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Critical Thinking Software Reviews

Darby the Dragon
by Broderbund

For Ages 5 to 8

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Critical Thinking software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of PC and Mac versions.


Reviewed on:
Children's Software Screen Shot PowerMac 6100/60 with 8MB and 2XCD
486 with 16MB and 2XCD

Content
Darby the Dragon is a beautifully animated variation on the classic 'Dungeons and Dragons' critical thinking program. Here, the lead character finds a magic wand, and accidentally wishes his sister was smaller while they were struggling over the wand. The next thing you know, "poof!" she's been shrunk to quarter-size. Unfortunately, this magic wand needs to be re-charged by the wizard before it can return her to normal. And that requires three magic ingredients which Darby and sister Sparkle must hunt for.

It's not as easy as it sounds.

For example, one of the requisite objects is a special piece of fruit. To get the fruit, Darby and Sparkle must get past a swarm of bees. To get past the bees, they must have a special jar of preserves. To get the preserves, they must ask the Giant. The Giant, however is asleep, and can only be awakened by a special horn. To get the horn, Darby and Sparkle must befriend a beggar. Befriending the beggar requires a gold coin. Gold coins can be found in several non-obvious places, sometimes in response to problem solving by the user. One is in a trunk at the base of the tower where the Giant sleeps. Unlocking the trunk requires a key. The key is back in the castle, in the Queen's room. Get the picture?!

Ease of Install / Use
The program installed without difficulty on our reviewers' PC and Mac machines. Mechanically, the program is easy to use -- but that doesn't mean all the problems are easy to solve!

Methodology
Darby the Dragon lays out a clear mission for the user - help Darby and Sparkle find the magic ingredients. Although there are optional activities in the program that require reading, there is nothing in the main program that involves reading (either on-screen or in the manual); all clues are given orally or visually.

Proxy Parent Value
Proxy parent value is SuperKid's assessment of how well a program captures and holds a child's interest. On this measure, Darby scored very highly. "Until my 8 year-old daughter found all the objects, she was held captive!" noted one father. "She was eager to return to the program until she had it solved." Parents of a 5 year-old reported similar results, with the caveat that their child's attentiveness was improved when they remained nearby. We're not sure if all children will want to return to the same puzzle repeatedly, but given many youngsters' desire for repetition in other fun activities, it seems like a strong possibility. In the words of our 8 year-old, "This program is very fun because you go on a lot of adventures and once you finish you will want to do it all over again."

Best for...
Darby is best suited for a child who is curious, attentive to details, and patient. There are no shortcuts to finding the hidden objects, and success requires a good memory and sense of direction. Conversely, this would not be a good choice for a child with a short attention span. Darby would also be an excellent program for small groups to work on together,

Bottom-Line
Neat graphics and sound, good interactivity, and a reasonable plot make this a great program.


See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Critical Thinking software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of PC and Mac versions.



Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Windows3.1 or Win95 System 7.1 or higher
CPU Type and Speed 486/33 or faster 68040/33 or faster
Hard Drive Space 1.2MB 1.2MB
Memory (RAM) 8MB 8MB, 3MB free
Graphics SVGA (640x480, 256 colors) 256 color 13" monitor
CD-ROM Speed 2X 2X
Audio Windows compatible sound card n/a
Other Needs mouse mouse

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