Brighter Child’s Invention Highway is an educational game billed for 9-yr. olds and above. It certainly lives up to the billing. Even as a jaded 38-year old, wanna-be computer geek, it took me a few minutes (and honestly even a peek or two at the answers, all peeks with the goal of time saving, of course) to solve a couple of the puzzles. All in all it’s a high-quality educational tool.
Invention Highway is designed around a principle of education developed by one of its founders that identifies four different methods for “thinking techniques.” In the introduction to the game the four methods are introduced and one of the game areas includes an in-depth discussion of this methodology and provides real world examples and visuals for each of the four methods. They are also described in a lengthy book that accompanies the CD. Both the CD and the book also provide solutions, short and detailed, for each of the problems (I promise I only peaked at the short solutions).
The principal is called ASIT, Advanced Structured Inventive Thinking. This principal introduces four “Thinking Techniques.” They include, the Unification Technique, where a new use for an old, existing item is found. The Multiplication Technique, where a new use is found for an old item, but the item is duplicated and may be modified. The Division Technique is the third and involves breaking down existing components. The final method is the Breaking Unity Technique, or working with different components in different ways.
The game itself is not flashy, filled with gimmicks or any of the other tricks commonly found in children’s ‘educational software.’ There is a narrator, a friendly Einstein-looking fellow, who provides direction, input and corrections where necessary. He guides the player through each of 12 different puzzles, which require one of the four problem solving methodologies to resolve. The puzzles vary from using a robot to get the right sequence of empty/full glasses, to fixing a flat tire on a car using various tools provided.
The game provides three different ‘Levels of Play.’ It is here that I was a little disappointed with the game. The ‘Levels of Play’ are really just three different levels of help that Einstein provides. There are only 12 games, which can be played over and over, but each is always the same scenario. I was left wanting more. If a particular type of puzzle intrigued me, I would like the opportunity to try several different variations.
The game is very good at working toward the desired solution, letting the player try and fail, until they use the appropriate problem solving methodology. I enjoyed working with the Invention Highway, but for parents it should be viewed as an educational tool, since the games are merely a path to a critical skill. I give the suite four GiN Gems. The content is very good, and it works very well without being excessively flashy. It’s worth a try if your child needs to work on problem solving skills.
I have lent the game to a neighbor’s nine year old, and he has had it for over a week. When he brought it back and I told him to keep the game for a while longer, he got a huge grin and ran home to play some more. Now, that’s a pretty positive response for an ‘educational’ program to get in this era of high octane gaming.