Games entertain, teach kids

Interactive: Children tackle challenges to solve mysteries involving likable characters.

January 31, 2002|By Jinny Gudmundsen | Jinny Gudmundsen,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

One of the most popular genres of children's software is the interactive adventure. Good ones will teach while children play. Two new interactive adventures, Mia's Math Adventure and The Mummy Mystery, do a good job at both tasks.

Mia is an adorable mouse who has starred in two other computer adventures. She is ensconced in her cozy home in the attic of an old Victorian house when a fire forces her and her family to evacuate.

Devastated by the loss of her home, Mia sets out on an adventure to rebuild a friend's time machine, go back in time and stop the fire before it starts.

Mia solicits the player's help in finding four things necessary to rebuild the time machine. Players shrink to Mia's size to accompany her as she explores her world. Careful observation is the key to success.

Children wander with Mia through gardens, a tool shed, a mole hole and other locales. That hole in the fence may lead to a new universe, so don't miss it.

Once the four parts are found, Mia and her friend Marty assemble the time machine and travel back to right before the fire. Players help Mia investigate her home to discover the cause of the blaze.

Throughout the adventure, Mia encounters obstacles that can be overcome only by playing mathematical games. For example, to find the correct key to start the time machine, players must click on a number that is "larger than 37,400 and smaller than 37,700."

There are nine excellent multileveled games, and they can be played apart from the adventure.

Mia's world is wondrous to behold. The graphics are lush and detailed. She is charming and sweet, determined and clever - in short, a fabulous role model for children.

This is one of the best interactive adventures on the market for children and well worth their time.

Mercer Mayer's literary character, Little Monster, stars in The Mummy Mystery, a mystery adventure set in ancient Monster Egypt. Little Monster Private Eye and his sidekick Detective Kerploppus investigate the disappearance of archaeologist Professor Pickle.

The professor appears to have locked himself inside the Tomb of Thanxfurnuthen. As players join the duo in sleuthing, they quickly ascertain that the only way to open the tomb is to find five legendary magic rings.

Players search for the rings at 25 places, including the Tombs of Tootafroota and Pharaoh Phaucett, and the lost city of Hamonrya.

Embedded in these locales are 11 games and activities that require children to think logically. For example, youngsters might need to match the outline of a hieroglyph to the picture, or listen to sounds made by scarabs.

Players must find scarabs (the currency of this virtual world) and other items. Scarabs are used to buy necessities, such as a camel to ride. Items collected in one scene might be essential in another, so careful sleuthing is a must.

The Mummy Mystery is a wonderfully engaging mystery to solve. It is ripe with humor, the mystery is complicated and intertwined and the embedded games are fun and challenging.

Although the box recommends a target age of 4 and older, this works best with children ages 7 to 10 because reading is required to solve part of this mystery.

Mia's Math Adventure, $20. Ages 6 to 10, for PC and Mac. Requires Pentium 233 or Mac G3 233 with 64 megabytes of memory and 40 megabytes of hard disk space. Information: 877-858-8652 or

The Mummy Mystery, $15, ages 7 to 10, for PC and Mac. Requires Pentium 100 with 16 MB of memory and 5 MB of storage or 68040 Mac with 8 MB of RAM and 5 MB of storage. Information: 212-726- 6500 or

Jinny Gudmundsen writes for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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