Zoombinis (iPad)

ZOOM_BOXThe 1990’s were kind of a renaissance for educational computer games. I remember reviewing a few for The Dallas Morning News back then, as well as watching my little brothers play a bunch when they were younger as well. But one I hadn’t heard of before was Zoombinis. But that doesn’t make it any less popular, as it was still an award-winning game that taught logic and reasoning problem solving skills through sorting, classification, and a bit of trial and error. And now you can enjoy this classic educational title downloadable on Apple tablet devices.

In the game, the Zoombinis are cute little critters who live peacefully together until one day their land was taken over by a bunch of baddies. Now you must help the Zoombinis escape and make it to a new tranquil island. There are 400 Zoombinis in all that you must rescue. You’ll start out with 20 at a time. Each Zoombini has different characteristics. Some have hair, some wear glasses, some have different colored noses, and they all have different kinds of feet. You can design each Zoombini yourself, or let the game randomly make them for you, which is easier. Then you’ll guide the groups through single screen puzzles where you have to sort them into different categories to pass.

For instance, in one screen, you’ll have to drag and drop them in front of one or two bridges so they can pass to the other side. But the stone statue at the bottom will sneeze them back if they aren’t on the correct bridge. Through trial and error and a little logic, you’ll have to figure out which characteristics will let them pass which bridge. Like, maybe only Zoombinis with glasses can cross the bottom one, for instance. Sometimes you don’t have to worry about Zoombini characteristics at all. In another screen, you have to make a pizza for a troll so your troupe can pass. So you must tap which toppings to put on the pizza and figure out which ones he likes and dislikes. Every now and then you’ll come across a campsite that you can drop off Zoombinis at while you gather more at the start. If you leave any Zoombinis behind or they get rejected, don’t worry, you can find them again at the start or at the last campsite they visited.

The one problem I had with the game was the lack of explanation. The narrator vaguely goes over the rules of each screen game and you can read what he says by tapping on the question mark, but that’s all the guidance you are given. Usually it’s pretty easy to figure out the games, but harder to deduce which Zoombinis go where. And there are some games that I couldn’t figure out at all, like one where you must match frogs to lily pads. Not sure how I saved the three Zoombinis on that screen. But then, I’m not really very good at thinking logically anyway, being a very right-brained person. Zoombinis is still a cute game and somewhat original for an edutainment title. Each screen is different every time you play since there are so many combinations of Zoombinis, and there are branching pathways, too. If you enjoy logic puzzles, you might want to check this out.


Kid Factor:

Zoombinis is fairly non-violent, although sometimes your little guys might get socked into the air by an angry troll. But don’t worry. Any Zoombinis that get launched airborne or are left behind will return safely to the starting point or the last campsite checkpoint. Reading skill is a must, and the game is best for older kids since many of the puzzles are rather abstract and lack initial clear instructions. But it’s still a decent game for teaching logic and other thinking skills.

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