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Review CornerSoftware
Zoombinis Mountain Rescue
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This software sequel features unrivalled educational content that is especially relevant for computer programmers-to-be. In adventure mode, the challenges increase in difficulty at a pace that sometimes feels relentless. However, the program's outstanding logic puzzles can be played independently of the adventure, and they're fun and educational in equal measure.
Ages: 9 and up   Subject: Math/Logic   Brand: The Learning Company
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
image Product Overview
The Zoombinis need help once again! In this much-anticipated software sequel to the outstanding The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, children must help restore order to the lives of these earnest little blue creatures. The challenges in this journey exercise kids' higher-order mathematical thinking skills in ways that don't even involve work with numbers. In fact, the logic required to overcome the challenges in this game is more useful than ever in the information age.

This time around, a great storm has the Zoombinis scrambling to a cave for shelter. When a Zoombini named Binky leaves the cave, lightning strikes and a group of Zoombinis are locked inside. What's more, the unknown (but very feared) Boolies may be locked in with them!

It's up to players to form and lead rescue parties made up of 16 Zoombinis each, setting out on a journey that takes them over rivers, land, and mountains. The goal is to not only rescue the trapped band of Zoombinis, but also to lead them all the way to Booliewood. Only when Booliewood is well-populated will the mayor return. Children recruit their bands of Zoombinis by selecting four critical features of each creature — the hair, eyes, noses, and "feet" — that later become the important variables in the logic-puzzle challenges of the game.

Nine challenges face each band of Zoombinis, and as children succeed and return to lead new rescue parties on the odyssey, their difficulty levels increase. One activity involves feeding Norfs — fuzzy brown creatures who offer clues (such as "my neighbors both want the same main course") to their food preferences, but leave many unknowns for players to discover on their own. A chart is provided as a form of worksheet for kids to mark off clues and deduce the correct combinations of food to give to the group of Norfs. Each time children prepare a correct tray of food, two Zoombinis get to pass through. On higher difficulty levels, dessert is added to the food categories, and fewer extra trays limit the number of chances to make errors.

Another challenge involves shooting cannonballs at a wall of funhouse mirrors in an attempt to distinguish a "true" Fleen from mere reflections. When a ball hits a mirror, a meter shows the number of traits that match, but which ones are not known. Players make random guesses that, over time, become educated ones. This activity cleverly requires children to form hypotheses and then test them.

Rescue sites act as repositories for Zoombinis who have made it through part of the journey. Not all Zoombinis will pass through individual challenges, but none of them are ever truly "lost." Those that don't pass simply return to the last rescue site in the journey.

Though all nine activities are new, loyal Zoombinis fans will recognize similarities between some of the puzzles in this new game and those of the original. For example, the Pipes of Paloo activity, in which children need to strategically pair off Zoombinis according to specific common features, is similar to the original title's Stone Rise activity. Other activities introduce new learning challenges that exercise and develop mathematical thinking skills of the information age, such as the "Boolie Boggle" activity that has kids working with binary addition.

This title is highly recommended as an original and powerful educational program, with one important caveat — the title's adventure mode increases in challenge quickly. Testers found this second title in the Zoombinis series more difficult than the first.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium 200, 32 MB RAM, and 8X CD-ROM. It requires 50 MB of hard drive space.

Skills Covered
Kids develop logical thinking and programming skills in activities that involve: comparing, sorting, graphing, forming and testing hypotheses, sequencing, observation, mapping, cause and effect, binary addition, algebraic thinking, trial and error, spatial reasoning, predicting, following directions, inferring, organizing data, working with permutations and binary addition, and sorting by attributes.

Educational Value
Along with more of the outstanding practice with logical thinking skills that helped make the original Zoombinis title shine, new exercises that focus on the kind of mathematical thinking used in computer programming are introduced. Whether or not children have a special interest in programming, this title will exercise their brains in new and useful ways.

Entertainment Value
Children in the targeted age group can be a little difficult to please when it comes to educational computer programs. Zoombinis Mountain Rescue, however, is extraordinarily fun to play, that is, before it becomes too difficult. This sequel features a stronger story line than the first title in the series and up-to-date 3-D graphics. Game-play is addictive.

The design of the program is well thought out and attention to detail is evident throughout. Players can adjust music, dialogue, and sound-effect levels, and movies can be interrupted easily. Help icons on each activity screen allow kids to learn the objective of the activity they are playing, and to get a few simple hints. Kids can play the game in either practice mode, in which most locations are accessible and difficulty levels can be adjusted manually, or in game mode with automatic increases in levels of challenge.

The program's game mode is lengthy and challenging, which can affect replay value in different ways, depending on the skills and personality of individual players — persistent children up to the challenge will enjoy the game for an extended time, but children who focus on "winning" the game may get frustrated.

Dollar Value
This CD-ROM carries a suggested retail price of $24.95 US.

Released: 2001
Reviewed: October 2001