May 2000

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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Dr. Brain Action Reaction from Knowledge Adventure and Smart-Start Spanish Deluxe from Syracuse Language and Knowledge Adventure

Dr. Brain Action Reaction from Knowledge Adventure

Okay, kids and adults, ages 10 and up, are you ready to save the world?  Then jump right in and help Dr. Brain escape from the clutches of SPORE (Sinister People Organized Really Efficiently) while solving puzzles in this 3-D, CD world of Dr. Brain Action Reaction from Knowledge Adventure.  This is an interactive adventure game, with outstanding 3-D graphics and great sound effects, designed to capture your kids in the educational world of Dr. Brain and Knowledge Adventure.

After installation, and selecting your player's name, you'll find yourself a prisoner at the undersea SPORE base, along with Dr. Brain.  The goal is to escape your jail cell and stop SPORE while solving 45 challenging puzzles.  Besides audio and video assistance from Dr. Brain, you'll find a bunch of neat gadgets to help along the way like Gel-O-Vators for swimming up or down levels and the Helping Hand used to throw switches and push objects.  Navigation through this imaginary world is by way of the mouse, allowing a 360 degree view of your environment and the keyboard for moving, jumping and controlling some of those gadgets.  You'll start at level 01: Simple Lessons, with step-by-step instructions from Dr. Brain, and then you're on to the real challenge.

 This CD will definitely keep any player, adult or kid, glued to the computer because of its very realistic 3-D graphics interface that works like the game Doom, allowing the player to move through the various levels, in real time, solving puzzles to save the world.  You can also play the game, live, on the Internet with other Dr. Brain Action Reaction users.  Sarah, my 8-year-old daughter liked playing.  In fact, she said,"Cool, it's 3-D like a Nintendo game."

Dr. Brain Action Reaction sells for a street price of 9.99 and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium 166 MHz or faster processor with 32 MB RAM, 100 MB of hard drive space and a quad-speed (4x) CD-ROM drive running Windows 98/95. 

Smart-Start Spanish Deluxe from Syracuse Language and Knowledge Adventure

Smart-Start Spanish Deluxe is another excellent educational language learning system from Syracuse Language and Knowledge Adventure.  It has everything you need to learn Spanish, except, an all expense paid vacation to Mexico City.  You'll learn Spanish with their step-by-step method and the help of 3 CDs filled with 30 language learning activities including video instruction and speech recognition to help you with pronunciation.  And you can record and playback your speech to compare your progress with the Spanish speaking characters on screen.  They even include a 207 page Guidebook as a supplement to the CDs.

After a quick installation, you'll start in the main menu with access to the Web site, Games, Glossary, Grammar Lessons and SoundStart.  Click on Grammar for video lessons with actual Spanish speaking people.   You can play and stop the video, hide text and show text.  Each lesson has a grammar explanation plus a video with actors using the grammar in a real-world situation.  There's also a short test to check your understanding of what you've learned.  When you've had enough grammar, you can go on to play the games which offer three modes of learning: Listening, Reading and Speaking.  They're subdivided into three categories: Vocabulary, Phrases and Conversations. For Vocabulary, you'll find Concentration, Memory Mania, Bingo, City Map, Sketch Artist plus 8 more games.  The games under Phrases include What Food Is It? What Number Is It? What Is It? and three more.  Under Conversations, you'll find 12 comic strip conversations covering common situations.

Voice recognition and recording your response is used in the games, as well as in SoundStart which allows you to practice saying 50 common words while you're checked by the voice recognition feature for accuracy.  I was surprised to find that the voice recognition module works without any training.  But it does require selecting the type of voice, either child, female or male.  A bell rings if your pronunciation is correct, and it shows a scale of correctness.  If you've mispronounced the word or phrase, a gong will sound.  Disk number 3 is an audio CD with recorded Spanish words, phrases and conversations you can use to improve your Spanish.  You can play it on your home entertainment CD or through your computer.

Anyone interested in learning Spanish will have everything they need on 3 CDs, with great graphics and sound features, to get the job done.  With the real-world situations, and voice recognition, you'll be speaking Spanish in no time.  And if you're not completely satisfied, you can return the product for a refund or exchange.

Smart-Start Spanish Deluxe sells for a street price of $19.99 and will run on any multimedia PC, 486DX2/66 or faster processor with 8 MB RAM, 11.5 MB of hard drive space, a microphone and a quad-speed (4x) CD-ROM drive running Windows 98/95. 

Howard Berenbon

Software Companies Mentioned

Knowledge Adventure, Inc.
19840 Pioneer Avenue
Torrance, CA 90503
Phone: 1-800-545-7677