3001: A Reading & Math Odyssey
This is an educational package for older children (nine years and above) that is actually fun to play. It provides three areas of activity: a mathematics section, a reading and comprehension section; and an intriguing game that combines elements of both.
In the first area children can practice their mathematics and even set their own level of difficulty. Problems are randomly generated and a tutorial is on hand for all levels except basic arithmetic. Once I realised that it wasn't going to make me look incompetent I began to enjoy doing the sums and happily sampled from the 'tougher' levels which involved fractions, equations and calculating areas and circumferences. The program provides access to an on-screen calculator, which I found to be a little disappointing, although I suppose it is a sign of the times. The problem, to my mind, being the ever-present temptation to resort to the calculator even for the simplest sum.
The second area introduces children to the myths of ancient Greece through the simple retelling of the tales of Zeus and Hera, Apollo, Echo, Heracles and many more. Here children can read for themselves or have the story narrated. These stories are central to the game.
The game begins with an introductory sequence that outlines the basic plot. Your planet, Zarpharon, will be destroyed unless you can recover the four parts of the Gratia machine that have been hidden in ancient Greece. You must also learn which member of the ruling council has stolen the Mega-Crystal that powers the Gratia machine.
After the introduction you can choose to play a young male or female Zarpharonian and you can select the difficulty level from novice, intermediate, advanced and expert.
The game itself consists of travelling to designated locations and trading with the various characters from the Greek myths to gain new objects and to learn clues. If you visit someone who does not wish to speak to you then your strength is diminished. Your strength can be further reduced depending on the outcome of random meetings with the Trojans, a Cyclops, a Harpy, a Hydra, or the Colossus. If your strength falls too low you will be stuck in ancient Greece forever leaving your own planet doomed.
All is not lost, however. You can visit the Oracle to gain more strength by matching a sound to a particular character, or solve an anagram to get a clue. You will also need supplies of nectar and gold and the Oracle can supply these too, but only if you are lucky. Otherwise you may leave sadder, but wiser.
One way to ensure that you have all the strength, courage, nectar and gold that you need is to visit the Library at Alexandria. Here all you have to do is answer a few simple mathematics questions to boost your stocks. Well you didn't expect to get them for nothing, did you?
Then it's back to the gods and goddesses to learn what they want, though without a specific clue this is largely trial and error. After a few successful trades you will be rewarded with a scene from mythology such as Jason finding the Golden Fleece and you will receive a piece of the Gratia machine along with a clue to the identity of the traitor in Zarpharon's ruling council.
To gain the last piece you must assist Heracles in one of his twelve labours, but there is little to this providing you have read the story. Once back on your home planet you must unmask the traitor for the game to end successfully.
I played the game through twice, on novice and expert levels, to get an idea of the range and the main difference lies in the difficulty of the mathematics problems set at the Library at Alexandria and the obscuring of the clues. For example, in novice mode you may be told to visit Hermes, but at the expert level the clue may read, 'find the one who hid Apollo's cattle'.
The game uses the now almost standard point and click interface and any child who has had experience with Windows will soon be at home here. An entertaining way to learn.
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1995.
All rights reserved.
486, 8MB RAM, CD-ROM, Win 3.1, mouse