The content in this JumpStart Advanced 2nd Grade title is all-new. With top-secret missions as the theme, Frankie the dog becomes commander-in-chief of JumpStart Intelligence Agency. Children help the JumpStart gang get to the bottom of a series of mysterious pranks around JumpStartville.
The activities of the program are found "around the world"--children must click on any of the continents on the world map in order to play the educational activities. In South America, for example, children play a Frogger-like game called Amazon River Hop. In the Louvre Museum, players help identify paintings. In Russia, they play a board game in which they must use strategy as they practice academic skills.
As they play the games, players collect gadget pieces that are needed for Hopsalot's inventions. Once the inventions are working correctly, children can "undo" the damage caused by pranks around the town. For example, they must build a hose with gadget pieces in order to wash the mustaches from Mt. Jumpmore.
This program, like the others in the new Advanced series, features a tutoring system that caters to recognized "learning styles". Before children begin the game, they can choose a "learning style" that is associated with a JumpStart All-Star character. Alternatively, one or a few All-Star guides are suggested after kids answer a series of questions about their personal preferences. For example, kids can choose Eleanor "the reader", C. J. "the explorer", Hopsalot "the math whiz", and so forth. This selection determines the default style of help given throughout the program. If, for example, children are struggling with a time-telling exercise, their default tutor pops up on the screen with a little lesson in engaging 3D. C. J. the Explorer talks about animals as he teaches time concepts; Pierre the Musician actually demonstrates time with the sounds of chimes; and Eleanor the Reader tutors children with the aid of the written word. Once a tutoring session begins, children can change the All-star character at any time.
While the tutoring sessions are very engaging, the help given consists of general tutorials on the concepts children are struggling with. For example, when players demonstrate their inability to answer the question, "It is 2:00. Direct C.J. to the clock that shows one hour later.", the tutorial presents a general lesson on telling time rather than a specific lesson about adding an hour to a given time.
Our copy came with a bonus JumpStart Animal Adventures Karaoke CD-ROM. This CD features the excellent music videos from the JumpStart Animal Adventures software title.
The program's strengths include a variety of educational hotspots that teach diverse facts about the world; and tutoring sessions, which can be accessed at any point in an activity, that are engaging and somewhat helpful.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium (or equivalent) 233 MHz or higher, 64 MB of RAM, and 12X CD-ROM drive. Mac users require a PowerMac G3 233 MHz or higher, System 8.6, 9.2.1, 10.1.2, 64 MB RAM, and 16X CD-ROM drive. The program requires 100 MB of hard drive space.
Children learn and develop skills in addition, subtraction, telling time, money, pre-algebra, odd/even numbers, ordinals, estimation, rounding, compound words, contractions, capitalization, antonyms, synonyms, homophones, past and present verbs, pronouns, blends, digraphs, reading comprehension, library skills, life sciences, visual discrimination, musical pitch and duration, .
A decent range of skills are covered, and the activities "mix up" the skills learned (for example, both math and reading questions may be featured in an activity). The content is age-appropriate. In order to accomplish the entire mission of the game, children work through many exercises. This practice with skills across second grade curriculum provides children with the chance to supplement school learning at home.
The spy theme is not particularly original, but it definitely works. Children found the reward system motivating.
There was initial confusion about what children were expected to do in some of the activities, but, once understood, the interface serves players well. An optional assessment test can be taken before beginning the program's activities. After answering a series of multiple choice questions, the program "places" children at different skill levels for various activities. Whether or not children take this test, the program automatically adjusts difficulty levels according to their performance. Progress reports are available.
We expect average replay value. The amount of content is adequate, and the story line is interesting enough to motivate children to complete the entire mission.
This package carries a retail price of approximately $30 US.
Reviewed: July 2002