________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 18. . . .May 2, 2008

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Mia's Big Adventure Collection: The Bugaboo Bugs.

Montreal, PQ: Kutoka (www.kutoka.com), 2008.
1 DVD-ROM, $29.95.

Subject Headings:
Computer games-Juvenile software.
Computer adventure games-Juvenile software.
Educational games-Juvenile literature.

Minimum System requirements:

Windows XP (sp2), 2000 (sp4), VISTA; Processor: Pentium III - 1GHz; RAM: 512 MB; Video & Sound: DirectX 9 compatible; DVD-ROM Drive: 4X; Hard Disk space: 1.6 GB.

Macintosh OS X, 10.4, 10.5; Processor: G4-1GHz; RAM: 512 MB: Video & Sound: Standard Macintosh; DVD-ROM Drive: 4X; Hard Disk Space: 1.6 GB.

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4

   

Mia's Big Adventure Collection: The Bugaboo Bugs is a new DVD-ROM reading programme intended for beginning and young readers aged 5 to 9 years old. With a heavy emphasis on fun, the people at Kutoka Interactive seem to be of the mindset that readers are more likely to practice their reading skills if they enjoy the process. In a letter from the Kutoka CEO and Creative Director, Richard Vincent, he says that his company goes beyond the average children's products to earn the "edutainment" moniker. This was a new term to me, but having reviewed Mia Reading, there can be no doubt that Kutoka is aiming to educate and to entertain.

      Mia's Big Adventure Collection: The Bugaboo Bugs is the sixth instalment in the Mia series. Other titles in the series include a focus on science, math and language. This latest, reading, programme involves highly interactive story-based game play, including a blend of a dozen reading skill activities. The programme takes a skills based approach to reading instruction and development. While I have philosophical reservations about such an approach, as but one of a potpourri of instructional options, Mia Reading will be of educational benefit to some students. The various activities included in the game require the child to match appropriate word pairs and select missing letters in a range of words. For instructional purposes, the absence of whole text reading opportunities is disconcerting, but the focus on fun is to be applauded.

      Mia is a mouse who, with other mice and a variety of Bugaboo Bug creepy crawlies, lives under and in what appears to be a large and well-furnished "big feet" (human) house. The problem with the bugs is that, once humans see them, exterminators will be called and then Mia and her friends and family will lose their home.

      One of Mia's friends, Marty Mouse, guides the reader through the start up screens. Children have the option to choose the beginner, intermediate, advanced or expert level. The player then has the option to play the "full adventure" or simply to play the various games. If one chooses the full adventure, the games are embedded in a problem-solving story whereby Mia is set a variety of tasks, including finding things scattered throughout different rooms in the house, such as in the hallway, inside a closet, and in the kitchen.

      I unsuccessfully tried on two different computers to get the demonstration option to start for me. As such, at the start I was quite lost as to what it was that I was trying to do and what the purpose of the game was supposed to be. Not being especially computer savvy, I cannot say where the problem lay, and I am not too proud to concede that the heart of the problem was probably my own lack of expertise. Later, I tried the programme on a third computer, and I was able to get the demonstration to work.

      Despite not having seen the demonstration when I first played, I was able to start the game and navigate my way through the different tasks. I eventually started to develop an understanding of what it was that I was supposed to be doing, and I soon began to enjoy the Mia experience.

      Once I began the game, an early task that I was set involved locating Miguel Mouse. I incorrectly assumed that characters would have been introduced in the demonstration that I had been unable to access. Because the characters had not been introduced, my task was made rather difficult in that I did not know who Miguel Mouse was. I have since discovered that the website, www.kutoka.com, does introduce the various characters, and so a visit to the website before playing the game would have been of assistance.

      I then spent a couple of hours playing Mia's Big Adventure Collection with my five-year-old daughter and later watched my eight-year-old interacting with the programme. Like me, my daughters found the overall experience to be an enjoyable and entertaining one. One of the most impressive features is undoubtedly the movie quality 3D animation.

      The first of the game activities that I encountered required me to supply the missing first letter to a series of words. At the beginner level, the "k" was missing from "king," "s" was missing from "sun," "f" from "fox" and the "g" was missing from "gift." When playing with my five-year-old, I believe that it was in this particular activity that my daughter encountered difficulty with the letter "g." She knew that the missing letter was a "g," but the options from which she had to choose did not appear to her to contain a "g." "Where is the 'g'?" my daughter asked. A more traditionally shaped "g" may have been a wiser publisher's choice. I noticed elsewhere that one of the "t" letters seemed rather too stylized to be easily recognized, while one of the "i" letters contained a love-heart shaped dot. Perhaps it is in such areas that we see that in edutainment, entertainment takes precedence over education.

      An early game task required my daughter to locate some steel wool. It was quickly apparent that this was not something with which my daughter was familiar, and so I retrieved some from our own kitchen sink to show her what she was looking for in the game. When we eventually retrieved the game steel wool, I noted that it did not look very much like the real steel wool I had shown my daughter.

      One of the games was called "Rhyming Circus," and the audio instructions were to match words that ended with a similar sound. At the beginner level, the rhymes included "dog/frog," "goat/boat," "train/plane," and "bat/hat." I was, however, off-put by the "honey/monkey" match. The two words obviously have the same ending sound, but I do not consider these rhyming words. At the expert level of the same activity, the matches included "egg/nutmeg," "control/charcoal," "sparrow/echo," "multiply/fisheye," "hammock/buck" and "raven/action." Again, there are some matches amongst that mix that I do not consider rhyming pairs. I make mention of these things to illustrate that Mia's Big Adventure Collection: The Bugaboo Bugs is not without problems; however, on the whole, my daughter and I shared a positive and enjoyable learning experience.

      In what was said to be a spelling and writing game activity, I was presented with a mix of letters (d, k, u, m, and c) and was required to spell the word "duck." In "Tic Tac Toe Phonics," at the beginner level, I was required to identify words by certain sounds. For instance, I had to identify words that had the same beginning sound as "foot." The appropriate selections were "finger," "fox," "5," "fish" and "forest," whilst the distracters were "book," "moon," "cat" and "turtle." At the expert level, I was required to select a word that "ends like rug." The appropriate options included "dog," "pig," "egg" and "bag," whereas the incorrect selection options included "clock," "duck" and "foot."

      While I believe that the programme is more about entertainment than education, I do think that there is educative value in Mia's Big Adventure Collection. My own children enjoyed the programme, and I expect that will also be true for others.

Recommended.

Gregory Bryan teaches literacy education courses in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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