The seven children were engrossed. Grouped around the Spectrum, they had their eyes fixed intently on the screen as one of them read out the screen text.
Andrew: (reading) You have entered a deep ravine which is tittered with bleached bones. As you move round the ravine you are suddenly confronted with a band of vicious little sand gremlins! They demand all the water you…
Chorus of voices: Oh no! It took us ages to work out how to fill the bottle!
Andrew: It's either GIVE, FIGHT or RUN Martin: FIGHT)
Lilian: No! We'll get killed'
Martin: But we can use the sword
Brenda: I think we should RUN
Stephen: Yes, Type in RUN.
Voices: No t Not yet… FIGHT… GIVE
Stephen: (standing up and blocking the screen) Now, we're not in complete agreement. We need to discuss the alternatives and then take a vote/
I could have intervened at this point but, stifling a laugh at Stephen's ability to assume control. I decided to bide my time. I had asked a class of eleven and twelve year olds to have a look a Jack in Crazyland, and had been invited along to their school to see them at work on the game. I have long been aware of the useful role that adventure programs can play in education, and had been greatly impressed by the first Jack adventure - Jack in Magic/and (reviewed in June's Crash Course) My own view was that the sequel was even better, but as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I always ask the real consumers the children themselves for their opinions.
The children had by now reached agreement about the option to choose FIGHT - reasoning that the possession of a sword pointed to this choice…
Stephen: (reluctantly) Well, OK. But I still think well get killed Type it in, Lilian.
Andrew: (reading text) Immediately you draw your sword, the gremlins attack and you are so badly outnumbered that…
Voices: Oh no! Well gel killed!
I sat back and watched. The children were genuinely involved in the storyline, and I found it fascinating to observe how well the youngsters were able to organise themselves with no leather direction whatsoever. Stephen emerged very quickly as group leader, taking control over who was going to read aloud, who should do the typing, and how disputes should be solved. All the children were being given useful opportunities to talk to each other and discuss the problems in the adventure, read the screen text, listen to each others' opinions, and take notes. They were also learning how to co-operate with each other In working towards a common goal, and I was impressed with their willingness to respect the fact that other people might disagree rather than, as normally happens with children, just shout down any opposition!
When I eventually interrupted the group and sat down with the whole class for a chat, I asked the children what they had thought of the game. The vast majority declared that they had thoroughly enjoyed it, and that it was definitely worth buying. Interestingly enough, most thought that the absence of screen graphics wasn't a problem. As Samantha said. 'I thought it good that there weren't any graphics, because you could imagine the different places and people'.
They also liked Turtle's idea of offering an optional booklet of black and white illustrations as a separate purchase, and thought that younger children would have fun colouring it in. Graham felt that the game had a particularly good storyline and sense of atmosphere, so that it was easy to really imagine yourself as Jack. The humour In the adventure was especially appreciated by the class. I don't want to give too much away, but a favourite part of the action was the section set m Topsy Turvy Land, where everything is upside down' What came over most as we talked was how involved in the game the children had become, and we went on to discuss the educational value of adventure programs such as Jack In Crary land The children themselves were immediately able to pin point the aspects they felt most useful.
Lynn: Typing in the commands helps you find your way around a keyboard.
Wendy: The game can improve your vocabulary. Sometimes the screen text give you words you don't understand, and you can look them up.
Lilian: I like Jack in Crazyland because you had to think very hard to solve some of the puzzles.
The children gave an interesting response when I asked them what sort of adventure programs they would like to see available in shops. George suggested Gullivers Travels, which would follow the story line of the book, would be exciting, and would have lots of locations. One of the girls felt that Alice in Wonderland would also translate well into a computer adventure. Other children want ed to see adventures featuring favourite characters the Famous Five and Secret Seven I were particularly popular - - but I with new storylines. They especially liked the idea of work mg on such adventures in school rather than at home, as they preferred working in groups to working on their own, and thought that their teacher would be able to organise all sorts of related activities for them to work on.
Jack in Crazyland is ideal as a stimulus for all sorts of classwork reading, vocabulary building, art and craft work, and so on, depending on the age and ability of the group of children involved This is exactly the sort of program that children love and teachers want with the option of sending for the illustrated booklet and teaching notes, including the play sequence for the game. So come on distributors, let's see more games like this readily available in the high street stores
: commands entered as normalKeyboard play
: very goodUse of colour
: a purely textual adventure, but you can send to Turtle for the illustrated bookletGeneral Rating:
Highly recommended. An interesting and amusing storyline which will keep children engrossed for hours. Suitable for use both in the home and in school.