Captain Energy and his EcoAdventures is an attempt to introduce young children to environmental issues ranging from overpopulation and resource depletion, to potential hazards.
The program consists primarily of five game activities that use environmental problems for source material. In EcoMasters, for example, the user is asked to put a series of objects into one of three trash cans labeled, "reduce, recycle, reuse." In addition to the mental exercise of trying to determine which is the correct answer for something like "paper towels" the user faces the physical challenge of trying to grab a fluttering object with the mouse. Even at the beginner level, this was frustrating for our testers. Or as our 7 year old put it, "Dad, I don't want to do this."
Other activities include a "concentration" game, a sequencing game, and a quiz. Each covered common environmental topics. Unfortunately, explanations of why a certain answer was true, or why a fact was important, were rare - and even then sometimes subject to debate. For example, one of our reviewers - a resource economist - took issue with the program's assertion that, "We're using up all our natural resources to make products - soon we won't have enough." From his perspective, "...that simply isn't true for most of their examples. Increasing demand for many of these resources causes prices to rise, and demand to fall and substitutes found."
Ease of Install / Use
Captain Energy was easy to install on both our Mac and PC test machines. On a Mac, installation was as simple as "insert the CD and click on the icon." On a PC, installation simply required finding the setup.exe file, and clicking on it.
Use, however was a little more problematic. From a purely mechanical perspective, on both the PC and the Mac, the program was sometimes unresponsive to mouse clicks while Captain Energy was speaking. This was especially true on the main menu screen, where he repeats his instructions over and over again! Our young reviewers also reported some difficulty in clicking on the moving objects in the EcoMasters reduce-recycle-reuse game, and in reading the directions for the Think Earth activity.
Proxy Parent Value
Proxy parent value is SuperKids measure of how well a program grabs and holds the attention of the user. Conceptually this program had great promise, given the interest most kids have in protecting the environment. Unfortunately, the program's implementation left our young reviewers (and their parents) frustrated. In our tests, this program had very low repeat usage.
Captaion Energy is best suited for children in the middle of the suggested age range, with an interest in the environment, good hand-eye coordination, and without the need for sophisticated graphics and sound.
Great program concept, weak implementation.
|Operating System||Windows 3.1 or Win95||System 7.1 or later|
|CPU Type and Speed||486/50 or faster||68030/50 or faster, PowerPC|
|Hard Drive Space||negligible||negligible|
|Graphics||SVGA 640x480x256 colors||640x480x256 colors|
|Audio||MPC2 compatible sound card||Apple Sound Manager 3.0 (incl)|
|Other Needs||QuickTime for Windows||QuickTime for Windows|