Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Zoombinis Mountain Rescue

Zoombinis Mountain Rescue

Spring 2002 Software
Ages: 8 & Up
Price: $24.99
Platform: Mac OS, Windows 95 / 98 / NT / 2000 / Me / XP
At last, here's the long-awaited Zoombinis sequel that, like the original game, poses a series of challenges as players escort a cast of little blue creatures-- boys and girls-- called Zoombinis from one imaginary geological location to another. Storyline: A group of Zoombinis gets trapped in a cave and players must organize a rescue party that can overcome the logic-challenging obstacles in the imaginative terrain to save their lost brothers and sisters.

Subtitled "The Math and Logic Odyssey Continues," this game's new and improved 3D graphics and nine puzzles make it compelling, cliffhanger learning for players who like to think through strategy and solve problems.

At the start, players either opt for the 16 pre-selected Zoombinis, each with different characteristics, or they can create their own group, choosing a hairstyle, feet, nose color and eyes for each. The puzzles primarily require players to consider these variables and use math-based thinking skills-- deductive reasoning, data analysis, hypothesis testing, set theory and pattern recognition, among others-- to solve the challenges.

But the puzzles' content, which can be set at three difficulty levels, never feels like math to kids. At the Bridge of Turtles, for instance, players must correctly sort Zoombinis by characteristics and clues to get as many of them as possible safely across a stream. A real head-scratcher awaits at the Pipes of Paloo: Players must pair Zoombinis by specific features and often have to rethink their choices in order to succeed and move on to the next puzzle. Further into the mission, at the Fleen Funhouse, players must deduct which of six creatures is the real Fleen by analyzing clues and using thoughtful reasoning. Some Zoombinis typically don't make it, so the group dwindles in number after each obstacle. Eventually, the final challenges require a minimum number of Zoombinis to succeed, so players have to go back to the beginning and shepherd along another rescue party of reinforcements, practicing what they've already learned the first time through.

A practice mode lets players familiarize themselves with the nature of the puzzles, but there's no total preparation since this dynamic game changes elements of its challenges each time someone signs on. Parents should be prepared to help their players get the hang of it because, although engrossing fun, saving those little Zoombinis doesn't come easy.

Don Oldenburg   ©2002 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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