This new Reader Rabbit title for second graders is spunkier and more exciting than the classic title, Reader Rabbit 2nd Grade, yet still manages to offer plenty of educational challenges. Mis-cheese-ious Dreamship Adventure! captures players' interest with a fun opening video that presents the game's predicament. Best of all, the program keeps those interest levels high throughout.
The story line is as follows: there has been a Pie-rat ambush (with cheese!) that separates Reader Rabbit and friends from their beloved Dreamship. In fact, the ship has been "cheesed" on Mount Cheesemore, and is in danger of being taken over by the evil Pie-rats. In order to lead the gang back to their ship, players need to fill barrels to the brim with three food items (French bread, macaroni fruit, and bricks of blue cheese), but they'll need to earn these items by playing educational activities. Later, in order to reclaim and de-cheese the ship, players face even more educational challenges, all in an adventure format that actually makes the academic work fun.
The educational activities feature three levels of difficulty that are independent of the others. The program adjusts the levels automatically in reaction to the player's performance, and does so independently of the other activities. This way, children can work at a gently challenging level for each subject area. One activity requires players to build insects (like the yellow jacket) after reading descriptions of each of their body parts. Another involves selecting letters or groups of letters from a pool and arranging them correctly in order to spell a given word.
The program is very encouraging and upbeat. Children are told, "you should be a mathematician", for example, when they successfully complete math equations, and they are politely asked if they need a little help when they have made a number of consecutive errors.
The game's use of wacky humor is not lost on kids in the target age group in fact, our testers giggled throughout, from the silly food items they needed to collect to the monster in the final showdown that immediately turned soft when his mother called him in for lunch.
A Learning Creations Center is also included on the CD. Compared to the featured adventure, the three activities presented here are a little on the bland side. However, children who are interested will enjoy building musical phrases, designing a calendar, and playing around with art tools.
One of the biggest endorsements for the program came from our seven-year-old tester who played some of the activities long after she had earned the required food items that would have allowed her to progress in the adventure.
It is important to note that children who have recently started second grade will likely need some help. One activity in particular seemed beyond the difficulty level for the target age group: children were required to identify even or odd numbers as a cart raced too quickly along a track. Kids could barely keep up with the pace, even when they knew the math.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium 166, 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM. Mac users require 180 MHz Power PC, System 8.6-9.1 and OSX, 32 MB RAM, and 8X CD-ROM.
Kids work with addition, subtraction, equation building, comparisons of number values, fractions, analog and digital time, skip counting, spelling, vocabulary, phonics, synonyms and antonyms, compound words, sentence building, punctuation, capitalization, life science, problem solving, calendars, music, and creativity.
Even though this program makes kids feel like they are a part of a Saturday morning cartoon, it definitely doesn't shy away from educational challenges. Players should complete the adventure with a solid sense that they have learned something and/or reinforced some second-grade skills.
The adventure format of this program is especially well executed. Children really feel like they are part of the fun, humor-laced story line. There are enough plot twists to keep kids entertained. Songs, intermittent videos that further the story, and gorgeous state-of-the-art graphics all add to the fun.
This title gets top marks in the design category. Evidence that tremendous thought went into its development is found throughout, from the difficulty levels that automatically adjust according to a child's performance to the different modes of play.
The adventure mode almost guarantees that kids will get a fair dose of each and every educational topic presented. On completion of the adventure, children can return to any favorite activity in practice mode.
This CD-ROM carries a suggested retail price of only $19.95 US.
Reviewed: September 2001