by Alan Zisman (c) 1992. Originally published in Our Computer Player,
December 18, 1992
The subtitle on the Knowledge Adventure box says "The
most exciting journey of all", and along the bottom, it claims "For
7 to to!". So what is it? It may be easier to say what it's not.
Knowledge Adventure (and its companion programs Sports
Adventure and Science Adventure) isn't a game. It isn't an
It isn't CD-ROM-based multi-media. It isn't a Windows program. It's not
Hypercard on the Mac.
It does, however, share some qualities with all these
categories. When you start up one of these programs, you'll see a
collection of windows and icons on screen. There's a large window with
full colour picture, enclosed in a gilt-frame, with a title on a brass
plaque. Underneath, there's a time-line, with dates ranging from 10
billion BC to 2000 AD.
Along the left, there's a scrollable text window,
describing the picture. Above that, there's a small globe. You can make
the Earth rotate, and you can zoom in and out, from 100 miles to
On top are two sets of icons. On set controls the
categories. In Knowledge Adventure, these are areas of knowledge: Art,
Science, Literature, Architecture, Music, and Nature. In Sports
Adventure, these represent the big sports (at least from an American
perspective): Baseball, Football, Basketball, of course, but
surprisingly, Hockey rates an icon of its own, along with Tennis-Golf,
Boxing, and the Olympics. The Science Adventure categories are a fairly
predictable range of sciences.
Finally, there's another set of icons for help,
backing up, printing, listening to a sound, and quitting the program.
Like some of the best software for pre-schoolers
(Broderbund's The Playhouse comes to mind), you can explore with the
mouse. Clicking almost anywhere makes something happen. And that's a
part of the adventure. You can jump through time and space by playing
with the time line and the globe. You can range from the Big Bang, to
the French Revolution, to the Moon landings and beyond. You can explore
in an organized way--- what was happening in China in the 1700's in
art? Or you can wander through the program's not necessarily obvious
You may have come to a picture of the Venus-de-Milo,
complete with description. Click on the statue, however, and you jump
a scene from the Solar System. What's the connection? Oh-- it's the
planet Venus. From the foyer of the Louvre, you click on a painting
hanging there and jump to its subject -- the French Revolution.
Maybe "Interactive Books" would be the best
description. The text is readable and informative, appealing to a range
of reading levels, while managing the difficult task of being both
accurate and enjoyable. (The Science Adventure text is credited to
writer Isaac Asimov, and was, in fact, his last 'book' before his
I tested these programs on my two children, 11
year-old Kate, and 8 year-old Joey. They both enjoyed them, using them
in different ways. Kate spent more time wandering through time, space,
and categories, looking for something to make her want to learn more.
Joey, still an awkward reader, just enjoyed the range of pictures. For
me, these programs are a welcome relief from arcade-style games. My
were learning without the stigma of "education"... without drill and
practice. Instead, they were exploring -- sort of the computer
equivalent of a chemistry set, but without the stink bomb, and covering
a far wider range of knowledge.
A few things of note: these programs require EGA or
VGA, and 7-9 megs of free hard-drive space for each program. There are
lots of full colour graphics in each, and even with a proprietary
compression scheme, these take up a lot of space. Because the graphics
are compressed, however, using a disk-compression program like Stacker
won't help; it can't compress the graphics any more than they already
are. You'll need that much REAL free hard drive territory.
The graphics are very good in all three programs, but
those in Science Adventure are exceptional. That program is the first
out in VGA (there's an optional, lower quality EGA version), and the
improvement over the older programs is dramatic. The company has
released a VGA upgrade for Knowledge Adventure but Sports Adventure is
(at least for now), stuck in lower resolution EGA. The sound quality
through the standard PC-speaker is marginal: another program crying out
a good sound card.
Finally, each program supports a few 'games'--- like
see how few clicks it will take to find a particular frame. These games
were of marginal interest to my test-panel of children; luckily, the
programs stand up on their own without them.
Even 8 megs or so of program on your hard drive can't
have the depth of information or multi-media bells and whistles that
you'd find in a 500 meg CD-ROM program. But for those of us lacking a
CD-ROM, These packages promise multi-media for the rest of us. And they
deliver on that promise.
(By the way... if you're intrigued with the Knowldege
Adventure interface, if you can imagine using it produce computer-based
catalogues, tutorials, magazines, or what-have-you... the company is
planning to release the "Knowledge Adventure Author". This promises to
provide authors, teachers, or other interested users with the power to
customize this interface themselves. It's promised for sometime real
4502 Dyer Street
La Crescenta, CA.
(818)542-4200, Fax (818)542-4205
List price $79.95 (US), each package
(Note from the year 2003): The above
article was originally published in 1992, as a review. A decade and
later, I've gotten a series of emails from fans hoping that I
could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where
it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am
not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for
of older software to check at eBay or at OldSoftware.com.If
you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly
freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements
for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)