Selected "In the Pipeline" Reviews from CEN
Nickelodeon 3D Movie Maker
(Windows 95 or NT CD-ROM)
Category: Children's Creativity
Following up its critically acclaimed Microsoft 3D Movie Maker, Microsoft has taken the generic characters and sounds from the original program and replaced them with the characters and sounds from three of Nickelodeon's popular cartoon shows, "The Ren & Stimpy Show," "Aaahh!!! Real Monsters," and "Rocko's Modern Life." Do licensed Nickelodeon products sell? Walk into an F.A.O. Schwartz and check out the wall of Nickelodeon products and the kids buying them. Mediocre products with hit licenses usually fail, but this combination of two outstanding franchises has hit program written all over it.
(Windows and Mac CD-ROM)
Developer: Headbone Interactive
Category: Early Learning/Geography
Nothing wins over a child (or an adult) better than a story with likeable characters. That's the attraction of Headbone Interactive's latest title, World Tour. Designed for kids ages 4 to 8, the program offers a tour of 10 countries through interactive stories, mix-and-match language lessons, entertaining "Fact or Fib" sessions, photo collections with original songs, and creative activities that encourage exploration of other cultures. The 50 activities are tied together with five cartoon characters, whose voices are both relaxed and inviting. It's an excellent title with a winning formula—especially considering the $29.95 estimated street price.
Family Album Creator
Publisher: Creative Wonders
Developer: Creative Wonders/Delrina
Category: Home Creativity
You may do a double take when you see Family Album Creator. Creative Wonders has re-released Delrina's Echo Lake under a new name and refocused the interface and program tours to help families become familiar with computer media. Other enhancements include support for digital cameras and scanners, the ability to save albums as HTML files (great for family-oriented AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy home pages), and links to a content-rich WonderLink Web site. As before, the disc includes a generous selection of image, sound, and video files. This program definitely deserves a second chance to make it at retail.
(Windows 95 CD-ROM)
Category: Strategy/Simulation Game
Fans of SimCity have been eagerly awaiting this intriguing addition to SimCity ever since it was announced at E3. As an aircraft simulation program, it doesn't measure up to similar programs from Interactive Magic, EA, and Spectrum-HoloByte. But as a SimCity add-on, it's a natural to want to fly around cities that were created with SimCity 2000. The flat SimCity cities are transformed to detailed 3D metropolises complete with challenging missions. While SimCopter can be sold as a stand-alone product, you can bet dollars to donuts that current SimCity owners will be the ones grabbing it off of the shelves.
The Art of Fly Fishing
(Windows 95 CD-ROM)
Developer: Arc Development
Category: Fishing Game
Sierra proved that a fishing game can become a top seller. Now GameTek and Arc Development are segmenting the category with a fly fishing game. The game features a Links-like power/accuracy bar, ambient sound effects and music that work well to create the contemplative mood of the sport, separate practice and competition modes, and attractive photo-realistic graphics. The CD-ROM is true plug and play—once the Direct 3D drivers are installed, the program runs entirely off of the disc. While there isn't a lot of action, the product should appeal to customers who prefer slower-paced, realistic sports games.
Microsoft Beyond the Limit: Ultimate Climb
(Windows 95 CD-ROM)
Category: Kids Adventure Game
If you build it, will they come? Microsoft is betting that kids will be drawn to a mountain climbing game. Stranger things have happened. The game does have pre-climb planning (for development of critical thinking skills), advanced video rendering of the story's characters, and a variety of mountain paths to conquer. Tack on some educational content, and you have a uninspired product created by committee—sort of an RPG meets The Magic School Bus. It may sell some units because of the Microsoft label, but Ultimate Climb is a long way from Microsoft's usual high standards.
(Windows 95 CD-ROM)
Publisher: Interactive Magic
Developer: Dagger Interactive
Category: History simulation
Civilization II is about to get some major competition in the "God games" category. Destiny lets players move around their newly created 3D world; offers single-player, network, and modem play; provides modes that stress scientific advancement—in addition to the traditional military advancement—for added diplomatic and social interaction between nation-tribes; and brings a well-designed chat mode for a more satisfying and competitive multi-player experience. There are enough new features here that many Civilization players will want to own both programs. Hats off to Dagger and I-Magic for heating up an already exciting category.
Deadlock: Planetary Conquest
Category: Space conquest game
Accolade's first game with online play is a planetary empire-building game that offers exciting game play and top-notch graphics and sound. Players construct cites, explore the planet, manage resources, and fight battles, as they compete with six other species for control of an alien world. The game offers turn-based play with optional real-time play and supports multiple players via the Internet, local area network, modem, and e-mail. Combined with the company's upcoming Star Control III, Accolade is set to become the #1 publisher in the space conquest category.
Build-A-Book with Roberto
(Windows 3.1, Windows 95, and Macintosh hybrid CD-ROM)
Publisher: Theatrix Interactive
Developer: Theatrix Interactive
Category: Early Learning
Most computer programs for young kids aren't nearly as engaging as the shows they watch on television. They simply don't have the kind of memorable tunes, production values, and likable characters of a Sesame Street or Rugrats. The programs from Theatrix are among those special few that can compete with other media. The company's Build-A-Book with Roberto shows what a kids' title can be when seasoned animators, writers, singers, and musicians are involved. Children ages 3-6 help Roberto the Hippo make a series of decisions, which becomes a narrated book. The various combinations of decisions can create more than 100 different stories.
IndyCar Racing II
(PC CD-ROM with 3D graphics card)
Publisher: Sierra On-Line
Category: Racing Simulation
For many attending E3, the best-looking computer game at the show was an enhanced version of IndyCar Racing II. The game was running on a PC equipped with Creative Labs' upcoming 3D Blaster (though it should perform well with other 3D boards that use the Rendition 3D chip). The game's trees and clouds are much more detailed than those in the earlier version, and the roads are smoother and flicker-free. Expect a similar improvement in other PC games when 3D cards are widely available.
Interactive Math Journey
(Windows 31, Windows 95, and Macintosh hybrid CD-ROM)
Publisher: The Learning Company
Developer: The Learning Company
Genre: Early Learning Program
A follow-up to the popular Reader Rabbit's Interactive Ready Journey, The Learning Company's Interactive Math Journey takes the same step-by-step approach to early learning. The program is aimed at students in grades 1 through 3 and features friendly cartoon characters that guide a child through each math activity. Like its predecessor, Math Journey should sell well despite its $99.00 price tag. Parents will spend this amount if they believe an educational program is effective and entertaining. Fortunately, this one is both.
Smart Games Challenge #1
Developer: Knowledge Adventure
Genre: Puzzle Game
RandomSoft claims this collection of brain-teasing puzzle games will provide 300 hours of gameplay for an SRP of just $29.95. The company may be stretching the truth on the 300 hours of gameplay, but 300 individual puzzles in 20 puzzle categories is a definite bargain—especially with puzzles as good as these are. Originally developed by Knowledge Adventure, but sold to RandomSoft because it didn't fit K.A.'s young-kids profile, this title is best suited for teenagers and adults. Added incentive for consumers: $50,000 for top game scores, and the venerable title of "Smartest Person in America."
Disney's Animated Storybook, Toy Story
(Windows and Macintosh CD-ROMs)
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Developer: Pixar Animation Studios
Easily the best-looking kids' program at CES, Toy Story includes many of the best scenes from the recent blockbuster feature-cartoon, new scenes that use the cartoon's original computer-generated characters and backgrounds, and most of the voices of the actors that brought the original characters to life. In addition, Pixar has done an excellent job of bringing the cartoon's bright colors and detailed objects to the small screen. Expect this one to stay at the top the charts throughout the rest of the year.
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