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Review CornerSoftware
Junkland Jam
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
An adventure game that stands out as delightfully different, hugely creative, and highly original, Junkland Jam is an intriguing exercise in logic, scientific thinking, recycling, music, and creative problem solving.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 6-10   Subject: Thinking Skills  Brand: SouthPeak Interactive
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
Junkland Jam Product Overview
Junkland Jam is a fabulous problem-solving adventure program that has a music and science theme. Kids go on a hunt for a harmonica but must solve all sorts of little problems and collect various clues and items before reaching their goal. The program is based on the original concept of Bill Bloom, a publisher of 80+ children's songs. Bill Bloom also composed the music for the program.

The storyline is as follows: Simon is a creative boy who has the misfortune to live in a town called Drabsville where everyone and everything is boring — the people strive to be clean and orderly and the same. Residents of Drabsville are very fast to get rid of anything that is showing any kind of age, as everyone wants to have new things. Everyone except Simon, that is, who secretly has a stash of junk in his closet.

One fateful day his closet simply exploded, and his mom freaked out. She pulled out her Junksucker 3BM and sucked up all of Simon's junk to Junkland, even his most prized possession — his harmonica. Simon simply couldn't go on without his beloved harmonica, and got sucked up too.

In Junkland, Simon lands in a swamp and the player's first job is to try to help Simon by removing the junk that is piled up on top of him. Simon speaks directly to the player and asks for help. Throughout Junkland, there are odd creatures that are, for the most part, friendly and helpful. Simon even meets up with another human there — a girl named Sunny, who likes making musical instruments out of junk.

There are 4 other areas in Junkland that you will need to explore in order to find Simon's harmonica. Moto Mekka is a metal scrapyard, Luma is a compelling place filled with old glass and interesting lights, Critterdome is filled with tossed out fruits and veggies, and junk bands play at The Shack.

The areas are totally interesting and compelling. The graphics in the program are outstanding and unique — really a visual feast. The music in the program is outstanding as well. Navigating the program is intuitive — a cute little firefly is your cursor, and it glows when you hold it over hotspots. Kids should click around carefully in order to find important things.

Click on the lower right of the screen to activate a pull-up menu called the Fence. Here you will find Simon's journal, a map of Junkland that will take you wherever you want to go fast, and storage areas for items you will collect and store for later use.

Throughout the adventure, you will see Simon jotting down things in his journal. His journal is a wonderfully handy reference. Any clues or hints Simon has collected from the characters he meets are recorded in there, so referring to it will be useful for organizing, remembering, and planning your next move. This journal also contains lots of information about the science experiments that you will encounter in the game. For example, at some point kids had to learn how to make their own batteries to give to a creature named Neon Dude. They referred to Experiment #8 in Simon's journal entitled Lemon-Powered Clock and containing information about how to create a homemade battery. Altogether, there are 7 categories of science experiments in Junkland — magnets and compasses, batteries and electricity, sound and musical instruments, density and water surface tension, lenses and telescopes, periscope, and rocket propulsion.

Lots of mini-missions are involved in this adventure. An example of one involves Sunny — she is looking for a G# organ muffler, and Simon needs to find it in order for her to help him find his harmonica. He takes a tuning gadget along with him to remind him of what G# sounds like. When he finds the pipes, he has to determine which one is the correct muffler. Even when he delivers the correct muffler to Sunny, she still needs a special laser to make it work properly.

Kids will do some really interesting things like making maracas out of soda cans and unpopped popcorn seeds (which can also be done in real life) and playing a recycled organ. The odd little characters in Junkland are delightful. Kids meet up with Mother — the Queen of Critterdome — who is able to finish Simon's sentences because she knows everything. Other creatures, like Glimmer (a light bulb-shaped critter), and Woody, a green creature who hops around on one leg, are rather helpful.

We love the interactivity of the game — Simon asks for the players help quite earnestly so that kids really feel involved. The journal acts as a log and is helpful to kids to remind them of the the clues they have already encountered. One nitpick with the program is that it sometimes repeats episodes that have happened before in previous visits — for example, Simon brought batteries to Neon Dude, only to find out they were dead. The next time Simon visited Neon Dude, that sequence was repeated as if it never happened before.

We like that the program encourages off-the-computer activities — it comes with a harmonica with a sheet to help you play the songs from the program (like Sunny's Song and Jumbalia Jam), and it contains interesting experiments and directions for making musical instruments out of "junk" — everyday objects. How wonderfully creative!

The program is probably best for kids aged 7-10 (it involves a bit of reading at certain points). Children who love a good problem to solve (and kids who want a bit more challenge than Putt Putt or Freddi Fish) will love this program. Junkland Jam is certainly a game I will recommend.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a 486/100, 16 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM (4X recommended). The graphics are compelling — even spectacular — with rich colors and gorgeous backdrops.

Skills Covered
problem solving, basic science experiments (based on the following concepts: magnets and compasses, batteries and electricity, sound and musical instruments, density and water surface tension, lenses and telescopes, periscope, and rocket propulsion), creativity, imagination, music appreciation, logical thinking

Educational Value
Junkland Jam is learning at its best — through exploration, creativity, problem-solving, and discovery. Kids are very much active participants in the creative process.

Entertainment Value
The characters are original and unique, and most kids will find them interesting.

Design
Very easy to navigate, this program has some great features, including a pull-up menu at the bottom of the screen that stores items kids collect, as well as a map that will help kids get to places they want to go in a flash. The firefly cursor is wonderful, and it lets kids know when clicking will be fruitful (it glows when it is hovering over something clickable).

Replayability
There's a good amount of content to keep kids coming back to the game, not to mention the compelling storyline.

Dollar Value
$30 US is the suggested retail price. This program is so refreshing and original, we consider it to be a very valuable title in our collection.

Released: 1998