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Review CornerSoftware
Uncle Albert's Magical Album
Rating: five stars
The Bottom Line
Kids ages 9 and up enter into an amazing world of mystery, science, and discovery in this non-linear, multi-path adventure program. Working through this truly innovative program requires players to draw upon their intuition and logical thinking skills. Outstanding!
Award of Excellence
Ages: 9-up   Subject: Adventure  Brand: VTech
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
Uncle Albert's Magical Album Product Overview
There is no doubt about it, Uncle Albert was...eccentric. He counted stars, conducted unusual experiments, traveled a lot (but mostly in his head), and was a great storyteller. He carried a secret album with him wherever he went. The good news is that you've discovered the album and there is a treasure hiding in it. Your job is to find the treasure, but it won't be easy. Photos have been eaten by wood lice, and there are "dangers" along the way.

Tom, a friendly animal, has been trapped in this album for years, and he acts as a guide throughout the adventure. There are 13 bookmarks that allow you to jump through the pages of this special album, and kids will soon learn that there are more hidden pages that will "open up" for them as they progress through the adventure. There are many mysteries to solve within these pages — riddles to answer, unusual little creatures to discover, secret passageways to open, and traps to avoid.

Scattered throughout the pages of the album are various tools (such as the camera and jack hammer) and objects (like keys) that are essential to the game. Many can be moved to the side of the book so they can be used on other pages. Living animals can be found everywhere, and players must get to know them and their behaviours in different environments.

The camera is an essential tool, and can be used to take "real-time" photos of anything the player drags the camera over. Many of these photos will be useless (and can be fed to the wood lice for recycling), but some will play important roles in the game. The printer tool, once discovered, can be used to create and print a child's own magical album.

Kids travel to a laboratory to analyze objects they have found and to learn interesting facts about the world of natural science. Players place any of the animals, plants, and objects they have collected onto the experiment plate to find out facts and hints. Animals can even be transformed in the laboratory. At the racetrack, kids place 3 animals onto the starting blocks, click on the gun to start a race, and observe which animal wins. After experimenting with all the animals, the "champion" can be determined and photographed.

Many of the pages contain a crumpled-up note that gives players a hint, and each page contains a suitcase with a video of Uncle Albert who explains the mission for that environment.

The possibilities are endless with this program! There are multiple solutions to problems and experimentation is not only encouraged — it is essential. Players are constantly discovering new things. For example, once they have found the two gloves, they will be able to handle dangerous or fragile animals; it is useful to discover that most animals (with the exception of the dragon, of course) are afraid of fire, and that is where the flame tool comes in handy; use the watering can to get the snail to come out of its shell (snails are drawn to water). "Destinations" include a treasure island, a cave, a desert, Egypt, and more.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 120 processor, 16 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM drive. Mac users require an iMac or G3 Macintosh with 32 Mb RAM, System 7.5 and a 4X CD ROM drive. Both require 20Mb of hard disk space.

Skills Covered
logic, science, natural sciences, observation, intuition

Educational Value
Multiple solutions and true freedom to explore set this program apart from others on the market. This title is extremely clever and innovative in its approach to learning. Players will learn about natural sciences in a totally "natural" way, drawing on their logic and intuition. Curiosity and experimentation is encouraged.

Entertainment Value
With multiple mysteries and missions and a variety of unusual and interesting animals/things to explore, this adventure is thoroughly absorbing. Kids who prefer more straightforward learning games may find this program too involved. However, most will find this special little magical universe compelling, and parents will be impressed too.

There are 3 levels of help available to players — hints take the form of short videos that explain the mission of each page, more specific clues in crumpled up papers, and "huge" hints from the friendly animal, Tom. The program uses a non-linear approach to navigation and problem-solving, and players can easily jump from page to page by clicking on the album's bookmarks.

Solutions to problems are not pre-programmed, so there are infinite possibilities. This means that there are many different approaches to playing the adventure through to the end, which boosts replay value.

Dollar Value
This product's innovative and open concept makes it very unique and highly educational. The suggested retail price is $30 US, and the learning experience is priceless.

Released: 1999