Travel on a fabulous journey through magical Oz to save Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West's evil clutches. Based on the beloved tale by L. Frank Baum--perhaps better known as the timeless classic film of the same name--this interactive CD-ROM puts a new twist on the familiar story: Dorothy is seized by the winged monkeys and imprisoned in the Witch's castle; in order to free her and get the heart, courage, and brain they respectively long for, the Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow must find jewels hidden throughout Oz to activate the key to the Witch's lair.
Players collect jewels by participating in nine learning activities scattered throughout four virtual environments drawn from the original story (Emerald City, Land of the Munchkins, and more); in addition, fun (and, of course, educational) puzzles pop up everywhere to liven up the journey and involve kids in the story. Remember the field of poppies that put Dorothy to sleep? Here players must figure out how to wake the Cowardly Lion from a poppy-induced slumber, challenging their problem-solving and creativity skills while making them feel like one of the gang. Kids can easily navigate through Oz on their own, or by clicking on a map of the city that tells them where they are and where they've been. And, if they ever get in a real bind, there's a magic mirror they can use to get help from Glinda the Good Witch.
The activities challenge a variety of skills, and most have been thoughtfully created to echo the feel and flavor of Oz and the kinds of things and people you'd expect to find in such an enchanting place. For instance, players must help a disgruntled and very vocal tree get rid of its itchy bugs, cleverly disguised as fruit, by choosing the fruit that doesn't belong with the others--a great practice in pattern recognition. At another stop, kids help an amnesiac munchkin regain her memory by concocting a fruity potion of just the right proportions--too much apple or not enough pear, and you won't get the jewel that rewards the right mixture; here players hone their grasp of measurement and fractions. Three different levels of play adjust the difficulty of the activities, so kids can continue to enjoy the game even as they grow older and better at many of the challenges.
Though the learning activities emphasize many of the same skills as other educational software for kids, it is the quality of the graphics and the heart of the story that distinguish Oz from the pack of competing products; the characters are richly illustrated and given real personalities, which adds to the feeling of adventure and purpose players gain as they work through the activities. And the story itself, so familiar to many of us and yet still so compelling, is hard to top--who can resist the chance to throw a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch?
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