March 1999

Cyber News and Reviews is a monthly column published for parents, teachers & business owners featuring kids educational software reviews, business software reviews (small business & home business), games and entertainment articles, a free resource since 1995.

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Kaplan's High School Success, Fisher-Price Time to Play Dollhouse and Time to Play Pet Shop from Knowledge Adventure and Schoolhouse Rock Thinking Games Deluxe from The Learning Company

High School Success from Knowledge Adventure

If you have kids in high school and want to check how they're doing then this software is for you. Kaplan's High School Success, a 4-CD set, will help high school age children excel in math, grammar and vocabulary, which important for stepping up to college.

After installation, a very friendly narrator (with a sense of humor) will help you through this intensive study course. You have the option of working On Your Own or Study with Help. Selecting Study with Help begins the student's skill level evaluation at algebra, geometry, vocabulary and grammar and reading comprehension. Then it designs a plan to improve his or her knowledge in those areas needing improvement. Once the study plan is completed, students can repeat the assessment test to check their progress.

With either choice you'll be taking a series of tests, or you also have the option of running the following educational games and activities from the Activities menu: Math Blaster Algebra, Math Blaster Geometry, Ultimate Speed Reader, Ultimate Word Attack, Grammer Games and the Multimedia Work Shop. If I were a high school student, I'd jump right into the games. The tests were helpful, but did not hold my attention as well as the math Blaster and word games, which were added to the Kaplan study plans by Knowledge Adventure. They definitely help motivate your learning.

High School Success sells for a street price of $40 and runs on any multimedia PC, 486/66 MHz or faster and a Power Macintosh. Both computers require 16 megabytes of RAM and a double-speed CD-ROM drive. For more information contact Knowledge Adventure at 1-800-545-7677, or visit their Web site at

Fisher-Price Time to Play Pet Shop from Knowledge Adventure

Okay, mom and dad, are you ready to let your kids to open up a pet shop? Well, if you say it's okay, they can have their own play business with the help of Fisher-Price Time to Play Pet Shop from Knowledge Adventure. Kids ages 4 to 7 will enjoy grooming, feeding and playing with their favorite pets, animated with activities, songs and hours of animal fun.

With the help of those kid guides, Emily and Ben, your first step is to order one of each pet for your shop, selecting from dogs, cats, reptiles, birds and other critters. When you're done, get ready to go and grooming and more from the main pet shop menu. Click on the Cockatoo for some cute songs, click the doctor bag for the Pet Vet, click on the food bag to feed the animals and click on the bath tub for grooming. You can also design a fish tank and even change your pet order.

Becky, my 4-year-old daughter, says this is a fun CD. She was singing along with the songs when I was testing the software and writing this review. So, it must have had a lasting impression. I have to tell you that we don't have any animals in the house (other than a few homeless ants and spiders wandering our floors on occasion), not even fish. So, this virtual pet shop is the closest my kids will get to caring for pets at home. I'm happy, because a virtual mess is a lot easier to clean up than the real thing, thank you.

Fisher-Price Time to Play Dollhouse from Knowledge Adventure

Fisher-Price Time to Play Dollhouse is another activity-intensive CD from Knowledge Adventure. It offers kids ages 4 to 7 a chance to play in a very interactive virtual dollhouse filled with animation, sound effects, music and games in ten activity areas.

With the help of Glitter the fairy, you first select one of four dolls to play with. Becky selected Sarah who really resembles her with curly blond hair. Although she may have had another reason: her sister's name is Sarah. Once a doll is selected, it's off to the dollhouse (the main menu) with six rooms to explore plus activities indoors and out. Visit big sister's room, the dolls room, the bathroom, kitchen, family room and living room.

Becky really enjoys this CD. As I'm writing this review, she's showing me what she likes to do in the dollhouse. In fact, now, she's frosting a birthday cake that looks good enough to eat (It is dinner time, maybe she's hungry). I just handed her the CD a week ago, and I'm surprised how well she's navigates. You have to give Fisher-Price and Knowledge Adventure credit for an easy-to-use and fun educational product.

Fisher-Price Time to Play Dollhouse and Pet Shop sell for a street price of $20 and run on any multimedia PC, 486/66 MHz or faster and a Power Macintosh. Both computers require 16 megabytes of RAM and a double-speed CD-ROM drive. For more information contact Knowledge Adventure at 1-800-545-7677, or visit their Web site at

Schoolhouse Rock Thinking Games Deluxe from The Learning Company

Now you and your kids can enjoy learning with those Schoolhouse Rock animated characters singing songs of math and metaphors that were originally featured on Saturday mornings along with Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse cartoons. I often flashback to those catchy Schoolhouse Rock cartoon tunes and surrealistic animation I recall from my youth, when I'm watching cartoons with my kids (every morning we watch Rugrats on Nickelodeon and then head to the Disney Channel for the Bear in the Big Blue House). Schoolhouse Rock Thinking Games Deluxe will bring back those memories while offering your kids a fun way to learn with music, animation, sound effects and arcade-style educational games for kids ages 6 and up.

This 2-CD set offers hours of fun and learning. Disk 1, the Thinking Games, offers several options from the main menu including 12 printable games and activities and several Schoolhouse Rock educational videos with a variety of educational themes including history and the human body. Or click Play to enter Lucky's Arcade for several educational games. Play a number concentration game, make shapes with Geometron, play Lucky Rocks and shoot asteroids, create equations with the Math Machine, shoot some ducks in Lucky's Math Gallery and more. Disk 2, the Learning Adventures, offers math, parts of speech, science and geography activities. Play the Light Lab to decode messages using optics and light beams or visit the Print Institute for lots of printable science activities and experiments.

In my house, Schoolhouse Rock Thinking Games is fun for all ages. Even my daughter Becky (she's 4) has no trouble accessing the videos and printing the activities. Sarah, who is now 7 years old, said she loves the math games, and especially those on disk 2. It really keeps them busy. As I write this review, the kids are up in Sarah's bedroom on the Macintosh playing Schoolhouse Rock and dancing to the videos. Earlier, Becky printed out a card game and Sarah was excited to show me a finger puppet she made of Lucky the rabbit.

Schoolhouse Rock Thinking Games Deluxe sells for $34.95 and works on any multimedia PC, 486/66 MHz or faster machine with Windows and the Apple Macintosh, 68040/33 MHz processor or better. Both computers require a double-speed CD-ROM drive and 8 megabytes RAM. And they have a money back guaranty if you're not completely satisfied with any of their products. For more information contact The Learning Company at 1-800-716-8506 or visit their Web site at

Howard Berenbon