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SuperKids Educational Software Review. The parents' and teachers' guide to educational software
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Reviews of Software for Girls

The Vampire Diaries
from Her Interactive

For Teens Ages 13 and above

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Girls Software programs, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of this PC-only title.


Reviewed on:
Children's Software Screen Shot Pentium 166 with 24MB and 12XCD

Description
Based on a series of novels by Lisa J. Smith, The Vampire Diaries is an ambitious mystery thriller aimed at the teenage girl audience. It places the user in the role of the story's heroine, Elena Gilbert, a sympathetic character who has recently lost both parents in a car crash. Elena now lives with her younger sister in her Aunt Judith's home in Fells Church, Virginia. Evil things have been taking place in Fells Church of late, including mysterious attacks by a winged creature. The user, in the guise of Elena, must solve the town's mystery and return it to normalcy.

To do this, the user explores the town, visiting its many landmarks. Articles that will be needed at various junctures in the program are collected, clues are decoded, and puzzles unraveled. Interaction with the story's many dubious characters occurs throughout the program, as video images speak and react to the user, who may, in each instance, choose from a variety of responses. Much of the story unfolds in these clips, making it crucial that the user is equipped with a computer that meets the program's basic requirements. Graphics are extremely well-done, video clips polished and well-acted and the musical score is hauntingly appropriate.

Ease of Install / Use
The Vampire Diaries installs easily on Windows 95 (but note that it requires a fairly recent model, poserful machine, with lots of memory and graphocs capability). Unfortunately this program requires the user to alternate between 3 discs. Just as a potential clue is discovered or something exciting happens, the action ceases while discs are exchanged. Although not a difficult process, this break in the action is a nuisance, and detracts from the overall attractiveness of the program.

The manual is brief and not terribly helpful. A section with extra clues and hints for the lost and frustrated user would have improved the program immensely.

Educational Value
There is very little overt educational value in this program. In many ways it resembles a gothic soap opera. Its main value lies in the fact that it encourages computer competency and use. It draws the user, presumably a teenage girl, to interact with and enjoy using the computer.

Additionally, the program encourages investigation, and problem solving--skills that become increasingly important as a child matures. There is a mystery to be solved, and the user must take an active part in its solution. Passivity is not rewarded. Brains must be engaged Wheels must turn.

Kid Appeal
The obvious lure of romance and intrigue make The Vampire Diaries a hopeful contender in the battle for girl's software supremacy. Unfortunately its creators outdid themselves--literally! Hours of time can be invested in this program without much accomplishment. In some cases, the vast amount of time and patience required will prove to be a disincentive. Overall guidance is lacking, leading to extreme frustration. The user begins to feel abandoned and helpless. Clues are subtle, and even when a breakthrough seems imminent, the appropriate move to facilitate it is not obvious. Even the most dedicated SuperKids reviewers expressed dissatisfaction with the overall playability of the game. After one or two afternoons of use with no real gains, they lost interest.

Best for...Bottom-Line
Because of the vampire theme and the difficulty level of this program, it is not recommended for children under the age of 12. It requires a patient user, who enjoys unraveling mysteries, is intrigued by the supernatural, and is not easily frustrated or discouraged. Beautifully prepared, and extremely complete, the program's main downfall is that it is too difficult for its intended users.


See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Girls Software programs, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of this PC-only title.



Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Win95 n/a
CPU Type and Speed Pentium P60 or faster (P90 or faster recommended)
Hard Drive Space 20 MB minimum (62 MB recommended)
Memory (RAM) 12 MB minimum (16 MB or more recommended)
Graphics PCI video with 1 MB RAM minimum
CD-ROM Speed 2X (4X recommended)
Audio Sound Blaster Pro or 100% compatible stereo sound card
Other Needs

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