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Review CornerSoftware
Invention Highway — Family Edition
Rating: four stars
The Bottom Line
Users learn and apply the ASIT method of creative thinking in 12 mind-bending games. This program contains powerful and unique educational content but serves mainly as an introduction to the program and has limited replay value.
Ages: 9-up   Subject: Thinking Skills  Brand: Brighter Child Interactive
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
Invention Highway: Family Edition Product Overview
Have you ever wondered whether thinking like a genius could be a learned skill? Can innovative, breakthrough thinking actually be taught? The developers of the ASIT method say yes, and Invention Highway is designed to introduce this fascinating method of thinking to people as young as 9 all the way up to adults.

The ASIT (Advanced Structured Inventive Thinking) method is based on research that concludes that, in fact, creative solutions to problems have some common characteristics. As such, a methodology can be taught that helps to open the mind to more creative, inventive thought. Ironically, this mind-opening method is based on the Closed World Principle. It suggests that many solutions to problems can be found by reorganizing components of the problem itself. The training manual included with this software cites many real-world examples of inventive thinking based on this principle, one of which is the polio vaccination. While scientists were searching in all sorts of areas for a cure for polio, it was in 1953 that Jonas Salk found the answer from the problem itself!

If this kind of thinking piques your interest, you might find Invention Highway an "inventive" program. This CD-ROM provides 12 simulation games based on the ASIT method and its four thinking techniques (Unification, Multiplication, Duplication, and Breaking Unity) in an engaging and helpful environment.

The manual provides an explanation of the method on which the program is based as well as condensed and detailed solutions to each of the simulations. The friendly professor-like guide provides some feedback and recaps the steps involved in solving each puzzle once it has been successfully completed.

This title is compelling, especially to those who love brainteasers. Users will solve problems that include fixing a flat tire and sending a parcel by mail while protecting it from being tampered with. A 9-year-old tester found the games challenging and sometimes frustrating, but couldn't stop playing them until he had completed all 12 puzzles. Thatís quite a plug for the program, as its focus is not on fancy edutainment gimmicks but on the educational puzzle-solving process itself.

Ultimately though, the program is disappointing only because it ends rather abruptly. There are only 12 puzzles to solve, and while completing these puzzles is a wonderful exercise in thinking, it leaves players wanting more. Once a puzzle is solved, it would have been more rewarding to be able to expand upon the playerís newfound knowledge through variations on the puzzle. Our tester felt that once he was finally starting to get the hang of the principles, it was the end of the life of the software. That is where BCIís companion web site comes in — it helps to fill some of the void. Purchase of the program earns a 6-month free subscription to invention-highway.com where new puzzles, upgrades, and the like are available for further study and development.

A school edition is also available.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Win 95/98/NT 4.0 or higher, Pentium 100, 16 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM. Power Mac or G3, 7.6.1, 16 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM. 10 MB of hard drive space is required.

Skills Covered
creativity, critical thinking skills, problem solving, logic, reason

Educational Value
This powerful and unique CD-ROM designed to enhance and develop creative thinking provides an excellent, albeit short, exercise for the brain. Players discover solutions to the problems at their own pace and are given limitless opportunity to experiment through trial and error.

Entertainment Value
The addictive quality of brainteasers provides the draw, and those who enjoy challenging their minds will appreciate this programís interesting simulations.

A straightforward, user-friendly interface places emphasis where it should be — on the challenging puzzle-solving itself. A tester at the lowest end of the suggested age group found the program easy to use.

This unique program unfortunately loses points for replayability. Because there are only 12 puzzles to solve, and due to their nature there is no challenge in repeating them. Note, however, that a 6-month free trial membership to a web site that extends learning is granted to owners of the software.

Dollar Value
Suggested retail price is $30 US. Its unique content may justify the purchase, especially if there are more than one potential users of the program.

Released: 1999
Reviewed: September 2000