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Zoombinis Review by Kelly Burgess

Encore Software
9700 West 76th Street, Suite 116
Eden Prairie, MN 55344
Navarre Digital Services, Inc.

Zoombinis is a PC-based children's adventure game that is available as a download or on disc from Encore Software for $9.99. It is compatible with Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, or Mac OS X. It is recommended for ages 6 and up.

Zoombinis is a re-make of a classic game from the 1990's. The premise of the game is that the small blue creatures, the Zoombinis, are trying to escape imprisonment in a land that has been taken over by the Bloats, and it's your job to guide them to safety in their new home in Zoombiniville. You will solve problems, spot patterns, analyze data, and use logic while facing increasingly difficult challenges along the way. There are twelve puzzles, and each one has 4 levels of difficulty, keeping this game fun and challenging as you witness the unique personalities of each Zoombinis character.

I set this game up on two computers so that both my 7-year old son, Holden, and my 11-year old daughter, Haylee, could try out this game on their own. They were both very enthusiastic about the game right from the start! I did not have to assist either one of them with the actual game play. I was simply able to install it and let them go and play it individually.  

This was a game that both of them returned to again and again. However, Holden found it somewhat difficult. He told me he got stuck on a challenge where he had to get a tree stump creature to accept the pizza he had made, only the creature didn't like the toppings he chose, so he couldn't get past that point! I overheard my kids discussing why Holden was stuck, and Haylee advised him that the tree stump didn't like mushrooms, so he should try again but not use mushrooms as one of the toppings on his pizza! I had a good laugh listening in on that conversation. My daughter, being older, was further along in the game, so she was able to offer him those kinds of tips along the way to help him advance. Haylee told me that the game was definitely more challenging than she expected, but that it was a lot of fun, and she enjoyed working her way through those challenges.

One of the challenging puzzles involves having to solve the correct order for the Zoombinis to cross a bridge by finding commonalities between the appearance of the Zoombini characters who belong beside one another on the path. If you get the sequence wrong, only so many can get to the next station, so you have to keep trying. In another puzzle, you have to look for patterns and choose the right Zoombinis in order to lure the creatures called Fleens off the tree branch. In a third puzzle, you have to sort the Zoombinis based on physical characteristics that are featured. There are many such challenges that lend themselves to logic, pattern recognition, and reasoning skills.

Haylee wanted me to be sure to mention that this game is really fun, even for older kids. That's a pretty good endorsement from a 'tween! Although it might be temporarily frustrating for Holden to get stuck on a challenge and not be able to proceed, the fun factor is great enough to motivate him to keep trying until he succeeds and is able to progress.

Overall, we really like this game, and the kids give it their endorsement. Personally, I like seeing them play a computer game that isn't just mindless gaming and really gets them thinking and motivated to keep trying until they complete each challenge. I think the price is reasonable for the amount of game play involved. I can't tell yet just how long it will take my kids to solve the game entirely, but they've been playing it at their own pace for almost two months already, and they are certainly enjoying the process.

Another option for downloading the game is to purchase it through a free Steam gaming account. The price is the same, and this was the format in which I received the game. If I were to purchase it myself, I would not choose that option, simply because it's designed for only a single user. That means I'd have to purchase the game through Steam multiple times in order for more than one child to play, and although the game is hosted on your own computer, the child must log in through their own Steam account every time they play, which requires online access in order to sign in. I had to set up two separate accounts in order for them both to be able to play on their own computers at the same time and save their own progress in the game. So for my family, I'd choose either the direct download or the game disc directly from Encore Software.

-Product Review by Kelly Burgess, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2016

And another reviewer’s perspective:

Zoombinis is an easy to download computer game from Encore Software. The cost of the downloadable game is $9.99. It is compatible with Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10. We used it on our desktop computer that has Windows 8, with no problems. The game is a mixture of puzzles, pattern recognition, analytical skills and logic games that has you working to guide the little Zoombinis away from the evil Bloats in an effort to get them back safely to Zoombiniville.

The ultimate goal of the game is to save as many little blue Zoombini people as you can. You work your way through twelve puzzles, with four levels of difficulty in each. The challenges are things like getting past the evil Bloats, Fleens, and even Pizza Trolls get safely from place to place. Some of the challenges may be picking the right path, the right pizza toppings, picking the right seat for the Zoombinis on the ferryboat, following the right lily pad path to safety, or matching the Zoombini in crystal form with its actual form.

After I downloaded the game and got us all signed up, I surprised him my telling him I had a treat for him. An actual computer, video game that I wasn’t going to control how much he played it. That never happens around here. I am generally anti-video game. But, I loved the idea of the analytical thinking and local puzzles that were included in this game.

However, in our household, there was a lot of trial and error involved with these challenges and games. My son, age 10, was very frustrated at first. Very frustrated. He had to think through things and choices much more thoroughly and in a different way than he was used to. He had to pay closer attention to which series of things, like pizza toppings, that he had already tried, so he could eliminate options. Not really a strong suit for most 10 year old boys. All he did was sort of whine and complain that it was too hard. In his words, he couldn’t get it. He tried everything and nothing worked.

My solution was to sit down with him and watch him play, so that I could give him a little guidance to make things better. For the most part, I just had to encourage him to slow down and not just click things willy-nilly, which was apparently his normal mode of operation in the middle of the video game! To be successful, he had to do it in an ordered and logical way so he could eliminate the wrong options before having success with the right options.

Even with the initial frustration, I would recommend Zoombinis, for your family. My son now eagerly enjoys the game to the point where I do have to slightly limit the time he spends saving little Zoombini lives! I really believe it has helped him develop new problem solving strategies (even if it is something as simple as actually slowing down and paying attention to his moves).

-Product Review by Kayla Rokosz, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2016