Kids in the UK went back to school this week, lest my Facebook page ever let me forget, so what better way to celebrate parental freedom than an old-school learning game? DK, or Dorling Kindersley, is a renowned educational publishing company that fill libraries everywhere with books about almost anything. They have a great knack for making any subject interesting to all ages, be it engineering, trains or Star Wars. This collection of three titles is their attempt at a multi-media teaching tool for primary school students.
The subjects on offer are Maths, Science and Spelling and are taught in such a way that makes them interesting to those aged between 7 and 11. It's relevant too, as each title covers topics that are a part of the UK curriculum (I'm sure nothing drastic has changed in since they were released in 1999). The presentation and puzzles are so well done that even this reviewer (who's a good 20 years over the recommended age group) found them surprisingly fun.
Let's start with Maths. Gretchin and her hapless big brother hatch a diabolical plan to remove sums from the annals of history, thus saving her from the mundanity of maths class. She is so adamant in her convictions despite having the genius to design a working time machine. Surely that would've need some advanced maths to even attempt it? Nevertheless, the family dog has gotten wind of her plans and has decided to enlist you to stop them. He will be your guide throughout the adventure, offering hints so obvious a seven-year-old can't miss it. He'll take you to ancient Egypt, the first Olympic Games (a clothed, child-friendly version of course), a Mayan temple and Atlantis 'cos Maths don't care about historical accuracy. Each segment deals with a different area of Maths such as shapes, measurements or fraction, and all in a rather fun way. If you do get stuck, you can summon the dog to explain things to you, handily negating any need for an actual teacher.
I was one of those kids who really enjoyed Maths class. I found each lesson akin to an hours worth of Sodoku or logic puzzles. In my mind, sums were simply an enjoyable challenge to solve. I Love Maths gives you the exact same feeling only without the derogative remarks from classmates. Because of this, I found this third of the package to be the best by far. It may even give a few adults a run for their money.
I Love Spelling is very similar in terms of presentation. Again there are four areas, each focussing on a different mini-game with some nice animations. Instead of a maniacal 7-year-old trying to destroy thousands of years of mathematical understanding, Spelling thrusts you in the middle of a nautical game-show. The overly enthusiastic host is your guide through it all, and is particularly notable for being incredibly bad at feigning empathy if you fail a task. It's not as if he doesn't have good cause, though. The games themselves are rather simplistic, being limited to anagrams, spelling bees and a variant of hang-man. Playing on the hardest setting, I was surprised by how complex some of the words were. I suppose an eleven-year-old could know what 'choreography' is but how many could spell it? I can barely do it myself! There are also a few words that could be a little too dark for the youngest of audiences. Hearing the announcer cheerfully ask you to spell 'sacrifice' adds a level of creepiness I was not expecting. Especially when you spelling it in the gnarling chops of an undersea dragon.
As good an educational tool as this is, it's a game that's best left to those who fit in the recommended age bracket. The games are a little too simplistic for anyone past secondary school with words no adult should have trouble with. Children, however, will be vastly entertained.
For a subject that is so varied in scope the last title in the trilogy is surprisingly the weakest. I Love Science changes the formula by keeping the same trivia-based gameplay over three different areas of Science. It doesn't go too deep either meaning that everything is incredibly basic, even on the most difficult of settings. There are some simulated science experiments which lose a lot of their lustre when you don't do them yourself. For example, seeing what happens to different objects when placed in a furnace is no fun unless there's a possibility of burning the school down.
The quizzes are often very simple multiple choice questions too. While some require you to get the answers directly from the previous experiment, many are just common sense or logic based (at least for adults). Children will definitely get more out of this than their parents, but I expect the lessons learned will stick in their minds much better with a more traditional hands-on teaching approach.
Originally released in this form in 1999, the games in this package were each a compilation themselves. Prior to putting them together in three different titles, they were part of the Mad About series focusing on specific topics in each subject. I haven't found much information about these versions online but from what I can gather, I suspect they were mostly used as teaching aids in schools. The I Love series would be DK's attempt at bringing them to the home market. This is why the graphics look a few years behind contemporary titles. They're nevertheless functional and filled with the charm and whimsy DK books are known for. I was far too old for these titles when even the Mad About series were released and therefore have no nostalgia for them. I discovered these by request from a fan of the Collection Chamber so they must've made an impression on some of our youth at the turn of the century. Seeing my younger family members give this a go, I can certainly see why.
To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 running Windows '95. Tested on Windows 10.
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting DOSBox. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Press Ctrl-F9 when it is safe to do so.
I Love Maths, I Love Science & I Love Spelling is © Dorling KindersleyReview, Cover Design and Installer created by me