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Review CornerSoftware
World Explorer Deluxe
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
Expertly building upon children's natural curiosity about the world in which they live, this fun set of CD-ROMs offers young learners an informative and fun introduction to geography and history. The program presents general facts instead of in-depth explorations, which is entirely appropriate for the target audience.
Award
Ages: 6 to 10   Subject: Geography/History   Brand: DK Interactive
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
This 2-CD-ROM set bundles together two easy-to-use programs that help kids learn fascinating facts about the world and its history.

In World Explorer, kids create a passport, and then journey around the world in an attempt to find Joe, a globetrotting boy who has left behind a package. Using a nicely illustrated map of the world, kids follow Joe's trail of letters.

Players will need to pay attention to the clues in Joe's letter, which vary in difficulty depending on the level chosen at the beginning of the adventure. In one letter, Joe writes, "We're somewhere in China. You should be able to find us…we're walking along the top of a very, very long wall." Once children select China on the world map, they get a closer look at that part of the world. The 3D map features cartoon landmarks, and kids can simply click around to uncover interesting facts, or go directly to the Great Wall of China to find the next letter from Joe.

The program teaches a myriad of facts through pop-up windows featuring text and illustrations for important landmarks, cultural facts, animals, and more. Some pop-ups include a video scene (such as one about chamois--animals found in the Alps); others allow kids to create virtual postcards; and some feature stickers to add to a "sticker book". Every time kids correctly identify a new locale, they earn a photo for their logbook. Each photo features the cartoon character that kids have selected as their sign-in identity alongside a famous landmark. So, if kids have chosen to be an alien for their game, one of the photos in the logbook might be the alien standing in front of the Taj Mahal.

Back in Joe's bedroom, there are a handful of games to play. One quizzes children on geography facts; another has players searching for treasures by strategically planning their boat's movements on a grid map (and reinforcing their understanding of North, South, East, and West); and two other activities involve identifying objects from an aerial perspective. In addition, a handy dictionary of country flags is available.

In the second CD-ROM, History Explorer, kids attempt to find Professor Timestein who is trapped in the past. They need to complete a "time trail", which involves travelling back in time to 8 different civilizations, including Medieval Europe, Ancient Greece, Imperial China, and more. After choosing a time in history, kids are treated to a 3D map of the area. There are plenty of cartoon-like clickables that teach culture and history in more depth. Players collect stickers by answering one-question quizzes, and take part in a few small activities, such as decorating a coat of arms in Medieval times.

Back in the attic, kids can take the Ancient Treasure Challenge, which involves answering multiple-choice questions. They can use stickers to create different historical scenes, and play Time Detective--a game that involves identifying objects that belong to specific times in history.

Though some kids as young as 6 will enjoy the programs, most kids approximately 8-10 will have the skills to better understand the concepts. The concept of chronology, for example, can be difficult to grasp, and the vocabulary used in the programs' pop-up fact windows may be difficult to understand for children under ages 8 or 9.

This set of programs has a lot to teach in a broad sense. While kids won't necessarily remember the details of every part of the world or time in history, they will come away from the games with a stronger general understanding of these subjects.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/NT/2000, a 486DX2-66MHz, 16 MB RAM for Win 95/98, 32 MB RAM for NT/2000, 15 MB hard drive space, and 2X CD-ROM. Mac users require any PowerPC, System 7.6.1+, 24 MB RAM, 15 MB hard drive space, and 2X CD-ROM.

Skills Covered
Map reading, names and locations of continents, cultural facts, customs, ancient civilizations, wildlife and topography of the world, capitals, flags, landmarks, compass skills, critical thinking, deductive reasoning, and language arts.

Educational Value
The learning experience in this bundle is invaluable. The programs require some thought and expose kids to maps, landmarks, culture, and wildlife. Though the learning experience is not especially deep, kids do come away from the program having gained a great deal of broad knowledge and a considerably stronger understanding of the countries of the world.

Entertainment Value
Considering the fact that these software titles are really quite academic, they do a wonderful job of drawing in young children--even those who have not yet displayed a hunger for knowledge about the world. Colorful, "clickable" animations bring maps to life, and trails of clues to decipher add to the fun.

Design
These titles feature a good range of options, the best of which allows parents the option to turn auto-narration on or off.

Replayability
Both programs boast features that invite replay: kids are pulled into each adventure by the sheer fun of the mission, the animations are appealing, and the lessons offered are broad enough so that they never overwhelm young audiences. Best of all, for many kids, the learning itself is more than enough reason to return.

Dollar Value
This CD-ROM set carries a suggested retail price of $19.95 US.

Released: 2001
Reviewed: December 2001