- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 25, 2004

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.

A popular yellow fellow assists children with their mastery of the keyboard in SpongeBob SquarePants Typing.

The hilarious teaching tool uses characters from the hip Nickelodeon cartoon and takes the 7-year-old and older crowd down to Bikini Bottom to test their finger-fumbling capacities through games and graduated exercises.

The fun begins after Junior types in his name, with SpongeBob pronouncing all of the letters. An animated clip follows that has Eugene Krab, owner of the fine dining establishment Krusty Krab, finding an old Neptune typewriter and trying to figure out how to make money with it.

When putting it between a bun and calling it a Wordyburger doesn’t work, he decides to hold a Typing Tournament in which the child helps SpongeBob compete.

The tournament is actually a clever ruse by the developers to begin the typing exercises that encompass five rounds and three final matches in which the squishy sponge challenges pals such as Squidward, Sandy Cheeks and pet snail Gary.

That translates into roughly 20 lessons, each consisting of a tutorial, a drill, keystroke practice, an activity, and a quiz to determine progress in accuracy and words typed per minute.

For example, the first round works on finger exercises with the keys “A,” “S,” “D,” “F,” and “E” with the left hand and “J,” “K,” “L,” “I” and “;” with the right. The player then sees a blackboard with strings of letters that he must use the proper fingers to re-type.

He can always refer to a translucent set of hands that mirror the next stroke required to be typed at the bottom of the screen for help and he always gets words of encouragement from SpongeBob.

Between lessons, games are thrown into the mix to relax a furled brow but continue to reinforce lessons.

The challenges can also be enjoyed at any time by clicking on the Glove World theme park found on the main screen. They include a quintet of silliness, such as a timed racing game in which speed and typing accuracy leads to vehicle acceleration and a lack of seaweed on the windshield.

Nice extras to the program include a quick video on ergonomics narrated by a fish, a “Practice Makes Perfect” area where typists transcribe the likes of character biographies, sea facts, a handy finger-positions chart and a current progress screen.

ROMper Room is a column devoted to finding the best of multimedia “edutainment.” Calls, letters or faxes about a particular column or suggestions for future columns are always welcome.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).

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