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SummaryRemember those Saturday-morning cartoons?
The GoodSierra takes their years of adventure-game experience -- arguably some of the best in the business -- and applies its familiar formula to an educational game for the kids. They've even put some of Sierra's big name developers behind this game, like designer Jane Jensen (of the Gabriel Knight series), and programmer Scott Murphy (of Space Quest). What does that spell? F-U-N. It is most definitely an adventure game, cut from the same classic mold that Sierra's famous for. However, it's a simplified adventure, and it's considerably shorter than most adventure games, but that's perfectly fine for a kid with a short attention span who wants to be entertained, not be frustrated by impossible puzzles.
Educationally, the game does its job well. It presents the story of an ecologically-damaged coral reef, which not only teaches some basic marine biology but also instills ecological concern, a good subject you want your children to be aware of early in life. So Adam (that's the main character) is faced with the periodic task of keeping an eye out for trash and cleaning up the mess (who wouldn't want to teach their kids how to do that?) but also, as you're swimming around in the ocean, click on a fish or a plant and you'll be greeted with a short, educational encyclopedia entry-like blurb. The entire game is riddled with such real-life information, so there's plenty of factual trivia for children to learn.
There's even some in-jokes tossed in for the adult player, so they're not being completely ignored if they're playing the game with their kids. Look for a reference to the ghost pirate LeChuck from Lucasart's Monkey Island series. It's a good thing Sierra learned that lesson that made Animaniacs so popular with adults -- give them something to laugh at, it's not just all for little kids. Like those old Saturday-morning cartoons, there is a way to appeal to both kids and adults and even teach a little something in the process.
The BadWell, if you're used to exercising your brain in thought-taxing puzzle monsters like Monkey Island, you might be let down by this game's simplicity. While there's really nothing to hate, EcoQuest isn't going to be something that you can necessarily become obsessed about. You could very easily sit down, start playing, and finish the game two hours later. Don't look for challenge in this game, unless you happen to be eight years old.