When you combine unconventional fun and games with solid geography content, you have a clear software winner. National Geographic Trivia Trek 2002 plays like a game show and tests kids' knowledge with over 2000 trivia questions from the National Geographic Bee an annual, nationwide geography competition for children from grades four to eight, which was originally started to combat illiteracy in geography.
Players will get an immediate clue that this is no ordinary trivia software when they are asked to choose a game piece each of the nine choices is quirky. Whether kids select Pogo Kitty, Bite-Size Martian, Shrimp Rabbit, or any of the other equally odd characters, they will get personalized feedback designed for that character throughout the game.
Kids can choose to play a Big Bee consisting of 20 questions, or a shorter game called a Small Bee with only 10. Players can go solo, or compete against one or two human opponents. Whichever they choose, they need to use the keyboard, instead of the mouse, to play the game. Players need to "buzz in" by tapping a hotkey on the keyboard before attempting an answer. Correct answers that are delivered quickly score the most points.
The host of the game, Reginald, is never seen, only heard. His self-importance and impatience with the animated guide BuzzBee adds humor to the game that both adults and kids will appreciate he feels BuzzBee's lightning rounds (which are great fun) are frivolous and not as important as his questions. This interplay pokes fun at the idea that geography lessons should always be dry and stodgy, and comes across as cute.
Instead of simply cycling through multiple choice questions, this program features different styles of play not unlike a television game show that keeps kids on their toes and interested. For example, in one lightning round, children are shown a picture (such as an image of the Louvre) that is gradually revealed to them portion by portion, and players must buzz in when they are ready to identify it. Another, entitled Odd Ball, requires identifying which one of a set of four images doesn't belong to a given place. Another challenge involves answering a question by identifying the correct place on a map of the world, with ten geographical locations marked only by letters of the alphabet instead of place names. During the course of the game, children also get chances to wager points, adding to the excitement.
Whether a player answers a question correctly or not, feedback is given and extra information about the geography fact or topic is provided. This elaboration boosts the educational value of the program. Still, the facts are so diverse that children who do not already have an interest in the subject of geography may not retain many of them.
The presentation of the program is very creative. For example, once a multiple choice question has been answered, BuzzBee appears in one of his many costumes to zap or knock the "balls" containing wrong answers off the screen. Even the categories for questions are clever and make kids think a little. For example, questions about islands are entitled "What No Man Is." The program is also very visually appealing with cute graphics as well as gorgeous maps and photos from National Geographic.
National Geographic Trivia Trek 2002 is an affordable and educational if not erratic tour of the world.