Super Solvers Treasure Mountain! (educational software) (evaluation)
by Carol Holzberg
How do you engage children's attention long enough to teach basic skills? What can you do to encourage kids to practice skills they've learned? Try inviting them on an electronic excursion to Treasure Mountain! This "fantasy-exploration" software combines action-packed, arcadelike entertainment with puzzle-solving challenges to keep players creatively absorbed for hours. The Learning Company's Treasure Mountain! pits infamous Morty Maxwell against fast-thinking Super Solver detectives. Immoral Morty has maliciously made off with the mountain's magic crown. Sagacious Super Solvers must stop the merciless Maxwell from using the crown to steal the mountain's magic gold. Will Super Solvers successfully rescue the crown and beat misguided Morty at his own game?
Enterprising detectives embark on a journey up the mountain in search of hidden treasures. To prevent the unrelenting Maxwell from carrying out his dishonorable deeds, players must successfully retrieve enough booty to fill the treasure chest at the mountaintop. The task is not an easy one. There are several obstacles to overcome along the way.
Success depends on capturing the mountain's elusive elves. Youngsters must hunt for elves who carry scrolls. When nabbed in Super Solver nets, the sprightly (but sometimes pesky) beings offer clues to treasure whereabouts. Players who correctly answer an elf's question win a clue. Answers may require solving a math problem, completing a word puzzle, recognizing word patterns, or applying a scientific principle.
Super Solvers have three chances to answer an elf's question. They win two gold coins and a clue word for answering correctly on the first try, one gold coin and a clue word for a correct answer on the second try, but just a clue word (no gold coin) for questions answered correctly the third time around. As Super Solvers move up in the clubhouse ranks, scroll-bearing elves become harder to catch, there are more hidden treasures on each mountain level, and players must successfully avoid mischievous elves who throw coin-eating magic dust.
Treasures are hidden in places that match two of the three word clues. For example, if clue words are five, flowers, and round, enterprising detectives must be on the lookout for items like five flowers, round flowers, or five round objects (possibly rocks or bushes). When youngsters come upon a mountain location that matches two of the clue words, they drop a coin. If there's a treasure hidden in that spot, it is automatically theirs. When Super Solvers find the spot that matches all three clue words, they obtain a key that unlocks the path leading up to the next mountain level.
Players' nets detriorate with every elf captured. Eventually, nets are so damaged that elves can easily escape. When this happens, Super Solvers must locate a "net cave" and use the gold to pay for repairs. Luckily, players who do not have enough coins eventually find more coins along the mountain path.
Unlike conventional arcade diversions, Treasure Mountain! offers more than just mindless entertainment. The game encourages children to use analytical reasoning to solve puzzles, inductive thinking to infer connections, deductive logic to test hypotheses--all without imposing time limitations. Colorful animated graphics, realistic sound effects, and positive audiovisual reinforcement make the mountain a wonderful place to visit.
Treasure Mountain! rewards curiosity, motivates exploration, and reinforces basic elementary school subject areas. In the final analysis, however, the software succeeds because children find that it's a lot of fun to play! And for parents, Treasure Mountain! means that children spend playtime productively.