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Science Software Reviews

Captain Energy and his EcoAdventures
by MultiMedia Associates

For Ages 6 to 12

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Science software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.


Reviewed on:
Children's Software Screen Shot PowerMac 6100/60 with 8MB and 2XCD
Pentium90 with 8MB and a 2XCD

Content
Captain Energy and his EcoAdventures is an attempt to introduce young children to environmental issues ranging from overpopulation and resource depletion, to potential hazards.

Methodology
The program consists primarily of five game activities that use environmental problems for source material. In EcoMasters, for example, the user is asked to put a series of objects into one of three trash cans labeled, "reduce, recycle, reuse." In addition to the mental exercise of trying to determine which is the correct answer for something like "paper towels" the user faces the physical challenge of trying to grab a fluttering object with the mouse. Even at the beginner level, this was frustrating for our testers. Or as our 7 year old put it, "Dad, I don't want to do this."

Other activities include a "concentration" game, a sequencing game, and a quiz. Each covered common environmental topics. Unfortunately, explanations of why a certain answer was true, or why a fact was important, were rare - and even then sometimes subject to debate. For example, one of our reviewers - a resource economist - took issue with the program's assertion that, "We're using up all our natural resources to make products - soon we won't have enough." From his perspective, "...that simply isn't true for most of their examples. Increasing demand for many of these resources causes prices to rise, and demand to fall and substitutes found."

Ease of Install / Use
Captain Energy was easy to install on both our Mac and PC test machines. On a Mac, installation was as simple as "insert the CD and click on the icon." On a PC, installation simply required finding the setup.exe file, and clicking on it.

Use, however was a little more problematic. From a purely mechanical perspective, on both the PC and the Mac, the program was sometimes unresponsive to mouse clicks while Captain Energy was speaking. This was especially true on the main menu screen, where he repeats his instructions over and over again! Our young reviewers also reported some difficulty in clicking on the moving objects in the EcoMasters reduce-recycle-reuse game, and in reading the directions for the Think Earth activity.

Proxy Parent Value
Proxy parent value is SuperKids measure of how well a program grabs and holds the attention of the user. Conceptually this program had great promise, given the interest most kids have in protecting the environment. Unfortunately, the program's implementation left our young reviewers (and their parents) frustrated. In our tests, this program had very low repeat usage.

Best for...
Captaion Energy is best suited for children in the middle of the suggested age range, with an interest in the environment, good hand-eye coordination, and without the need for sophisticated graphics and sound.

Bottom-Line
Great program concept, weak implementation.

Education 3/5, Kid Appeal 2/5, Parent Friendly 3/5

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Science software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.



Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Windows 3.1 or Win95 System 7.1 or later
CPU Type and Speed 486/50 or faster 68030/50 or faster, PowerPC
Hard Drive Space negligible negligible
Memory (RAM) 8MB 8MB
Graphics SVGA 640x480x256 colors 640x480x256 colors
CD-ROM Speed 2X 2X
Audio MPC2 compatible sound card Apple Sound Manager 3.0 (incl)
Other Needs QuickTime for Windows QuickTime for Windows

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