The game's opening menu reveals five empty habitats: artic, woodlands, ocean, grasslands, and rainforest. Your goal is to play games to earn five animals to populate each of these habitats.
Once you select a habitat, you are shown the animal that you can earn and told the number of points needed to win the animal. Then it's off to playing four games to earn the points. Once you have enough points to win an animal, a fifth game appears in which you are asked 10 questions about the won animal.
Why This Game is So Good
Animal Genius stands out from other educational software because it seamlessly integrates learning about 25 animals into captivating game play. Young children play the games because they're fun. As an added benefit, kids learn a tremendous amount about animals.
For example, to teach young kids about what an animal looks like, the software offers a game called "Scratch and See." The game presents kids with a grey screen with a question mark, and tells them to use their computer mouse to scratch off the grey. As kids swipe with the mouse, an animal starts to appear. What makes this game challenging is that it is timed so that you can never completely unveil the picture. As a consequence, kids have to use discrimination skills and their knowledge of animals to deduce which of four animals listed is hiding under the grey.
Likewise, kids learn about food chains, animal habitats, and which animals are predators by playing a maze game. Depending on which animal a child selects from a list that includes a clownfish, a lion, a skunk, or a chameleon, the maze reflects the habitat of the selected animal. The object of the maze game is the collect the food that the selected animal eats and for some, to avoid a natural predator. So, if you are a chameleon, you navigate through the maze to places where you can snap out your tongue to catch flies. If you are the clownfish, you search out plankton while avoiding your natural predator, the grouper. Since clownfish hide in sea anemones, the maze provides you with plenty of these creatures to hide in.
Children as young as age 5 can enjoy this software because almost all of the game's instructions and reading have voice-overs. But, parents of young children may want to steer their preschoolers away from choosing to be the lion in the maze game, because when the lion pounces on a zebra, it roars and you hear it crunching the zebra's bones.
This software is a variation of Animal Genius
originally released on the Leapster in 2006 and then reconfigured for the Nintendo DS
in 2007. Both of those previous versions were excellent, but this format is even better. Because so much of this game is about seeing the animals and distinguishing their features, the large computer screen showcases the photos and videos of animals so much better than was possible on the smaller screens.
Don't be surprised when your little one pipes up with esoteric facts like "every zebra has a different pattern of stripes" or "the elephant is the biggest land animal." This software is full of them, and it makes it cool to celebrate each interesting animal fact.
Teachers, this software would work equally well in a school setting as in a home. It's educational software at its best.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.