Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
The Learning Company The Powerpuff Girls Mojo Jojo's Clone Zone
- Very colourful, varied challenges
- Repetitive voice-overs, too hard at times
A fun and educational program only let down by a few minor flaws
Price$ 19.95 (AUD)
As is customary for the Powerpuff Girls, the first thing heard when starting their latest escapade is the familiar voice of the narrator announcing our entrance to "The city of Townsville!" And he's not talking about the one in Queensland. As any self-respecting fan will know, he's referring to the hometown of the diminutive crime fighting trio comprising Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup. It may be hard to track down the girls on TV these days but their tie-in products are still widely available. One such product is Mojo Jojo's Clone Zone, a fun yet educational package of activities for six to ten year olds.
As is usual, Mojo Jojo, the girls' nemesis, is attempting to wreak havoc amongst the docile inhabitants of Townsville. His latest evil scheme was to create multiple clones of himself, and now there's not just one but dozens of Mojo Jojos causing chaos across the city. The Powerpuff Girls must do everything they can to defeat the clones using the devastating combined power of mathematics, logic puzzles and reading comprehension. You can forget X-ray vision or super strength, 6+10 and 7-4 is the order of the day here.
Clone Zone is split into five separate challenges. Each challenge can be attempted at five different levels of difficulty, and Clone Zone will automatically adjust this level depending on how well you are performing. It is always possible to skip forward or backward if the task becomes too hard or easy. The first challenge is a test of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The idea is to fill in the blanks in the mathematical equations by jumping on the heads of the clones. There is a gradual learning curve to this puzzle and it never becomes too difficult. The same can be said of the second puzzle, which is a spelling game. Letters fall down the screen and it's your job to assemble them into a given word. We were concerned that being an American product there may be some funny spellings creeping in, but during our testing we didn't find any. What we did have trouble with was the drawl of the narrator, which sometimes made it difficult to work out which word to spell. The third puzzle involves moving around a map using the eight compass bearings. This initially started out as fairly easy, but by the time it got to the hardest difficulty level even we were stumped by some of the problems. Be prepared for some frustrated ten year-olds if you let them loose on this one.
Each time a puzzle is successfully completed you are awarded with one of Mojo Jojo's 'memory chips'. Once enough of these are collected it is possible to progress to the final two stages. The first of these is a test of shape recognition. Of all the puzzles we found this to be the least educational. This is basically a rehash of the now ancient arcade games from the 1980s where you control a spaceship and have to shoot incoming bad guys while collecting items. In this case the spaceship is replaced by the Powerpuff girls, the bad guys and items by various shapes. When you reach the end of this level and have collected enough memory chips from the previous challenges you can square off against Mojo Jojo for the final challenge. This level is primarily a test of semantics and syntax. Complete about half a dozen of these problems and you win the whole game. Kapow! Take that Mojo Jojo!
We very much liked the vivid interface and colourful graphics used throughout Clone Zone, but felt the audio let things down slightly. There was nice use of the girls' and other character's voices but in general it was far too repetitive. There's only so many times a sane human being can hear the words "Not my memory chips! Not my chipppps!" before spontaneously combusting. Or at the very least throwing the speakers out the window. Some background music would also have been nice and definitely could have livened things up a little.
The other problem is the difficulty levels. While a couple of the games got the balance spot on, one came across as far too easy and some so difficult that they verged on impossible. Of course you can adjust the difficulty manually, but if we as adults couldn't complete some of the challenges, then something is surely wrong. Or perhaps we need to go back to primary school. One final aspect of the program that's worth noting is the ability to print off various worksheets that offer fun games such as mazes and word searches. These should help expand the life of the product a little longer.
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