- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 7, 2002

In a world of violent 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.

Charles Schulz's familiar cast of characters has gone high-tech with Peanuts: Where's the Blanket, Charlie Brown? Fans of the late artist's 50-year legacy will love this family-favorite comic strip's interactive transition to the computer screen.

The adventure begins when Charlie Brown offers Linus a place to store his robin's-egg-blue blanket so Linus' grumpy grandmother won't take it. Of course, the comforter ends up missing, and players must go on an always-fun, sometimes educational search to find it before Linus unravels.

The click-and-find mission allows children to choose either big-mouthed Lucy or lovable Charlie Brown as an on-screen avatar. Graphics mimic the Peanuts universe and look as if they were ripped right out of the pages of the Sunday comics.

The hunt for the blanket starts in Charlie Brown's bedroom as players must open doors and drawers, peer inside closets and under beds, looking for clues and other items that may come in handy during their quest.

Exploration leads from the bedroom to the living room to the kitchen, where the player finds Snoopy, wearing a blue napkin, making a pizza. After watching the pooch chow down a bit, Charlie mistakes the blue napkin for the blanket and reaches for it, but Snoopy scampers away.

Now Charlie must catch Snoopy as the dog taunts his pal by quickly popping out from behind furniture and doorways, trying to elude a mouse click.

Snag the beagle, and he becomes an aide in the search, as long as he has a full belly. Scattered throughout are snacks and beverages that players must feed to the parched and hungry pooch to keep his interest piqued.

Now the pair journey through Peanuts lore and eventually stumble upon eight more games offering a wide range of skill-building challenges. The games range from Snoopy driving through a map maze to get Charlie Brown to his sister Sally's Computer Camp to stopping by Schroeder's piano room, where a musical game will help children with listening skills and understanding music.

In the musical game, Snoopy has mixed up the notes Schroeder has been playing, and they are floating around the room. Players listen to Schroeder play a series of three notes in easy mode and six notes in hard, and then they must choose which group he performed from the many floating around the room.

Learning skills including math, pattern recognition, problem-solving and mapping are learned through games such as Houndini's Greatest Trick, in which players are timed as they rearrange squares that reveal a mixed-up Peppermint Patty when opened.

Beautiful illustrations and the simple, cheerful music instantly associated with the Peanuts gang make this program a delight to play at any age. The value of friendship, along with social awareness, is reinforced throughout.

Peanuts: Where's the Blanket, Charlie Brown? from Tivola, $19.99, cross-compatible with Macintosh and PC systems.

ROMper Room is a column devoted to finding the best of multimedia edutainment. Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected]).

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