Eco-Island. (computer game) (Evaluation)
by Beth Ann Murray
Jeez--what a mess! You're minding your own business there on trash-filled Eco-Island when suddenly M-Kar, a friendly space alien, crashes his spaceship and seeks your help. But his craft isn't the only thing littering the landscape. Eco-Island itself is knee-deep in gunk and garbage.
The only way to rebuild M-Kar's ship is to collect all the trash on the island and recycle it into the form of a spaceship. To power the spacecraft, you must conserve electricity. You must also save enough water to take along on the trip. All of these tasks comprise First Byte's Eco-Island, a new game featuring Zug the Megasaurus, whom you might remember from the popular Dinosaur Discovery Kit. This new game quickly draws you into the challenge of cleaning up the island and getting a M-Kar home before his parents start to worry about him.
Eco-Island is a big place--with lots of trash! The game comes with a map to help you get from Zug's EcoCenter (location of the recycling machine) to all the best places to pick up trash. There are four trash bins to fill, plus water and power gauges. When a bin is full, you go back to the recycling center and send it through the recycling machine, which makes useless garbage into vital parts for M-Kar's new spaceship. As you pick up trash (using a simple point-and-click method), interesting facts about trash are relayed on the screen.
Two gauges measure water and power conservation. When you turn off an unnecessary fountain, you gain lots of water. Turning off a billboard light saves lots of electricity. Both are necessary for M-Kar to get his ship working and supplied for his trip home.
You meet several different characters during your search for trash. They speak through the internal speaker or a sound booster, such as the Covox Speech Thing. Some of them have hidden surprises, including large amounts of valuable recyclables, which delighted my son. Some characters say mean things, but that only makes collecting the trash more exciting.
There are several "live" areas on each screen, giving clues about where trash is stashed. It's always worthwhile to attempt to talk to inanimate objects: trees and rocks--even statues!
This innovative game is fund, and it really teaches recycling. My four-year-old was quickly able to understand the game and manipulate the controls well enough to both collect trash and conserve water and electricity. The two of us learned how to categorize trash into plastic, aluminum, paper, and organic waste. Now, we can't go anywhere without my son's pointing out all the trash and wanting to pick it up and put it away.
The age range for this game is from four to nine years. I have a feeling that older players, accustomed to fastpaced arcade games, will find the slow pace of picking up garbage extremely frustrating. I did, I wish the makers had developed a method of highlighting all the plastics to dump at once, rather than forcing me to pick up each cup, one at a time. The more I played, the more aggravated I got. Luckily, you can save your game, so if you've gotten almost all the trash and have to stop playing you don't have to start from scratch.
My second complaint is that I couldn't win! I don't know if I just wasn't clever enough or if there was some kind of glitch in my software, but I simply couldn't find the last character. I never learned how the game ends or what M-Kar's spaceship looks like. However, the average seven-year-old, who is more computer literate tha middle-aged old me, might have better luck.