There are toe-tapping songs, fun mini-games, adorable characters, and hilarious scenes (many of which will go over the youngest adventurers' heads, but their parents will still be delighted).

It seems like only yesterday that Freddi Fish was searching for missing kelp seeds, but since that first adventure, there has been one delightful adventure after the other — this one included. A Wild West theme underwater — could it really be done? The answer is a resounding "yes".

The storyline is as follows: Freddi's cousin Calico has invited her along with her sidekick Luther to her hogfish ranch in the Wild West town named Briny Gulch. When they arrive, however, Calico is sad to report that her prize-winning hogfish were rustled (i.e, stolen)! Freddi Fish and Luther promise to solve the mystery and find those hogfish for Calico Catfish. Kids direct the brave little fish around the underwater town, collecting items and clues to solve this puzzling mystery.

During their travels, they meet up with a host of fun characters and locations. They find the rustlers' hideout, but need to disguise themselves as rustlers before they can enter. The search begins for 3 items that will help disguise them (a blue 10-gallon hat, a bandana, and a belt buckle with a letter of the alphabet carved into it, for example). But that's not all — there are many more items to find and to barter, characters to chat with, clues to collect, and 3 mini-games to play along the way:

  • In Stella's Sodaloon, there's a Nickelodeon machine where kids can view some old-fashioned movie clips.
  • The interactive Wanted Poster is great fun — it's filled with outlaws with wacky names like Crazy Fin Sally, and Crooked Hat Pebblefield. Kids get to mix and match the different descriptive words that distinguish the outlaws' outstanding characteristic, as well as their crime. Combinations are almost endless.
  • The Oysteroid Arcade involves aiming clams to split bubbles with pearls in them before they get too close. Modeled after the arcade classic Asteroids, the larger bubbles split and make 2 smaller ones. Kids can play it any time they want some fun arcade action.

As with the previous 3 Freddi Fish titles, kids have to collect pretty purple sea urchins they find along the way. There are bubbles at the bottom of the screen that serve as temporary holders of items they collect. Kids guide Freddi around the the town, meeting up with an array of interesting characters like Saltwater Stella in the Sodaloon, a huge whale named Fluke with a Cabaret in his mouth, and Gill Barker, a wheel nut salesman who's so colorful that he might as well be selling used cars. Every now and again, there are little videos showing what's going on behind the scenes with the rustlers and the hogfish. A shady shark, for example, bullies the salesfish, Gill Barker.

The graphics are beautiful, and Freddi Fish 4 is filled with cute little hotspots so characteristic of Humongous Entertainment's adventures, and that especially appeal to children on the younger end of the 3-8 suggested age group. Lots of thinking skills and planning are required to figure everything out, and many clues and needed items are interconnected in some way. For example, kids find a note with a 3-digit number on it, and they may figure out that they can use it to unlock a door that they stumbled upon earlier. Something is stuck between Fluke the whale's huge teeth, so kids have to find dental floss to get it out, but when they do find it, there's another problem to solve in order to retrieve it.

Kids will get temporarily frustrated (especially the young ones), but it just makes the figuring out part more sweet — how excited they are to be the one to solve a little mystery or problem! As fun as the game is, kids are truly learning how to organize their thinking and solve problems in a logical and strategic way.

It is now easier to save and load games, as well as quit. A small icon appears at the lower left of the screen that brings up the option to do any of these three functions. As always, use the F1 button for help, and press the Escape key to skip through dialogue. Included in the program box is a cute Activity Book for away-from-the-computer enjoyment.

The ending is an interactive one — similar to Freddi Fish 3 — in which kids get to pinpoint the mysterious Mr. Big from a bunch of characters. What fun!

This program makes a perfect rainy day activity. Pop this game in the CD drive, and watch kids gather around. Actually, Freddi Fish 4 lends itself perfectly to group work. Kids can collaborate and solve problems together as a team. Don't be surprised if your children dive into this one and don't resurface for some time — the game is totally engaging.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements for PCs are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 90, 16 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM. Mac users will require at least an 80 MHz Power PC, 16 Mb RAM, System 7.5.3 or higher, and 2X CD ROM.

Skills Covered
problem solving, critical thinking skills, strategy, cognitive development, logic, decision-making, deductive and inductive reasoning, mental mapping, prediction, testing, social skills, sequencing, memory, discriminating between relevant and non-relevant details

Educational Value
Children learn to think logically and to solve problems. Don't underestimate the educational value of this title just because it's so much fun.

Entertainment Value
This program is highly entertaining with a motivating and interesting storyline, funny characters, and plenty of extra things to do and see.

Design
Navigation is wonderful — kids quickly figure out how to go where they want to go. Press the F1 button on your keyboard if you need help or hints. I can only imagine how much time and energy went into this project — it is evident in all areas.

Replayability
The hidden objects change each time you play, which helps extend the life of the game. The first time through, however, will be the most challenging and educationally rewarding. This game can be enjoyed by all ages in the suggested age group, and perhaps beyond. Younger kids will need some help from their parents or older siblings.

Dollar Value
This title goes for $30 US and $40 Cdn. Because kids want to play the game through to the end, combined with the fact that they must exercise their brains in the process, this sort of game is invaluable.

Released: 1999