Yoda’s Challenge will sharpen young minds

Star Wars: Yoda's Challenge
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Lucas Learning Ltd. has developed an Episode One inspired title for young Jedis-in-training ages 6 to 8. Yoda’s Challenge Activity Center has the player join Yoda in the Jedi Council Chamber. Yoda invites the player to choose from six different missions to work on mastering. Interestingly enough, each mission teach valuable skills.

Once the player is in the Council Chamber he or she can choose to start on any one of the six missions represented by holographic images on the screen. If help is needed during a mission, the player only needs to click on the Yoda picture on the mission screen. The mouse cursor becomes Yoda’s hand and Yoda will explain any item that the player clicks Yoda’s hand on. This program also has other characters such as C3PO and Jar Jar to offer hints during game play.

The six missions offer plenty of Episode One characters to interact with, and educational activities to enjoy. The Race at Theed mission has Queen Amidala and Jar Jar celebrating the victory of their people at the Battle of Naboo by having a race between friends. This race has the player helping the characters choose from different paths through a variety of land forms and terrains. The player can choose to help either character win.

The challenge of the game revolves around the racers’ steeds. Jar Jar’s kaadu moves quickly through swamps and water, but is slow when climbing through mountains. The Queen’s tusk-cat does not like to get wet and is slow when it interacts with water and swamps. It is fast when climbing and in running through the forests though. The player therefore must judge the best path for his character to race, taking into account such variables as their steeds’ strengths and weaknesses on the terrain and quickest path to the finish line. The educational benefits of this game includes practicing planning skills, problem solving skills, and gaining an understanding of time-over-distance relationships.

Another of the missions is Trap the Droids. The player’s mission is this game is to stop Destroyer droids and Battle droids from destroying the forests of Naboo. This is done by activating traps that are hidden throughout the forest. The player must play a specified rhythm on the given drums to activate the traps. This game is intended to have the player replicate and recognize beats and rhythms and to improve coordination skills.

The third game (Unscramble the Queen’s Computer) has the player helping the Queen fix her computer files that were scrambled by Jar Jar. This is quite an entertaining game that has players working on tangram puzzles. Once each puzzle is solved, a portion of the Queen’s files are repaired. For each puzzle solved correctly, a hidden picture and text description are revealed to the player. These types of puzzles are supposed to strengthen skills such as shape discernment, seeing relationships between shapes, and to aid in seeing things from different perspectives.

My favorite game of the entire suite is Program C-3PO. This game has the player programming C-3PO to tell stories about the Episode One characters. Each story is complete when the player decodes four sentences. The player is given a bank of words and his or her objective is to put the words into sequence so they will properly make sentences. If the player isn’t sure of a word, all he or she must do is click on it and C-3PO will share the word with the player.

In a very smart move in making building sentences a bit easier for younger players, Lucas Learning provided word configuration boxes that the words must fit into to build the sentences. This way even if the player isn’t sure of the order of the words for the intended sentences, just by looking at the word list he or she can check the word configuration box to see what word from the bank will fit into each word configuration box. When the player completes the sentences correctly, C-3PO shares the story with the player by reading it out loud. Each story is also illustrated by an accompanying picture. This game provides players with sentence and story building practice, practice of using phonic skills, and also helps with building sight word vocabulary. The stories are aimed at reinforcing positive characteristic traits.

The fifth game is Explore Gungan Caves. The mission of this game is to regain valuable relics by following directions through a cave in Naboo. The program provides directions for the player to follow, which has the option of being read out loud if the player clicks on the directions. A compass rose is represented on the screen and shows the player at all times which direction he or she is heading. A map shows, on the right side of the screen, where the player is located inside the cave at all times. Arrow keys or the mouse can be used to move the player through the cave. This game is meant to build players’ geographic and navigational skills.

The last mission is Build Anakin’s Songbook. Yoda challenges players to create a songbook for Anakin. A sequence of notes is played for the player to replicate on a very large keyboard type instrument. If the player plays them properly, the band in this game will complete the song. Notes are shown in musical notation on the screen. The player can sing along with the band, play the songs again that he or she chooses, or print out the song of his or her choice.

This game also allows the player to compose a song of their own if they choose. A player’s song can be saved by pushing the record button on the screen. A variety of musical sounds can also be chosen by clicking on a button to the right of the keyboard. This mission is meant to provide an introduction to reading musical notation, promote auditory memory skills, and to improve a variety of music related skills.

I am giving this program 4 1/2 GiN gems. This program provides for an abundant variety of entertainment and educational experiences for players. It is great in that it provides verbal reinforcement for players, and also has positive corrective feedback for players. It keeps in mind that players of this age range may need help with reading, and it orally reads all of the words that appear on the screen if the player chooses.

Levels are designed to gradually increase in difficulty to keep challenging the player and to also introduce new concepts . It allows in some of the games for players to print out hard copies of their accomplishments to share with friends and family members. Another great reinforcement feature is that once all the levels are completed in a certain activity, the player may print out a certificate of completion which includes the player’s name and is signed by Yoda himself! The wonderful part of this package is that it reinforces learning in a large variety of subject areas in six different games while using the Episode One theme.

I am impressed that the program includes such educational features in its games as word configuration boxes, tangrams, and also aims to build music and geography skills. This program promises to keep young Jedis coming back for more training on the Episode One related themes for many missions to come.

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