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Review CornerSoftware
The Magic School Bus in Concert Activity Center
Rating: four stars
The Bottom Line
This title is bright, informative, and moderately engaging but has questionable replay value. Some of the activities will wear thin rather quickly.
 
Ages: 6-10   Subject: Early Learning  Brand: Microsoft
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
The Magic School Bus in Concert Activity Center Product Overview
This open-ended, free-play program is unlike its Magic School Bus predecessors in many ways. Dubbed an Activity Center, The Magic School Bus in Concert doesn't revolve around a story line — instead it features a group of independent activities. Once kids watch the opening sequence, complete with the MSB theme song, and select a funky picture ID, they are brought inside the famous bus where many surprises await. Ms. Frizzle is there, along with a host of "clickables" that either offer interesting information tidbits, or lead to one of the many activities that carry a common theme — sound and music.

The Noisy Game Show is hosted by Mikey the Microphone. Kids select a category and accumulate points by listening to a sound then answering a multiple choice question. For example, players determine what is missing from a picture of a drinking glass that produces the given pinging sound (in this case, a spoon). In another game category, kids listen to a dog howling and determine whether the dog produced the sound in a box, a canyon, or in the park.

A puzzle activity entitled Scrambled Sounds features such photographic images and sounds as a didgeridoo from Australia, a cat purring, the sonic boom of a jet going at the speed of sound, and more. Each puzzle piece has an attached sound, and when the puzzle is correctly arranged, kids get to hear the sound clip!

On the Sound Stage, kids can click on Liz to watch the student-band play, click around and learn from the program's many information "bites", use the microphone to collect sound samples, or see the sound waves of various instruments.

Other activities allow players to watch sound waves stretch or shrink as they experiment with pitch and volume, drag sounds into an Acoust-O-Matic machine and see how they differ in various environments, "shake up" sounds in a sound machine using sound stamps, and repeat a sequence of sounds.

A variety of sound facts are to be found throughout the program. Kids learn diverse science facts about things like ultrasound machines, musical instruments, speakers, and even a big gong.

The program does a decent job of celebrating sound — in the words of Ms. Frizzle (whose love for play on words is carried over into this software title), "Let's hear it for the ear!"

This title employs multiple difficulty levels where appropriate, and boasts a well-designed and easy-to-use interface. Some of the activities have replay possibilities, but others are too simple to hold children's attention for too long. Focus of the program is on the science of sound, not on teaching music theory.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98/2000/NT 4.0, a Pentium 133 processor, 16 Mb RAM for Win 95/98, 32 Mb RAM for Win NT/2000, and 4X CD ROM. It requires 15 MB of hard drive space.

Skills Covered
Science of sound, acoustics, experimentation, sequences and patterns, musical instruments.

Educational Value
Educational information "bites" are found throughout the program. Whether kids will pay attention to them will depend on individual players' personalities. Children with a sincere interest in the science of sound may absorb these facts, but the program, while playful, doesn't make a strong effort to inspire enthusiasm for the subject.

Entertainment Value
Colorful screens and moderately engaging activities will capture kids' attention at least for awhile. Ms. Frizzle's dynamic personality is represented well.

Design
This title sports a clean, understandable interface and easily adjustable difficulty levels in appropriate activities.

Replayability
Many of the activities are too simple to have much replay value, and the program lacks an overall goal.

Dollar Value
This title is reasonably priced at a suggested retail price of $19.95 US.

Released: 2000
Reviewed: October 2000
 
Buy Magic School Bus in Concert at Amazon.com (US only).