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Review CornerSoftware
Zoombinis Island Odyssey
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This third title in the Zoombinis series plays a little differently than the previous titles, but it is an excellent, if challenging, exercise in logical thinking. With its science theme and compelling format, this program is recommended for both home and school use.
Ages: 9 and up   Subject: Logic; Science   Brand: The Learning Company/Riverdeep
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
image Product Overview
This third title in the excellent Zoombinis series strays a little from the gameplay "formula" of the previous two, but it is nonetheless highly recommended. The story begins with some history of the lovable blue creatures called the Zoombinis. They lived quite happily on the peaceful Zoombini Isle until the awful Bloats arrived. The Bloats not only drove the Zoombinis from their land, they depleted the Isle of its natural resources before abandoning it. When the Zoombinis, now living in Zoombiniville, get word of the devastation, they bravely return to the Isle.

In an effort to reverse the damage done to their beloved Isle, and to save their beloved Zerbles, each Zoombini returns to the isle carrying a caterpillar! This is where kids step in. They must assemble a 12-member team of Zoombinis, accomplished by selecting hairstyles, "feet" (such as shoes, springs, or rollers), colorful noses, and eyes. There are five choices of each feature.

Seven challenges face each band of Zoombinis, and as children succeed and return to lead new rescue parties on the odyssey, their difficulty levels increase. Through the challenges, players reconstruct the food chain in order to save the Zerbles. The caterpillars the Zoombinis are carrying must turn into moths so that they can pollinate the Snozzleberry seedlings. These plants bear Snozzleberry fruit, which is food for the Zerbles! The challenges involve such objectives as speeding up the process of methamorphosis from chrysalises to moths at the Planetarium, planting Snozzleberry seedlings, feeding the fussy Zerbles special varieties of the fruit, and so forth. The story line is especially well done.

The first challenge is the Catapult. By paying careful attention to the machinery's gears and lining up both boulders and mudballs strategically, children can launch their Zoombinis over the cliff. At this point, they must bring their caterpillars to the tum-tum tree which is protected by a wall. Cracking a code of hieroglyphs gets Zoombinis through.

There are three distinct challenge levels for each puzzle. For example, in the Greenhouse, players must discover a path through row after row of plants for each of twelve moths based on their color, shape, and number of leaves. On the easiest levels, a path for each moth is already intact, and it is players' job to find the correct ones. On level two, players need to actively swap plants in order to create paths for the moths. On the hardest level, extra plant traits are added and beetles clog up the pathways!

There is a new system of "tokens" in the game. Instead of rescue sites, the Zoombinis remain at the different challenge sites until players successfully get them through.

We thoroughly enjoyed the rich storyline in the program. The overall goal of the game, as well as the objectives of each challenge, are clear. The Zoombinis' quest and challenges are both compelling and clever. Arno, the demanding tree stump, reappears in this third title in the series, for example. This time, he is fussy about how the Zoombinis sort the seedlings! (Those who have played the first Zoombinis title will remember his particularness about pizza toppings). What starts out as trial and error as players try to guess which plant part Arno is particular about at that moment, quickly turns into educated guesswork.

This time around, the fun of selecting Zoombini features is lessened simply because their attributes do not become variables in the logic puzzles. The choices players make during the selection process, in other words, do not impact gameplay as they did in previous titles. There are also fewer activities altogether. Although some of the challenges are quite difficult, the new system makes it easier for kids to stay at a comfortable level of challenge until they are ready to attempt more difficult levels. Besides offering a "practice mode", children can adjust the difficulty levels downward in the sequential adventure mode.

All in all, Zoombinis Island Odyssey is an original program that actively involves kids in experimentation, logical thinking, and strategy formulation. The program is far from mindless, yet it remains entertaining and compelling at the same time. Those new to the Zoombinis series may be interested in the previous two releases as well as this one: the classic title, Zoombinis Logical Journey, is highly recommended: and the sequel, Zoombinis Mountain Rescue, is a more challenging game.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP, Pentium 200 MHz or equivalent, 32 MB RAM, and 8X CD-ROM (16X recommended). Mac users require a 233 MHz processor (G3-233 MHz recommended), OS 8.6-9.x, OS X, 32 MB RAM, and 8X CD-ROM (16X recommended). It requires 80 MB of hard drive space.

Skills Covered
Kids develop logical thinking in activities that involve: collecting data, comparing, observing patterns, forming and testing hypotheses, decoding, mapping, cause and effect, predicting, following directions, and sorting by attributes. They also develop skills in science and social sciences: astronomy, mechanics, life sciences, cryptography.

Educational Value
The educational challenges in the program require actively formulating strategies as well as forming and testing hypotheses. The thinking required to complete the puzzles demands concentration and attention. This title offers an introduction to science and life science concepts in addition to activities that exercise children's brains in valuable ways.

Entertainment Value
With its compelling and cohesive story line, appealing graphics, and addictive gameplay, this program is not only educational, it is enjoyable to play! We have found no other series that is quite as magical as the Zoombinis line. Children enjoy helping out the little creatures and submit themselves to brain-challenging logic puzzles willingly.

Children have two ways to approach the game, and many will choose both: Practice Mode allows them to select any activity and challenge level, while Game Mode involves participating in a progressive journey. Options are plentiful and hints are offered judiciously, allowing children to experiment on their own. Extra help is offered in the user's guide.

This program has fewer activities than previous titles in the series, yet for those up to the challenge, it has excellent replay value and appeal.

Dollar Value
This CD-ROM carries a suggested retail price of approximately $20 US.

Released: 2002
Reviewed: November 2002