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SuperKids Educational Software Review. The parents' and teachers' guide to educational software
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Critical Thinking Software Reviews

Strategy Challenges In the Wild - Collection 2
from Edmark

For Ages 9 to adult

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


Reviewed on:
PowerMac 6100/60 with 16MB and 2XCD
Pentium90 with 24MB and a 2XCD

Content
Strategy Challenges 2 is the second in a series of classic game collections from Edmark that are designed to develop problem-solving skills. The games in this collection, however, are less well-known than those in the first collection.

Children's Software screenshot

Jungle Chess was familiar to some of our reviewers. In this game, the objective is to be the first player to place a piece in your opponent's den. Pieces represent different jungle animals, and each has different capturing power. Most are limited to simple one space moves in columns or rows, but several have special abilities, and all of them have different capture powers. For example, lions and tigers can jump over the two water hazards on the board, and the rat can swim. The directions were initially a little difficult for our young reviewers to understand, but after playing several times, they picked them up from observation.

Tablut, an old Nordic game, was unfamiliar to our reviewers. Unlike most other board games, in Tablut the opponents start with different numbers of pieces and different objectives. One player, with nine pieces, starts with a king in the center of the board. This player's objective is to get the king to any border square on the board. The opponent has 16 pieces, and the objective of trapping the king between four pieces. Players on either side can move any number of squares in a row or a column. Although the rules are straightforward, winning strategies take a while to deduce.

The final game, Surakarta, was also unfamilar to our reviewers - and is almost as much of a challenge to explain as it is to play. (In fact, none of our reviewers were able to beat the computer at the higher difficulty settings.) The game board has a grid overlaying two concentric cloverleaf tracks. Players can move their pieces from one intersection to any unoccupied adjoining intersection. Or, if their path is clear, they can jump on one of the two cloverleaf loops, and capture an opposing player - if they complete at least one full loop, and there are no other pieces in the way. We never became proficient enough to decide if this one was any fun...

Ease of Install / Use
The program installed without difficulty on our test PC; no installation is required on a Macintosh.

All of the games are presented in the same format. The user can select a difficulty level, or play a few games and let the program advance the level based on the user's success. Each game allows play against the computer, or with a second player. And all of the programs offer a strategy coach. Unfortunately, even with this help, our reviewers found the explanations for two of the games, Jungle Chess and Surakarta, difficult to understand.

Methodology
So how does playing these games provide an educational benefit?

Success in all of these games depends on development and use of observation skills, rules interpretation, and tactical strategies. Where a traditional, physical board game offers the same opportunity, this computerized version offer a ready opponent, and the insights of a coach.

The program also attempts to make the user aware of how similar offensive and defensive strategies are used by animals in the wild, by including an interesting collection of multimedia clips. We're not sure many kids will make the associative leap required, but the pieces are thought-provoking and visually stimulating.

Proxy Parent Value
Proxy parent value is SuperKids measure of how well a program grabs and holds an child's attention. Strategy Challenges 1 offered the instant acceptance and comfort of familiar games. Strategy Challenges 2 lacks this potentially important hook to get the user to try the program - and it showed in our kid reviewers' lower scores.

Best for...
Strategy Challenges 2 is a good choice for a child who likes board games that require strategic planning, and who is open to trying new things. Unlike the predecessor program, we agree with the stated age range here, of nine and up.

Bottom-Line
If your child is interested in learning a new [old] board game, Strategy Challenges 2 may become a frequently used program in your home or classroom.

Education 4/5, Kid Appeal 3/5, Parent Friendly 3/5

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Critical Thinking / Problem Solving 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 Win 3.1 or Win95 System 7.0.1 or higher
CPU Type and Speed 486/33 or faster 68030/25 or faster
Hard Drive Space 5 MB none
Memory (RAM) 8 MB 8 MB
Graphics SVGA, 640x480x256 colors 13" color or larger
CD-ROM Speed 2X or faster 2X or faster
Audio Windows-compatible sound card n/a
Other Needs


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