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spacer all reviews > > > science software

Virtual Physics Escape from Braindeath

Cubic Science Inc.

Ages 11 to 15

Rating Scale
5 = great,    1 = poor
Educational Value
4.8
Kid Appeal
4.3
Ease of Use
4.0

Virtual Physics Escape from Braindeath Screen Shot System Requirements

PC / Mac Price Survey

Product Support

It's not always easy to encourage middle-school aged kids to delve into the world of science -- especially when they can't be lured with hands-on experimentation. They're too old to be distracted from the reality of their lessons with cute storylines and cartoon animation.

In Virtual Physics Escape from Braindeath, Cubic Science realizes this, and low-keys the "pretend" aspect of the CD-ROM, while engaging students with virtual experimentation, fascinating information, and challenging exercises. The result is a learning program that slowly and methodically reveals the inherent fun in learning science.

Virtual Physics opens with a scene that looks like a clip from the X-Files. A spaceship lands somewhere in "Downtown USA" and a lone figure is abducted. The user has become a 'guest' of the alien 'Spring-horns'. They have traveled to earth to determine the worthiness of the human race to join their empire. As their prime subject, the student is encouraged to "fill (his or her) brain". This is done by performing exercises and experiments, viewing tutorials and videos, and undertaking practice problems designed to solidify and review newly acquired knowledge.

Left alone in a sealed room, the inquisitive user discovers a note left by a previous "guest". The Spring-horn's have not been entirely honest about their plans. A timely escape is vital, to prevent the aliens from succeeding with their evil brain-drain plot. The handily available escape-pod requires a key which can be acquired only by completing each of 22 learning sections in the program, each section earning a piece of the key.

Educational Value
Virtual Physics includes material relating to physical science concepts: waves, light, electricity, mirrors and lenses, magnetism, scientific method, clocks, and standards and units. Each section is presented in a variety of ways including a tutorial, which is a bit dull, but filled with pertinent and accurate information, a hands-on exercise which is fully explained and can be conducted and observed by the student in a truly non-threatening manner, and interactive questions which teach as they test. As each section is completed, the user is given two questions which must be correctly answered to earn a piece of the escape-pod key.

Virtual Physics includes an easily accessible glossary of scientific terms.

Kid Appeal
SuperKids testers were at first bit hesitant about this program. The tutorials seemed lengthy and difficult to follow. As they proceeded, however, the world of science grabbed their attention and became its own reward. The exercises are interesting and elucidating yet never too difficult to undertake or understand. They helped strip away the mystique surrounding the subject, especially for the scientifically-challenged student. The information dispensed informs the young user without confusing or condescending.

"I didn't think I would understand the part about the different kinds of waves, but it's really not that hard!" was one student's comment. Another reported, "I think this program will help me with what I'm learning in school".

Repeat usage was unexpectedly strong, even among some of our youngest testers, whe were initially hesitant to tackle something as formidable sounding as "physics."

Ease of Use / Install
This program runs from the CD in Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Macintosh. Although this is a plus for most users, some of our less experienced Windows 95 testers were a bit confused by associated procedures. In order to save a game, the user clicks on a save button which produces a standard looking save screen and automatically designates the file to be saved as "mygame.txt" with its designated location as the CD-ROM drive. This, of course, is not allowed, so clicking "okay" gives the user a "permission denied" message. At this point, the user must manually change the save location to the hard-drive or "c:". The game can then be saved as "mygame.txt" or given another, unique name. Subsequent saves will overwrite the previous game unless renamed.

Best for... / Bottom-Line
Virtual Physics Escape from Braindeath provides an impressive introduction to middle-school science concepts. The incorporated story makes it fun without being childish or silly. It is especially recommended for the student who is not entirely grasping the material presented in class and requires additional exposure.

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

System Requirements
PC: Windows 3.1, 95 or NT, 75 MHz or faster cpu, 12 MB RAM, 16-bit graphics card, Double-speed or faster CD-ROM, Sound card

Mac: 68040 or Power PC, 12 MB RAM, Double-speed or faster CD-ROM

Reviewed on:

  • PowerMac 6400/200 with 32MB and 8XCD
  • Pentium166 with 24MB and 12XCD
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