- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2003

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.

The other animated pig, the one without the stutter, basks in the multimedia spotlight and gives children a chance to play in the 100 Acre Wood in Piglet’s Big Game. The game offers simple puzzles and plenty of exploration for 4- to 6-year-olds to hone their reasoning and problem-solving skills.

After a quirky installation process, clunky animation leads Piglet into Rabbit’s home once the child deciphers the first puzzle: figuring out how to ring a doorbell. Once inside, Piglet learns Rabbit is cooking a big bowl of soup for his pals.

Unfortunately, Pooh, Eeyore, Owl, Tigger and Kanga have not delivered the ingredients to finish the meal, and it’s up to the introverted swine to retrieve the necessary items from the gang and find some vegetables and acorns for the perfect dinner.

By clicking on various on-screen areas and looking for arrows, the child navigates through the forest, finding characters, interacting with them, discovering hot spots and engaging in challenges. There’s nothing new or innovative here; activities such as strategically hopping across a lily pond, assembling a broken honey pot and doing some virtual coloring combine with gathering and delivering items and 2-D animation to keep junior mildly entertained.

What I found interesting was the extra educational commentary thrown in while puzzles were being solved. As Piglet retrieves black pepper from Owl by trying to put a bunch of spices in alphabetical order, he learns strange trivia, such as the ancient Romans believed a basil leaf placed under a pot would turn into a scorpion.

Seeing “Piglet’s Big Movie” at the theaters and then jumping into Piglet’s Big Game makes for an evening of fun strictly for the Winnie the Pooh fanatics in the family.

Piglet’s Big Game, Disney Interactive, $19.98, Hybrid for PC or Macintosh systems.

My attempt to review another new Disney Interactive title, Cinderella’s Castle Designer, failed miserably thanks to the completely frustrating experience of just trying to install the game. After 90 minutes of battling with my less-than-2-year-old, state-of-the-art PC, which supposedly did not have the proper 3-D card or settings, I gave up.

My first clue that I was to spend an evening in computer purgatory was the discovery that the title is not compatible with a Macintosh system (which I often use as a backup computer when the PC refuses to acquiesce). If I ever attempt to play a pure PC children’s title again, I will buy a brand-new computer to accompany the game. Consider this a warning to parents who own a computer without the proper video card: You may have a very upset little girl on your hands if she has her heart set on this game.

Prehistoric Planet, the Complete Dino Dynasty takes children back 220 million years to revisit a land filled with the ferocious predators and gentle herbivores that ruled Earth for 155 million years.

The single DVD culls six episodes from the popular NBC/Discovery Kids Saturday morning show “Prehistoric Planet,” which, in turn, culled CGI animated scenes from the British Broadcasting Corp.’s award-winning “Walking With Dinosaurs” series.

Narrated by comedian Ben Stiller, who makes sure he appeals to the broadest child demographic possible by sneaking in a couple of “yucks” and poop references, the show packs quite an educational and humorous punch with its stream of enlightening revelations.

From the 165-ton sea monster liopleurodon to the mutant tadpole koolasuchus to the flying peteinosaurus, dinosaur fans get an eclectic look into the births, battles and deaths of their favorite behemoths.

Along with the episodes, displayed in crystal-clear 16:9 widescreen format, the DVD comes packed with 27 fact files and a pair of 3-D glasses to view 19 very large fellows popping out of the television. In addition, computer users get games, including a Pac-Man homage and an excavation simulation requiring the archaeologists to carefully unearth and clean fossils to fit into a puzzle form, and multimedia educational modules reinforcing each of the six episodes.

Overall, the Prehistoric Planet DVD does an excellent job of bringing some of the most amazing creatures in the history of the world to life at an incredibly cheap price.

Prehistoric Planet, The Complete Dino Dynasty, Warner Home Video, $14.98, for DVD-enabled home entertainment centers and computers.

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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