|Knowledge Adventure, Inc., $20. Minimum Requirements: PowerPC, 16MB RAM, System 7.5.1, 4xCD-ROM. For more information, visit http://www.knowledgeadventure.com
Review by Rebecca Welt
When the folks at Knowledge Adventure, Inc. sat down to create a CD-ROM based on the animated feature Quest for Camelot, they created seven games altogether. Six of them are quite dull. The seventh makes it worth pressing onto CD.
I sat down with Allison, my favorite five-year-old, and let her have a go at it. She needed very little help. Any computer-savvy child (and what kid isn't these days?) will have no problem navigating this game even if he or she isn't reading yet. Moving the mouse over the pictures prompts a voice telling you what each item is. Allison chose "Make a Minion" as her first stop.
The premise is quite simple. Click on various body parts of the minion (a cross between an armored knight and a futuristic insect) and assemble the creature you want. Clicking on the bottle of magic potion animates your minion for a few seconds. You can then print your creation if you so desire. Allison thought this interesting enough to make two minions and then moved on to greener pastures.
Her next choice was Magic Potions. The player has to follow the recipe for each magic potion in order to create various magical creatures. There is also another option that allows the player to create her own recipe and see which creature it produces. Allison mixed a potion or two and called it a day.
Other games include a sing along (Were these invented solely to torture parents?), a chance to watch clips from the movie, "Ruber's Barricade" (knocking down bales of hay with a well-aimed ball), and the only truly educational part of the CD, "Dragon Tales." Here children can arrange characters from the movie on several different backdrops and write their own stories to go along with the pictures. However, any kid who has already spent the day in school is likely to arrange the pictures and skip the story.
The game that makes parents feel that they haven't entirely wasted their money is "Raise a Dragon." Allison was captivated by it. She started with a dragon egg and kept it dry long enough to hatch it. That was the easy part. After the dragon hatches, and you fill out its printable birth certificate, you must use various items to feed, entertain, and comfort the dragon. (Did I mention you also have to change its diapers?) Allison was enthralled by the creature ("It talks!") and sat transfixed for an ungodly amount of time raising this dragon.
Despite some mishaps along the way (she dropped the baby while she tried to rock it to sleep) Allison managed to raise the hatchling until it reached toddler stage.
The toddler dragon is just as cute (and irritating) as a human toddler. You teach it to walk and to breathe fire. It dances to music from its record player ("What's that?" asked my nineties child.) It talks incessantly. If you sit patiently and feed it enough knight-shaped crackers, your dragon turns into a surly preteen complete with CD player and guitar. At this stage it learns to fly and eventually leaves you, contacting you only by dragon mail.
This game, which is mentioned in a sticker slapped on the box, is the redeeming feature of this CD-ROM. Knowledge Adventure could have done just as well to skip the other games and market this one separately. It's not precisely educational, but your child will get a heck of a lot of practice using the mouse. Be forewarned, however, both the written and on-screen directions warn you to be patient when raising your dragon. It takes hours for the creature to complete all the stages. Allison needed a break after her dragon became a toddler and tried to hire me as the babysitter. Older children might last a little longer. Luckily, you can save your game (and your sanity) without having to start over.
If Quest for Camelot: Dragon Games consisted only of "Raise a Dragon", it would easily deserve a 4. The inclusion of the six other bland-as-oatmeal games, however, lowers that to a 2.5.