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Review CornerSoftware
Reader Rabbit 1st Grade: Capers on Cloud Nine!
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This program fulfills the ideal of "edutainment" software by offering an exciting adventure storyline, a gorgeous cartoon world to explore, and outstanding learning activities. Though children new to first grade may need some help, this exciting game is not to be missed.
Award
Ages: 6 to 8   Subject: Curriculum   Brand: The Learning Company
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview

Despite a few facelifts over the years, Reader Rabbit remains one of the most recognizable characters in children's software. This year, an all-new Reader Rabbit adventure line has been released. In addition to an updated look for Reader Rabbit and friends, these games are brand new with new storylines and improved graphics.

Reader Rabbit 1st Grade: Capers on Cloud Nine opens with an exciting video that introduces the adventure's storyline, as well as the characters in the game. Paige, an animated character that takes the form of a book, replaces the original Pop, and a new character named Chester joins old favorites, Reader Rabbit and Sam the Lion, and functions as a treasure chest that stores inventory items children encounter in the game!

Strikingly bright cartoon-style graphics will immediately draw in first-graders, but the story line and learning games will keep them playing and coming back for more. When Wordville is struck with an odd predicament, Reader Rabbit and friends investigate. It seems that it is raining boots and umbrellas! Their investigation takes them to the raingear-littered Cloud Nine and to an unusual island where raingear actually grows on trees.

In order to set things right, children embark on a scavenger-style adventure that is filled with learning games and small problems to solve. Kids are free to explore the different areas as they please. They need to collect items in order to help out the inhabitants of both the island and Cloud Nine, and these items often need to be earned by playing games that require academic skills to complete. For example, children earn a whistle in a game that has them filling in blanks to complete sentences. Later, they need to use this whistle to get past a parade of sheep blocking their path.

Children meet with cute and colorful characters like Queen Cumulus, who has a song to sing for them and who needs their help. Games are mostly very clever with multiple levels that adjust automatically according to a child's performance. In one, kids attempt to change words into new words by altering either the vowel sound, ending sound, or beginning sound. Sometimes it is as simple as changing "bat" to "but," and other times it requires multiple steps, as when kids need to change a "clock" into a "rack." Other learning activities require children to arrange letters and letter pairs in order to spell words, and to create sets of equivalent math equations from given numbers in order to balance the branches of a tree labeled with a quantity. There are eight educational activities altogether, and these can be accessed independently of the adventure as well.

A standout activity has children working with frames to create animations. Children start off with a canvas and simple art tools. Each subsequent frame (or "page") contains a shadow image of the artwork on a previous page as a reference point. Kids enjoyed creating moving pictures in this especially creative and brainy art activity.

Throughout the program, smart features abound. Besides automatically advancing difficulty levels, the program is sensitive to a child's progress and responds accordingly. For example, children must buy sandwich toppings in the Sandwich Shop using exact change. As they select coins, a subtotal is provided. If they make a few mistakes, the program gives direct hints as to how to correct them, such as "That's 10 cents too much–you need to take back 10 cents."

It is important to note that many children just entering first grade will need some help working through the educational activities in the program. In fact, this title may work best as a form of review for children who are entering second grade, or as a learning tool for children in the midst of the first grade school year.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium 166, 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM. Mac users require 160 MHz Power PC, System 8.6-9.1 and OSX, 32 MB RAM, and 8X CD-ROM.

Skills Covered
Adding and subtracting with counters, equivalent math equations, money math, spelling, reading comprehension, vocabulary, phonics skills, phonemic awareness, animating pictures, sorting by multiple attributes, extending patterns, problem solving, prediction.

Educational Value
This program boasts the problem-solving practice of an adventure-style game, as well as a complete set of learning activities that have children developing skills encountered in first-grade curriculum. The activities are especially sharp and allow children to experiment and explore as they learn.

Entertainment Value
Even though this program has a solid educational focus, it also excels in the entertainment department. Bright and fun graphics, adorable characters, and an exciting mission each contribute to making this program a decidedly fun experience.

Design
The features in this program are thoughtful and the attention to detail is truly impressive. All of the design features that we look for in an edutainment title are found here. Three levels of difficulty for the activities adjust automatically but can also be changed manually at any time. Navigation from area to area is intuitive, and a map option allows children to instantly change locations. Particularly clever is the use of characters that double as a place to store inventory items (Chester is a treasure chest and holds items children collect) and as a helper (Paige is a book and serves as a helpful guide).

Replayability
Programs with adventure formats sometimes suffer a little in replay value simply because kids complete their mission and have little motivation to return to the game. This program's activities are strong, however, and will attract repeat visits from many children.

Dollar Value
This program carries a suggested retail price of $19.95 US.

Released: 2001
Reviewed: June 2001