At the start of the year, I did a short retrospective on the Reader Rabbit: 1st Grade with the full understanding that I would continue the retrospective by looking at Reader Rabbit: 2nd Grade next. All of this has been part of a unofficial series of educational game retrospectives that I've been doing to reflect upon the computer games that had the most impact on me as a child.
As much as I liked Reader Rabbit: 1st Grade, I must make something of a confession. I never actually owned Reader Rabbit: 1st Grade, as the game I played was actually my sister's copy. I was a year older than her and thus didn't get 1st Grade from my school, but rather Reader Rabbit: 2nd Grade. As such, I had a much more personal connection to this game and the previous entry.
But is it better? Does it still hold up? What is it about this game that so tickles my nostalgia? In this short retrospective, I will seek to explain what I remember about playing this game, what I liked about, and what I still think works so very well. Like most educational games, its actually effectiveness might still hold up (though the technical qualifications for any modern system to play it is probably moot). So let's take a look at Reader Rabbit: 2nd Grade and wrap up my educational computer game series.
- Skillway - Presented by the two-headed Jester Riddle & Rhyme, Sam must traverse through a series of rooms collecting floating words or numbers that correspond to a designated subject. For example, collecting all the things that equal ten could mean reading Roman Numerals, the word ten, the number ten, or any number of mathematical equations which correspond to ten (think 7 + 3). This puzzle can also be used for pattern recognition with scientific and grammatical questions (finding all plurals or all solids, etc).
- Read & Reflect/Science Hallway - Presented by Monstrous Mirror (who also acts like something of an introductory guide to the character), this activity has the player reading a series of statements and determining whether or not the statement in question is a fact or an opinion (variations have you determining fact or fantasy or whether a sentence is the main idea of a paragraph or a detail). An easy enough game but the fact that it is teaching a skill that I find is somehow becoming more difficult to find in even adults leaves me feeling like this might very well be the most important activity in this entire game. Read and Reflect had you determine grammatical statements where Science had you examine questions related vaguely to scientific or nature questions (though some of these could be a bit off).
- Runway - A much more traditional action game presented by living suits of armor, this activity has the player directing Sam down a long corridor where they must collect objects (usually shapes) whilst avoiding everything that doesn't match the chosen object. A fairly simple game that I feel I've seen before in modern mobile games.
- Castle Journal - An activity once again hosted by Monstrous Mirror, this game is a nice idea that is unfortunately limited by the technology of the time. The principle of the activity was that you are presented a story or idea and it is your job to finish the thought or idea by writing out a paragraph or two about the story in question. In practice however, the game had no way of determining if what you were writing was actually worth anything. You could put a bunch of unrelated garbage on the page and the game would still give you full points. It was kind of silly.
- Enchanted Email - An activity hosted by Reader Rabbit, the object of this activity is to basically write an email to Reader Rabbit utilizing a selection of words, determining what word to fill in by whether or not the associated sentence requires a noun, verb, or adjective. The game has a lot of similarities to a MadLibs and you can create some rather ridiculous sentences. As long as the right type of word is in the right place, the game doesn't really care.