The Magic School Bus Explores in the Age of Dinosaurs

Developer:  Music Pen
Publisher:  Scholastic/Microsoft
Year Released:  1996

Review by Rosemary Young (October, 1997)
busdino.jpgAs most of you will know this title is one of a number of children's science adventures from Microsoft, courtesy of the Magic School Bus, Ms Frizzle and her class of inquisitive kids. And, of course, it's all about dinosaurs (and other pre-historic creatures) a subject that most of us find fascinating, especially the young.

As is usual for this series The Magic School Bus Explores in the Age of Dinosaurs begins in the classroom where there are lots of animations to set in motion at the click of the mouse button. Here you can also talk to the various characters to learn what they know about the subject matter or, perhaps, study a simplified diagram explaining the Mesozoic Period and introducing the various ages, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous.

The long, long road
Outside the bus awaits and there are seven destinations to visit: Cretaceous Alberta, Jurassic Colorado, Triassic Arizona, Triassic Argentina, Jurassic Tanzanier and the Jurassic Tethys Sea. Each site consists of a single screen with a small assortment of clickable creatures. Select a creature for a fun animation or for one of the intrepid travellers to proffer some information.

Whilst on their travels children are also on the lookout for particular creatures to replace photographs in Ms Frizzle's photo album. Several clues are listed to help with the search. This album appears as an icon on every screen, along with the camera for snapping a photo.

Back at the bus
Meanwhile, back at the bus there is a variety of games and puzzles to experiment with in the Back Bus Dinotorium. A map of the world (the Fossil Finder) shows the countries where significant fossil records have been found. Select a country for graphic representations of the fossil finds relating to that site. There is also access to a Report Zone where the game characters tell of their research into such topics as the extinction of dinosaurs, the evolution of birds, dinosaur myths, etc.

The puzzles and games consist of an assortment of activities from arcade type games to puzzles putting together dinosaur bones or sounding out the tricky names. For successful completion of these problems the player receives a Palaeo card, a card with a picture of a particular dinosaur. These cards are placed in the Palaeo Gallery where they can be flipped to obtain basic information about each creature.

The Magic School Bus Explores in the Age of Dinosaurs is targeted at children aged six to ten and for this age group it provides a broad introduction to the subject matter. With a few exceptions all information is presented either visually or aurally (with subtitles for the hearing-impaired) so it is quite simple and straightforward. It is best described as an educational activity exercise, and I did like the way in which it emphasised the fallibility of science, or how knowledge may evolve and change to the point of being contradictory as scientists learn more and more. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1997. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
486SX-33 or higher, Win 95, 8MB RAM, Win NT 12 MB RAM, 6MB Hard disk space, 2xCD ROM or faster, SVGA 256 colour monitor, Mouse, 8 bit sound card, 16 bit recommended.