“Mangatsika!,” as Zooboomafoo, the friendly, leaping lemur might say. If you’ve ever watched the hit PBS television show Zoboomafoo, you’d know that “Mangatsika” in Zoboo-speak means, “I can’t believe my mind!” And I’m excited to see such a quality television show as Zoboomafoo make its debut onto CD-ROM.
The Zoboomafoo television show stars Zoboo, a sifaka lemur who will only speak to viewers after receiving a tasty snack from the often-malfunctioning Snack Machine. With each episode, Zoboo learns about the similarities and differences of animals as they come together from around the world to visit a very special place called Animal Junction. Accompanied by television viewers, animal experts Chris and Martin Kratt introduce children to animals by showcasing each creature’s special qualities or habitats.
Chris and Martin Kratt have not been idly thrown into the “wild.” This brotherly pair have had experience educating a slightly older audience on the previous PBS television series, Kratt’s Creatures. Zoboomafoo is their attempt to educate a preschool-aged audience about the importance of learning about and respecting animals, whether they be household pets, wild creatures or rare species.
Zoboomafoo with the Kratt Brothers Animal Kids, designed for children ages three to eight, operates much like an interactive version of the television show. The video scenes are played in a manner which make you feel as though you are actually watching a Zoboomafoo episode on television, only with breaks for game play. Keep in mind that the video quality may not appear as nice as it would appear on your television set depending on the type of Mac you are using.
After signing in, you’ll be asked to pick from one of three levels of game play. Then you’re whisked off to join the Kratt Brothers at Animal Junction to meet some young animals — also known as the Animal Kids.
Each of the ten games are played in a succinct order, unless you are returning to a particular game after having played Zoboomafoo with the Kratt Brothers Animal Kids through to the end. The goal of each game is to gather enough Goobleberries to receive a Creature Adventurer Certificate.
The first game involves feeding snacks to Zoboo so that he will speak. Martin and Chris will name a type of fruit located in one of the colored sections surrounding Zoboo who is sitting tall on a pedestal. Often the same type of fruit will be available from more than one colored section, so it’s important to listen carefully for the requested item and click on the fruit from the requested color section. You need to click on each item named until Zoboo has been fed and is ready to talk.
As with almost any Zoboomafoo television episode, Chris and Martin manage to get muddy. You can help Zoboo hose down the Kratt Brothers as they pop their heads out from behind barrels in a shooting-gallery styled game. To win, you need to spray both Chris and Martin with the water hose three times each.
In the Who Could it Be game, you can pair animal picture-cards together which feature images of creatures Zoboo has seen on the way to Animal Junction. With this game, you match pairs of cards until all of the animal picture-cards have been mated. If you find a card with a picture of Zoboo, it’s considered “wild” and you can match it to any card.
For a quick game of hide-and-seek, you can join Zoboo in a hunt to find Little Leaper. In this game, you can click on objects at Animal Junction to see if Little Leaper is hiding behind them. As you move your mouse around the cursor will change to a picture of Zoboo when you are near a “hot spot” item that can be clicked on.
On a trip to the closet, you can help Zoboo tidy up by matching similar items into horizontal or vertical rows. The Closet Stacker game plays just like the arcade game Columns, only this game requires rows of three shoes, hats or camping gear.
In Playpen Fixer, it’s your job to keep all of the baby lynx and bobcat kittens corralled inside a make-shift sleeping bag playpen. The playpen has a hole where the kittens can escape, so it’s your job to help Zoboo prevent all of the kittens from escaping by clicking and dragging a sleeping bag from one part of the wall to another before time runs out.
The Snack Machine at Animal Junction has been known to break often. In Snack Catcher, you need to move the mouse back and forth to help Zoboo catch as much food as possible as the Snack Machine is exploding. If you miss catching three items in Zoboo’s basket, then the game is over.
As the Kratt Brothers take a nap, you can take a look at the Creature Crafts and print the instructions for making a craft while away from the computer. Creature Crafts can also be reached just after signing-in. Some of the crafts include a Zoboomafoo mask or a pine cone birdfeeder.
On a visit to Zobooland, you are invited to color pictures of Zoboo’s friends. This coloring activity allows you to mix colors using the color palette by clicking on the droplets of paint until you’ve made the color you are trying to achieve. Next, you can click on an area you want to fill with color. You can also click on the Color Splash button located on the center of the flower to try some different color combinations. When you’re finished you can print your picture or just print the black-and-white character outlines to use as coloring pages for time away from the computer.
At the Animal Race, you can help Zoboo’s friends in a fast-paced quiz race. Zoboomafoo will ask a question, and it’s your job to click the friend with the correct answer. As each correct trivia answer is given, one of Zoboo’s friends will move closer to the finish line.
When it’s almost time to leave Animal Junction, the baby animals will need to find their moms so they can go home. In the Match the Mommies game, you need to click and drag each baby animal to its mother located behind a window.
By completing each activity, you are rewarded with a Goobleberry. By the end of the game, if you have completed all of the activities properly — then you can trade your bounty of Goobleberries for a printable Creature Adventurer Certificate. If you happened to miss completing any of the activities you can also choose to return to them to work toward earning your reward certificate.
I only have a few complaints about this title. The inability to change game levels during game play can be rather frustrating, especially if you find an activity to be too easy. Some of the games will be easier for your child than others, and the only way to choose a new level of challenge involves exiting the game, signing in again and selecting another level of challenge. This game would certainly have been more enjoyable with self-adjusting game levels. I also dislike not being able to return to an activity area after having played this title all the way through once. Once you’ve received your Creature Adventurer Certificate and quit the software, you need to begin a new adventure to access the games which then can only be played in the order in which they are presented. It’s also frustrating to not be able to fast-forward the video presentation on the software when you want to access a game in a hurry.
These complaints aside, Zoboomafoo with the Kratt Brothers Animal Kids is a great title for Zoboo fans. The Kratt Brothers are able to present bits of information about animals to their target audience without being too forceful.
Joining Zoboo and his friends can be exciting, especially for preschool-aged children just learning about animals. Kids usually love Zoboo’s zany, curious behavior and silly humor — because they can often relate! Fans of the television show may appreciate the unadulterated flow of the story along with familiar Zoboomafoo music.
Zoboomafoo with the Kratt Brothers Animal Kids is available now through major software retailers or online through
Brighter Child’s Web site
Kratt Brothers Creature Store. The software carries a suggested retail price of US$29.95.
System requirements include: Power Macintosh or G3; System 8.1 or later; thousands of colors with 800×600 display; 16MB RAM; 4X CD-ROM drive; 5 MB hard disk space; and optional printer. This title also requires Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 and QuickTime, both of which are included on the CD-ROM.