Do you remember when educational PC games ruled the day, and companies like The Learning Company and Knowledge Adventure were big names in the hearts of children? Some of us grew up during those days, when computer labs at school were full of victorious cries from virtual covered wagons and eager minds trying in vain to track down the female criminal who had a penchant for red clothing.
We want to relive some of those old memories, just as we’ve been reliving old Final Fantasy and Commodore 64 memories. So, we’ve made a list of old-school educational games we would really like to have in the palm of our hands. Special thanks to MobyGames for providing the screenshots for these historical games.
SuperSolvers – Outnumbered!, Gizmos & Gadgets, Midnight Rescue
The great things about SuperSolvers were its simple mechanics and broad challenge levels. Trying to bring down the Master of Mischief Morty Maxwell (alliteration is never out of style), you play as a baseball-capped protagonist who solves physics, math, and reading puzzles while performing simple actions to elude minions. Most of these games were side-scrollers, so they would probably port pretty easily.
The less well-known but still admired brother of Oregon Trail, this game had little kids learning about voyages in the deep rainforest of South America. As a kid from Peru, IN, the protagonist snaps photos of wildlife, talks with natives, and canoes down the largest river in the world. Why? To help the Jaguar King, who is beset with malaria and troubles from European explorers.
More appealing to the younger, precocious crowd are these games which did their best to prepare children for the next grade level. The later ones saw the developers get a bit ambitious, though, adding content that was a bit too challenging. For example, JumpStart 5th Grade featured both art history and bartending.
The Logical Adventures of the Zoombini’s
As if the name weren’t enough, let us tell you that this game was awesome. Every puzzle focused on logic and deductive reasoning, but the adorable, strange protagonists made it feel important. The blue Zoombini creatures lived a peaceful life until their home was invaded by the Bloats, who enslaved the Zoombinis. So they dug a way out and started to escape, one small group at a time. Each group then sails to an island, which happens to be full of logical adventures, with an empty paradise just waiting on the opposite side.
Oregon Trail II & III
We’ve relived some of the more enjoyable parts of the original Oregon Trail with the help of Gameloft, which is definitely a step in the right direction. The next step is porting the more complicated sequels. We want to spend time considering how many bullets to bring, which townies to bring with us, and whether or not we really need salted meat.
This game is so simple, it practically ports itself. You are a muncher, and you are put on a grid of numbers. The grid has instructions, like ‘Multiples of 5’ and you have to munch the numbers that satisfy it. Careful for the Troggles though– they’re dangerous. (Update: Readers have pointed out that Number Munchers is already available on the iPhone!)
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
We’re a little surprised that this one hasn’t been ported yet. This game taught people about a multitude of different locales while tracking down criminals and putting them in a prison that probably had a revolving door. It was wildly popular, and even spun-off several TV shows. Just remember, ‘Your success will be noted in your employee record’.
Castle of Dr. Brain
This game focused on math and logic, but it started a series of four Dr. Brain games that spanned a lot of different subjects. And really, what is more important than teaching kids how to become the assistant of a mad scientist? We can’t think of anything.
To round out the trail-themed games, we think Yukon Trail would be pretty sweet on the iDevice. Though it was not as good as Oregon Trail, it took people into the heart of the gold rush and the heat of staking claims and mining for gold. This one could even stand for a few spruce-ups on the development side.
There are others, to be sure, but these would be a good and popular start in our opinion. Sadly, the renaissance of these games and the companies that made them was in the ‘˜80s and ‘˜90s, and most of the companies have either closed or changed hands so many times that they may as well have closed. If they are to be ported, it is probably up to entrepreneurial developers to obtain the required licenses and port it themselves. Here’s hoping they do.