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Review CornerSoftware
The Living Sea
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This mesmerizing program immerses children in an underwater world, where they learn about the sea and its flora and fauna through gentle games and activities.
Ages: 6 to 9   Subject: Science   Brand: Montparnasse Multimedia
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
image Product Overview
This delightfully unique CD-ROM from France provides kids with a quietly educational introduction to marine life. Based on the children's book, Mer et Poissons, it combines gorgeous illustrations and animations, calming music, and relaxing games. The resulting mix is as mesmerizing and soothing as gazing at an exquisite aquarium.

The program's main screen features three colorful fish. Moving the cursor over the clown fish allows kids to select the program's directed adventure game that plays like an interactive story; the clown triggerfish opens up 5 activities; and the butterfly fish leads kids to dictionaries and creativity games.

The adventure game takes kids on a multi-level quest for the Scallop Choir, whose music is the only remedy for a lonely dolphin's sadness. Kids can play the game on any of three difficulty levels. They must complete various tasks on their journey to the scallops, including freeing fish caught in a fisherman's net, using a seahorse to nudge fish out of a cave, navigating a lobster maze, and dodging jellyfish. At the end of their journey, kids get the chance to conduct the choir.

Another game helps to acquaint players with different types of shellfish as they collect them from the sand and gather them in a bucket. They also must match the sound from a shell to a corresponding illustration, with nine possible choices.

The coloring activity requires children to copy the detailed colors of a given fish on their own grayscale model. At times, this activity requires too much accuracy and frustrated younger testers.

There are two choices in the CD-ROM's dictionary activity. One has kids clicking on letters of the alphabet to view illustrations of things related to the sea that begin with each letter. Clicking on "R" introduces the rainbow wrasse and red mullet, for example, and yes, there are even entries for Q and X — quahog and xiphophorous, respectively. The other dictionary activity choice is an encyclopedia, of sorts, dedicated to fish, shellfish, crustaceans, and the sea.

Plenty of creativity activities are available, which range from decorating fish with scales, gills, eyes, and fins to creating a lush marine scene that comes to gorgeous life with swimming fish and swaying seaweed. Kids can also print postcards and invitations decorated with underwater scenes.

The musical soundtrack is so relaxing it is almost lulling, though whimsical sound effects help keep children alert. The graphics in The Living Sea are a real treat for the senses, featuring artistic illustrations and smooth animations.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98, Pentium II 233 MHz, 48 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM and Display 640x480 Thousands of colors. Mac users require a PowerPC 233 MHz, System 7.5 or higher, 48 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM and Display 640x480 Thousands of colors.

Skills Covered
Players learn the characteristics of the flora and fauna of the sea, boost their vocabulary of marine life, and exercise their creativity.

Educational Value
Children learn numerous facts about the sea and its inhabitants through the program's dictionary and games. Even the creativity activities offer information tidbits to players — for example, as kids add scales to their fish design, they are told how scales protect the fish. Perhaps even more powerful is the program's overall message that the sea is an extraordinary and mysterious world that children are encouraged to respect and protect.

Entertainment Value
Charming illustrations, smooth animations, fun sound effects, and an entrancing soundtrack combine to create a calm but fun experience for young players. We love the variety of activities presented — there's something for everyone in the game.

The interface is fairly intuitive, though it will take a little time to understand the program's icons. Overall, the program is designed thoughtfully, with instructions that don't repeat themselves excessively.

We expect average replayability for this program. There is a fair amount of content and variety to keep children's interest, at least for a few sittings.

Dollar Value
This program carries a suggested retail price of $19.99 US.

Released: 2001
Reviewed: August 2001