PC games: Zoombinis Island Odyssey

When I loaded up Zoombinis, I thought I was in for a sweet and cuddly kid’s game with nothing in it to challenge my developed, worldly mind. However, my afternoon didn’t turn out to be as comfortable as I had thought.

It’s a well-known fact (to those who can still remember) that you forget over 90 per cent of what you learn at school soon after leaving. Personally I can’t recall the first thing about algebra or Latin. It’s all very well to try to drum facts into a child’s head, but to present things in a fun way is a more satisfying and rewarding experience for both pupil and teacher.

This is what Zoombinis aims to do — it will engross children from the age of seven up with its neat storyline, and will charm kids and adults alike with the cute creatures.

Presenting mathematical and logical problems in a way that interests kids is not the easiest job. Recent surveys suggest that one out of every one children is hyperactive and has a short attention span, but Zoombinis Island Odyssey manages to engage the attention. I didn’t actually have any children available to test it on, mind, but the fact that it kept me happy for hours is proof enough.

Zoombini’s packaging doesn’t do the game justice. Rather like a box of wash­ing powder, it boasts ‘New! Now with Science!’ as if science were some kind of secret ingredient to make your whites whiter. Nonetheless, this serves as a clear message to parents — we’ve managed to sneak something of real educational value inside this game and your kids won’t even notice.

The trouble with education for a lot of children is that the very concept of school and classrooms is dull. If you can help them to learn without them even realising they are, then you have a greater chance of keeping them interested. An ideal package for both parents and teachers alike.

Publisher: The Learning Company
Developer: Riverdeep
URL: www.riverdeep.net/products/zoombinis/island_odyssey.jhtml

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Ben Camm-Jones

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