CD-ROM PROGRAM REVIEW - "The Animals!"

"The Animals!" is a multimedia CD-ROM title designed by Arnowitz, Inc. and programmed and produced by Arnowitz, Inc. and The Software Toolworks, Inc. "The Animals!" is a both knowledgeble and educational multimedia program. It is a fun and abundent program in terms of its contents. Its rich contents include the following:

  • The program itself is quite user-friendly. To use this program, the user only needs to double click on the "install.exe" program and it installs itself. After that, starting "The Animals!" program is as simple as double clicking on the windows icon. The user is first presented an introduction page. In the introduction page, "The Animals!" offers the user four choices by way of presenting four non-label bottoms. When the mouse pointer is placed on the bottoms, a bubble discription comes up to describe the function of the bottoms. This kind of bottom description is used through out "The Animals!"'s all functions. Although it creates some confusion for the first time user, it does provide a sense of fun and interactive. Also, this kind of display saves quite a bit of screen area for functional displays.

    The four choices available at the introduction page are:

  • Overview of "The Animals!" (a series of tutorial pages)
  • Animals Alphabetical
  • Main Menu
  • Exit

    Overview of "The Animals!" is a simple and vivid tutorial on how to use "The Animals!" with text and graphical display and human sound running simultaneously. Animal Alphabetical is a table listing of names of all animals on this CD-ROM. Thus, it provides the busy parents a short cut to find the answer for the kid's school project without browsing the retire CD-ROM. When an animal is identified from the alphabetical list, one click on the name takes the use directly to the details about the animal. Better yet, since the animals are arranged in their habitat group, scrolling back and forth and view all animals in the same group. Or, one click on the detailed page of the animal will show a list of animal names in that group.

    Main Menu is the heart of this program. In the Main Menu page, there is a 3-D view of the San Digeo Zoo map. On the 3-D map, 19 areas have been labeled. One click on any area on the 3-D map will take the user into the area to look at either the animals in that area, or habitat in that area, or both. When in one area, the user can view any available information on the animals in that area. When animal pages are shown, usually there will be information using other media besides text. Photos of animals in all activities, background information on the animals are standard. For some reason, not all animal pages have video clips and sounds of the animal. However, it can be estimated that about 50% of all animal pages have either video clips or sounds or both. When the video clips and the sounds are presented, they are of great quality. With hi-fi stereo, it almost feels like situating in a jumgle. When a habitat page instead of an animal page is displayed, the sound played automatically. Thus, when the user is watching the Rain Forest picture, the sound of the Rain Forest played simultaneously. It mentally takes the user to the Rain Forest.

    Except for the Introduction page, a help bottom is displayed on every pages in "The Animals!". The help bottom, although looks the same through out the program, is customized to every page. Thus, whenever the help bottom is clicked, the user is going to get the relevent helps on the subject. It saves a lot of time from wondering around in multiple help items.

    In the Main Menu, besides going onto the areas in the 3-D map, the user can also choose the Library Topic. The Library Topic has more refined grouping of animal information. It even has a subcategory containing letters to advocate boycotts of various animal products. Some of the interesting sub-catrgories of the Library Topic are: Endangered Animals (which educates the user on the endangered spieces), Maps (which shows the habitat regions on earth), Sounds (a list of animal sounds with brief titles) and Movies (a list of animal video clips with brief titles).

    Overall, "The Animals!" is a very good entertaining and educational multimedia program. In some ways, it even works like a web browser (it has a history log that the user can select at anytime to jump back to all previous steps). The only short coming of "The Animals!" are:

  • limited information contents

    with so many spieces on earth, only 200 animals are included in this title.

  • lack of action

    although the description and the tutorial of "The Animals!" is quite easily understood, no human characters nor cartoon characters are present in the program. The user may be more entertained if it is Donald Duck showing the birds section.

    If "The Animals!" can be an internet connected program, than it can be as interesting as anyone might image. The introduction tools and characters can be programmed on CD-ROM. The animal contents can come from the web sites. So as the user can virtually search on all animals on earth and go interactive with the world, or even sign a boycott petition on line. If the internet bandwidth problem can be overcome, maybe CD-ROM portion of "The Animals!" will no longer be needed!

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