New multimedia products. (Software Review ) (Multimedia PC) (Evaluation)
by Polly Cillpam
Raising a Safe Child
Now there's an interactive storybook on CD-ROM that teaches safety awareness to children. T.J. Finds a Friend was designed to educate children about their own safety and teach them how to detect and avoid unsafe situations. The suggested list price is $29.95, with 20 percent of the proceeds going to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to help fund its recovery and educational programs.
The CD-ROM is based on a true story. The central theme, preventing the abduction of children, is presented by T.J., who ultimately recognizes a missing child and helps reunite the child with his parents. Through Media Resources and Artists for Media, top entertainment people were brought in to ensure that the final product featured the best in animation, sound effects, music, and interactivity. It features an appearance by John Walsh, star of Fox TV's "America's Most Wanted" and cofounder of and spokesmen for the NCMEC.
The disc also contains a comprehensive Resource Guide. This guide and mini encyclopedia, activated by the Tell Me More icons and other hot spots on the screen, serves to teach more about the many interactive elements in the story. There's also a directory of information from governmental and private agencies.
Model Car Hobbyist Alert
Start your engines--the green flag is in sight! How would you like to build your own car and race it the same day? Backroad Racers, the second title in the Power Modeler CD-ROM series, bundles a Boss 302 Mustang model kit with an interactive multimedia CD-ROM. The CD-ROM shows you how to build models of four classic muscle cars, and the limited-edition Mustang is one of them.
Backroad Racers includes a fast-action game which lets you take your car and compete against other drivers. It also has instant replay--a new Power Modeler feature that allows gamers to relive a death-defying crash. In addition, you can learn about your competitors, the degree of difficulty of a particular road before selecting it, and what the weather conditions may be (the weather adds to the unpredictability of a race). There'sd even a built-in reward for winning--a gift certificate you can take to the Muscle Motors car lot for more custom options to improve your car.
The model-building portion of the software uses 3-D polygon animation and digitized sound to show you exactly how each part fits together. It includes fast-paced MTV-like video vignettes with tips on how to glue, paint, and detail your model. You can even see what the car will look like in different colors before it's painted. There are also an online glossary of automotive terms and fun facts about the cars. But don't forget to fasten your seat belt!
FracTools III is an integrated graphics system for generating and printing an infinite number of fractals or other images.
It allows you to create your own slide shows in a variety of different ways. It's easy to use, has an unequaled image-generating capability, and functions as a learning environment for exploring what you can do with fractals.
The programs's features include a multiwindow environment, 20 fractal image types, color strobing and panning, a kaleidoscope display filter, automated slide shows, autozoom, and more. You can print images, create wallpaper for Windows, and add color patterns. Frac-Tools III supports a variety of graphics formats, including PCX, GIF, IMG, and BMP.
Giant or Jurassic?
Did you know that Oscar Wilde wrote a popular children's story? With The Selfish Giant, the CD-ROM version of Oscar Wilde's fairy tale, your children can read the story aloud, choose to have the giant's voice narrate, play one or the hidden games, or learn more about the characters and settings. The disc includes definitions of nouns and adjectives on a level children can grasp, a build-a-castle activity, and an interactive coloring book.
The story concerns a giant with a beautiful garden. One day the giant banishes the childrem from his garden. From then on, it's winter in the garden, with snow, frost, hail, and the north wind; all the other seasons pass the giant by because of his selfishness.
With more than 100 digitized pictures and animations, professional voice-overs, digital video movies, sound effects, and original music, this program lets kids listen to the narration and the sounds of the onscreen children playing in the garden, as well as sing along with specially written songs. There's detailed information about giants, castles, flowers, and the inhabitants of the storybook garden.
In addition to shipping The Selfish Giant, Sanctuary Woods has released its second interactive comic-book adventure. Victor Vector & Yondo: The Last Dinosaur Egg. The digitized duo are back on another mission--this time they must go back in time to recover an egg from one of the last surviving dinosaurs. Tyrannosaurus rex. During their journey, they face many obstacles, including a malfunctioning time machine, angry dinosaurs, and their archival, RAM Axis, a mysterious competitor who changes shape and form in each episode of the adventure series. Fortunately, Victor and Yondo get help from a fellow traveler--the mysterious Delta Mode.
The characters and the more than 100 colorful backgrounds in The Last Dinosaur Egg were created by Ken Steacy, illustrator of Spider Man comic books. To enhance the visuals, the product includes digital video clips, sound effects, original music, and professional voice-overs.
Logitech: The Next Generation
How about a sound card for $139? Logitech has introduced SoundMan Games, an 8-bit stereo card designed especially for people new to games. It's guaranteed to be fully compatible with Sound Blaster Pro and Ad Lib.
SoundMan Games inlcudes a built-in Sony CD-ROM interface allowing you to install both single and multisession CD-ROM drives. It's MPC and MPU-401 compatible, ensuring that it will work with multimedia and music applications.
This product offers an interface for one or two joysticks, a microphone or CD-audio line-in for recording, an output jack for stereo speakers or headphones, and Windows and DOS software for easy sound recording and playback. It's backed by a full two-year guarantee and unlimited product support.
Logitech has also upgraded its SoundMan 16. The company has improved the user installation by adding sound and graphics, making it even easier to add the sound card to your system. It can now be installed without having to first set the on-board options. The installation software automatically selects the correct settings for your system.
SoundMan 16 has all the features you would expect from a high-end sound card: a Yamaha OPL3 synthesizer chip with 20-voice stereo support, up to 44.1-kHz sampling and playback, a four-watt stereo amplifier, a joystick port, a MIDI interface, and guaranteed Sound Blaster, Ad Lib, MPC (Levels 1 and 2), and MPU-401 compatibility.
It also supports both Windows 3.1 and DOS and includes MCS MusicRack, Icon Hear-It Lite, and Screen Craze II, and AddImpact!