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.