Arcade-like activities and a game show theme highlight this fun, fast-paced reading drill program by the makers of the Blaster series of software.
Reading Blaster 2000 invites the player to be a contestant on the entertaining "Challenge of the Reading Gladiators". Led by chatty intergalactic hosts Ike and Rita Cuecard, players chose a favorite Blaster character to represent them, and either play alone against a computer-generated foe "Illitera", or challenge a friend .
Initially, users create personalized commercials, which elicit delight when they appear later in game. In the "Commercial Studio" children select a product to promote, and choose from a variety of background scenes and musical scores. Finally, text is chosen, and a zany 'word from our sponsors' results. Note: Reading ability is required for this section.
Next the player moves on to the actual game-show portion of the program. Activities include: Word Zapper, in which the player completes focus words by protecting the letters they need from falling meteors. Although the concept is easy enough to grasp, quick processing as well as good hand-eye coordination is a must, making this activity difficult for the younger or less adept child. As the player's ability improves, the words increase in difficulty and the meteors fall more quickly, posing a real challenge to young ones.
Media Madness includes a game of concentrationthe twist being the clever and unusual matches. This section becomes a bit obscure at the higher levels and can precipitate occasional frustration. Get a Clue plays much like the favorite board game "Guess Who?" with correct responses reached by process of elimination. Players can also enter the Puzzle Room where they solve word puzzles that focus on the relationships and similarities between words. Points are accumulated for each activity, and the winner of the game receives a certificate of accomplishment to print and keep.
As each of these activities is mastered, the player is rewarded with interactive storybook chapters. The books change with each reading depending on the story branch that the child selects, and different choices lead to unique conclusions to the story.
Ease of Install / Use
This program installed easily on our reviewers' PCs. It runs from the CD-ROM drive on a Macintosh.
Our reviewers reported no technical difficulties in using the program, but several parent reviewers reported that their children were better at some of the activities than they were! The program places a premium on quick thinking.
The user's manual, which consists solely of the CD case insert, is concise but complete.
Reading Blaster 2000 focuses on three areas of reading acquisition: phonics, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. Although some phonics and reading ability is required to successfully use the program, it commences at a very simple level, stressing letter sounds and recognition, and moves the player up through fairly advanced reading comprehension. Other processing skills such as critical thinking, deduction and logic are also addressed, and provide adequate challenge to stimulate the older, more proficient reader.
Proxy Parent Value
Younger players need a run through or two to learn this program, but catch on easily enough and can then work at their own pace or let the program move them through the various levels of play. Our kid reviewers especially enjoyed the creative graphics, although some complained that there is too much dialogue between the virtual hosts. The 'cliffhanger' storybooks also provide great inducement for repeated play , not only to earn new chapters, but also to re-write the story using different story branches.
With its arcade-like quality this software is great for those hard-to-entice children who need to work on their reading skills. It rewards quick processing, and good hand-eye coordination, making it especially encouraging for the child who is good at video-type games and needs to boost his educational self-esteem. "For once I'm delighted to see him shooting meteors!" commented one of our parent reviewers.
Lively graphics, sound educational techniques and an attractive story line make this software great motivation for learning and practicing reading skills. Watch out for the sound effectsthey make the Saturday morning cartoon soundtracks seem tame by comparison!
|Operating System||Windows 3.1, Win95||System 7.1 or higher|
|CPU Type and Speed||486/66 or faster||68040 or faster|
|Hard Drive Space||minimal||minimal|
|Memory (RAM)||8 MB||12 MB with 8MB available|
|Graphics||Super VGA 640 x 480 x 256 color||256 color minimum 13"|
|Audio||Windows compatible sound card||n/a|