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Review CornerSoftware
Oz The Magical Adventure
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
This nice-looking and easy-playing program retells a classic story with a fun twist. Rescuing Dorothy and Toto is made enjoyable with engaging and educational activities that exercise basic thinking skills. A good choice for children ages 4-7.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 5-8   Subject: Adventure  Brand: DK Interactive
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Pros & Cons  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
Oz The Magical Adventure Product Overview
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the children's book classic The Wizard of Oz, DK Interactive has published this wonderful title that recreates favorite characters and gets children involved in a problem-solving adventure. After a short intro that tells the story of Dorothy and her adventures on her quest to return home, players find Dorothy herself, the Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow, and Lion entering Emerald City. This is where this classic story takes an interesting twist. A winged monkey swoops down and captures Dorothy and her dog Toto, baffling the trio left behind. "This is not the way the story should go!", remarks the Scarecrow.

A conversation with the Wizard of Oz explains the mission of this graphically rich problem-solving program. In order for their wishes to be granted, they must rescue Dorothy by collecting nine jewels of a special medallion and destroy the Wicked Witch. This task doesn't sound easy to the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and Lion, each of whom feels he is missing an important feature — a brain, a heart, and courage, respectively. Fortunately, they have your child to help them.

Following the yellow brick road takes players to three different lands — The Land of the Munchkins, The Country of the Quadlings, and the Land of the Winkies — each of which contains a simple gateway activity as well as 3 activities that, upon completion, each lead to a jewel. When all the jewels have been earned, kids rescue Dorothy, encounter the Wicked Witch, and return to Emerald City for some surprises. Once the mission is complete, kids can return to their favorite games as often as they please.

At the outset of the program, players choose a level — Bronze, Silver, or Gold. The adventure is the same regardless of the level, but the activities contain more complex rules and/or problem-solving content as the levels increase.

The activities are really quite innovative! One requires children to memorize the hiding places of various objects in the dark when a volcanic flash illuminates them briefly. Once the mine is darkened again, kids try to recall the objects' positions. Another activity involves estimating the weight of coal by adding different size weights onto a trolley. Finding a path of colorful polka-dot toadstools for frogs is great fun (see screenshot at left). Kids need to pay attention to a rule like "a frog can only leap onto a toadstool of the same color".

There are not many hotspots in this program, but in each Land there are some cute finds. For example, a Munchkin hummingbird can be found along the yellow brick road, and he sings a number of tunes. Kids try to repeat the tune on the bellflowers nearby. Sunflowers dance and a colorful bird makes some surprising echoes.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98/ME/NT4/2000, a Pentium 166 processor, 32 Mb RAM for Win 95/98/ME and 48 Mb RAM for Win NT4/2000, and 8X CD ROM. Mac users require a Power PC 120 MHz or faster, with 32 Mb RAM, System 8.1 or later, and at least 8X CD ROM. This title requires 20 Mb of free hard disk space.

Pros & Cons
This title combines an overall sense of purpose and mission with free-play activities. The activities themselves are fun to play, and the story line helps ensure that kids will discover and play each of them.

The graphics are stunning, featuring clay animation characters and vibrant screens. All activities exercise thinking and problem-solving skills, with special emphasis on memory.

The learning curve for this title is definitely on the easy side. Children can jump right into the program without assistance. Navigation is very straightforward, and the mission is relatively short for most kids. I would recommend this title most for kids ages 4-7, as older kids may not find enough to challenge them. Children who enjoy an adventure-style program but who easily get frustrated with the likes of Putt-Putt and Freddi Fish will find this title more straightforward. Though kids need to exercise problem-solving skills in the activities, getting through the mission is not as complicated a task.

Oz The Magical Adventure is a very encouraging and tolerant title, from start to finish. The outcome of the program is really quite cute. Players learn that the adventure has proven that the Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow, and Lion each had the special feature they were looking for all along. Kids earn an award in keeping with the level chosen (Bronze, Silver, or Gold) for their skillful, caring, and courageous service.

Skills Covered
memory, numeracy, problem solving, strategy, logic, color recognition, shapes and patterns, concentration, visual memory, creativity, imagination, listening, social and emotional development, computing, ICT coordination

Educational Value
The activities require kids to pay attention to rules and most of them draw upon memory skills. They are fun and easy-going, and generally quite innovative.

Entertainment Value
An encouraging and simple story line, beautiful graphics, and engaging activities add up to a pleasant software experience. Kids won't easily get frustrated by this adventure.

Design
Navigation is as easy as following the yellow brick road — and even easier with a special map that takes kids places faster! Excellent design features make this title easy to play even for preschoolers. Players can click through any introductions and click on a magic mirror for help from Glynda the Good Witch.

Replayability
We expect fair replay value from this title. Younger players (ages 4-5) will likely return to the program more often.

Dollar Value
Suggested retail price is $19.95 US. This title is more than worth it!

Released: 2000
Reviewed: August 2000