Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
We are very impressed with this game. Until we played it, we would not have believed that practicing math could be made into an interesting adventure for kids, one that is actually fun to play. But they've really done it!
It was created by a Swedish company for 8 to 12 year olds (they also make math adventure games for older teenagers: see below), and it begins with a young girl's story. She tells us that she often sneaks into her grandfather's old attic to go through some of the cool stuff that he has collected on his travels, and as we accompany her on her latest foray, we discover a mysterious suitcase. Inside it seems to have been designed to hold several unusual objects, all missing now. But there is a letter from her grandfather, and it tells a strange tale.
He says that he once bought a flying carpet from a dealer in Cairo, which he enjoyed using to fly all over Egypt. Then one day the carpet just flew away, and he was unable to find it. But he thinks that perhaps, if we revisit that dealer today, he might be able to help us find that magical flying carpet again. So we pick up the suitcase, and go.
This is a 1st person, point & click game, with some answers to questions typed in. The interface is very well designed and easy to use, with everything explained simply, and the cursor changes to a magnifying glass wherever there's a puzzle to be solved. The game saves your position automatically, and there is no inventory: the missing objects just appear inside your suitcase as you collect them.
It's a very slick, professional-looking game in every way. The crisp Egyptian inspired graphics are better than many that we have seen in adult games, and the music is original, atmospheric and good. The voice acting is excellent (we loved Filuren's charming accent), and the animations are smooth and delightful, even surprising at times. The water moves, your companion makes faces and dances, and the carpet really flies. We particularly enjoyed the flight through the Pyramid.
But this game was developed to entice kids to practice and learn math, and that's where it really shines. Originally designed to be used by teachers in classrooms with multiple students, it includes practice in such things as basic math and mental arithmetic, units and measuring, symmetry and reflections, money and price calculations, and telling time and date, etc ..... with a little Egyptian culture thrown in for good measure. And it does it all in the guise of short, interesting games of skill and logic, with rewards and recognition for superior performance, and with lots of praise when you succeed, or encouragement if you fail.
The first thing that you are asked to do when you start the game is to enter your own name and then choose and name a pet for your traveling companion (a dog, a cat, a cow, or a teddy bear), which you will then be able to click on for help in solving puzzles. Then the two of you are off to take the boat across the river to Cairo and find that carpet dealer. But you soon discover that you must solve puzzles and earn money to do so! And so the games begin.
Once in Cairo, you pet wanders off and becomes lost, so now you have another quest. You must fly that magical carpet all over Egypt to search for your pal, visiting an Oasis, the Desert, a Pyramid, and finally the Sphinx. You are accompanied by a cute little 'egghead' named Filuren to help you and cheer you on, because in each place you must solve mathematical puzzles to earn items you will need (like coins, oil for your lamp, etc) to advance to the next area. You can earn up to two at a time if you succeed, and perhaps even get your name and high score posted in the 'Record Book'. But if you mess up, you will lose an item.
Some of the tasks simply require basic math (like addition, subtraction and multiplication), or manipulation and observation (like setting a clock or matching a mirror image). But many challenge you to use logic and reasoning. For example: You have a lion, a camel and some food to take across the river, and you can only take one at a time. But if you leave the camel with the food, he will eat it. And if you leave the lion with the camel, the lion will eat the camel!
The tasks become more difficult as you go along, but they are all set up like little games and are fun to play. And some are downright addictive, like '3 Balls in a Row', which we spent an entire evening on trying to see just how high a score we could post. Others may make you want to scream, as the 'Tetris'-like game did us when it threatened to take all of our hard-earned rope. We found out only later that we could have played another game instead. Nevertheless we finally succeeded, and were able to go on to discover ..... oh joy ..... 4(!) Balls in a Row!
So 'welcome to the wonderful (new) world of math'. We really enjoyed it! It's a lot of fun, makes you think, and instills a real sense of pride and accomplishment. And if that's not enough, you can always print the 'diploma' they supply on completion. Then everyone will be able to see that you are indeed a true 'math genius'!
Developed (2002) by Alega Scholmaterial and published (in the United States) by Tool Factory.
This product was initially designed to be used only in schools, but has now been made available to us (minus the educational materials for teachers) at a reduced price. See 'Where To Buy This Game' below.
They have also made 2 other games for older teenagers available at the same reduced price: Chefren's Pyramid (for ages 10 to 15) and Cheop's Pyramid (for ages 14 and up).
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium Processor; Windows 95 / 98 / 2000 / NT / ME / XP; 32 MB RAM; CD-ROM Drive; 32 000 Colors Graphics Card; Sound Card; 50 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; Keyboard and Mouse
Where To Buy This Game:
Tool Factory or call 1-800-220-8386 and ask for the Home Version ($29.95)