In a world of ultraviolent video games, where dexterity of the thumb and index finger is infinitely more important than the flexing of the cerebrum, there must be a place for children and their parents to interact and actually learn something from that overpriced multimedia computer/ gaming system. Take a deep breath and enter the ROMper Room, where learning is a four-letter word cool.
Fisher-Price’s Outdoor Adventures Ranger Trail (Learning Co., $19.95) helps prepare 4- to 7-year-olds for their first camping trip, instilling respect for the environment and wildlife while introducing science, art and creative play.
Campers take off for Camp Wonderoo and engage in seven activities to gain coveted badges and become junior rangers. Challenges include learning about the stars, creating cave paintings and joining in on rollicking campfire sing-alongs.
One thing rangers in the making learn immediately, the Wonderoo Salute, may cause some racket in the house as children leap into the air with an enthusiastic yell of “Wonderoo” before getting down to some serious exploration.
An important first task entails helping Ranger Rudy choose the necessary supplies, which earns rangers a supply badge, an on-screen backpack filled with navigational menus and a virtual camera able to take 12 pictures that can be saved in a scrapbook.
As children hike through the woods, they explore by clicking on different areas of the screen to uncover hidden animals or unearth forest facts. For example, click on the pine cone and learn that the cone is nature’s way of protecting the seeds. The cone is naturally rounded so that when it falls to the ground, it will roll out of the shade of the mature tree and into the sun to sprout, creating a new tree.
Hikers will discover and learn about more than 60 animals, plants and rocks they find in the woods. Another of the program’s objectives is to find six items along the forest trail, such as a fox, crayfish, wild turkey, snail, sunflower and even a piece of ancient pottery.
Throughout the forest, children reveal plenty of games. When walking under the night sky, they can identify constellations, or during the day, they can race their sailboat on the creek.
In this race game, children choose one of three log boats to race down the river obstacle course, where turtles, crabs and other boats can slow players while feathers, fish and rapids speed them along. Finish first and win a sailing badge.
Badges also can be collected in astronomy, nature, music and cave painting by completing specific tasks.
A highlight of the game for this parent was the unique campfire songs available in karaoke style, including “Saraspondah” and “Ram Sam Sam.”
Once the forest has been fully explored, children can test their knowledge at the Nature Match Game, which requires them to correlate names with items in a “Concentration”-like simulation.
Packaged with Outdoor Adventure Ranger Trail are two full-length bonus CD-ROMS, Time to Play Pet Shop and Little People Christmas Activity Center.
Both programs make excellent additions to any CD-ROM library. The Christmas Activity Center bursts with holiday-related tasks such as building a snowman and making crafts. Pet Shop helps teach children some of the responsibilities of pet ownership through numerous interactive levels.
Fisher-Price’s Outdoor Adventures Ranger Trail (Learning Co. $19.95). Hybrid for Macintosh and Windows 95/98 systems.
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