Saturday, January 24, 2015

Franklin's Activity Center!

(UPDATE: Thank goodness. The copyright nonsense I was dealing with before has been resolved, and it only took 2 days.)

I decided this time that I would make a video, rather than just taking screenshots. This is because, well, I just thought a video would be more interesting. Now, unfortunately, there were a few problems with this:

1. A few of the activities (the dinosaur bone collecting game and the "Frogger" clone) did not work at all in SheepShaver for some reason. I'll try and look into it, but I am planning on making a video of it using VirtualBox or VMware or something like that.

2. I forgot about an activity (one I've never actually played before). All I know about it is that it involves clicking on a book; I would assume it's just storybooks or something. (EDIT: I just tried it and it turns out it's just the swap puzzles.)

3. Due to annoying circumstances, I don't have a decent video editor on my computer. This means I'm either limited to booting from an Ubuntu Studio flash drive I made and using OpenShot (which is too inconvenient for me), or trying to use YouTube's video editor (which is a piece of crap). Also, I recorded the commentary separately, after making the video, because of stuff I won't go into here, and YouTube's video editor won't let me add my own audio.

But enough about that, here's the video!

Now, onto some news that I mentioned in my lost audio commentary. First of all, I now have a good .ISO image for KidPhonics (thanks to HomeStarRunnerTron of Macintosh Garden), so expect that to be my next blog post.

Next is a bit more boring: I have a new screenshot from Learning Voyage: Sand Trapped! now. It's a color screenshot from the clown-dunking game, but it's a bit tilted. For copyright reasons, I'm not going to upload it; it was tilted on purpose, and it was used in a video by the Classworks team. Speaking of which, yes, Classworks still exists, and it's all online, and it's now being handled by Curriculum Advantage. That's a rather boring name, to be honest, but they have not ruined it by making it boring. What they have done is added an achievements system (seriously, what is it with educational websites having achievements all of a sudden?), made a version for high school (which is a bit odd, although it may have existed before and I never knew about it), and updated one of the games (the current Classworks uses NumberMaze Challenge instead of the original NumberMaze... I think).

Oh! And speaking of Learning Voyage, I'm still on the lookout for the games (Sand Trapped especially), so if anyone comes across a copy, please let me know. And if you find a copy for Macintosh, please put it on Macintosh Garden. I would really appreciate it.

Well, that's about enough from me! See you next time, when I cover Davidson's KidPhonics, aka Davidson's Learning Center Series: Phonics. Til then!


Monday, January 19, 2015

Bad news and good news

All right, first the bad news. So I'm a little bit ticked off right now. Why would that be? Well, the short answer is I won't be able to do a review of KidPhonics in the near future, as I thought I would.

Now for the long answer.

So, as is the case with many of the games and stuff I've talked about, I don't actually own a physical copy of KidPhonics. I managed to come across a disc image of it through... questionably legal means. Now, here's the thing: it was the Mac version. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course; there's a wonderful Mac emulator called SheepShaver that I use for all my old-school Mac needs. It was a .SIT file, to be used with the StuffIt Expander program and nothing else. I have a copy of it running on SheepShaver, and it works well enough. I expanded the file and discovered that the expanded file was not in the correct format: instead of being a .ISO image, it was a .TXT file. It was "[name omitted to protect privacy of website I went to].iso.txt".

So, okay, obviously I couldn't use this. Fixing it was easy enough, I just changed the extension so that the ".TXT" part wasn't there, and it worked fine. ...Is what I would have said if it were true. But nope! It gave me an error that it wasn't recognized or couldn't be read or something like that.

So, I went to the site where I downloaded it originally, and I noticed there was an alternative download link. Unfortunately, by "alternative", they meant a file-sharing site where I had to specify twice that I didn't want priority downloading, and then it asked me to either sign in with social networking, or create an account with them. Nothing doing.

So yeah, unless I happen to come across either a genuine copy or an ISO image from a different source, there will be no KidPhonics review in the near future. This is why I said in my post from two weeks ago that I didn't want to make promises.

But fear not! The good news is all is not lost! I have a backup plan: Franklin's Activity Center! I'm very excited about this one, since I actually have a physical copy of it, so I can actually capture photos of it (and possibly video too). It's especially exciting since there are no screenshots or anything from this game online. That means, of course, that for the first time in the history of this blog, I will be providing the first online screenshots for it!

So, are you guys excited? Anyone else remember this game? What other obscure computer games do you think I should review? I'm always open to suggestions.

Expect Franklin's Activity Center later this week. See ya then!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More info on Learning Voyage

(Please note that the information from this post is outdated. A more recent and accurate post can be found here.)

Ladies and gentlemen, it seems I was wrong about a few things in my last blog post. I am here to correct those things, because I've found enough stuff to warrant a new blog post about it.

First off, the titles. The games were not, in fact, divided up by subject. Learning Voyage Grade 3 had games for both reading and math, and same thing with Grade 4.

Next, I still get confused about publishers and developers. So I have no idea whether Learningway/Learning Way/Learning Ways published the Learning Voyage games, or simply developed them, and in addition, the game is copyrighted by Davidson and Associates (the company behind the Blaster games).

And finally, more about the titles. Not only were they not divided up by subject, but they had official names as well. For example, Grade 3 was titled "Learning Voyage: Sand Trapped!"...

Excited Game Title!

And Grade 4 was titled "Learning Voyage: Swamped!"

Who ARE these people, anyway?
I'm almost sad that these were the only games in this series. Almost sad.

Now, while I don't have any color screenshots of the clown dunking game I mentioned last time, I have a color screenshot of a different game I also remember: a game where you pick the verb from a sentence in order to get a monkey to climb up a tree so that he can dive into a puddle of water and GOOD GRIEF THESE GAMES WERE RIDICULOUS. *takes deep breath* Okay. I'm better. Here's a screenshot for your viewing pleasure:

The first thing that comes to mind is: MONKEY BOOOOOOOYS!
Like with the clown game, if you answer enough questions correctly, you also get to choose how the monkey dives.

Diving in monochrome because that's what I have.
Oh yeah, something's missing from this one: Game Tokens. Don't know what they would be used for since I've never played this game outside of ClassWorks.

But I can assume from this screenshot of a hub from Swamped! (that's the Grade 4 one) that they would be used for something extra, some sort of prize or advancing the story or something. Here ya go:

From left to right: the daughter, the robot, the dad, the mom, and the son.
So there we go! I'm so close to solving the mystery of these games (well, a mystery for me at least), and now all that's left is to find them in some way or another. For my next post, I'm going to talk about another Davidson game called KidPhonics, and this time I'll use screenshots I take myself instead of from online. I'm certainly looking forward to it, but I just need to find the time. I'll aim for a week this time, but I may not be able to. Either way, I'll see ya then!


Minor update: I have now created a TV Tropes page for the games; go check it out and feel free to give it some Wiki Magic love.

Friday, January 2, 2015


(Please note that the information from this post is outdated. A more recent and accurate post can be fond here.)

HOO! Good morning/evening/afternoon/whenever the hell you read this. It is I, Johnny, here once again after completely skipping out on 2014. And another thing: happy freakin' new year!

So yeah, I guess I'd better start with some info (like where I've been) before I get into the meat and potatoes of the post (today I will be covering the Learning Voyage series, in addition to some other stuff).

All right, so Fall 2013. Better start there, as that was when I made my last post. Without going into too much detail, I'll say that I didn't do so well in school during the fall 2013 semester. To say the least, I... didn't take it well. I spent a few months during what would have been my spring 2014 semester trying (and failing) to find a job, then took one class at a community college during the summer and went back to being a full-time student during fall 2014. School went much better during summer and fall 2014 than summer and fall 2013, so I'm incredibly happy.

As for why I haven't updated since 2013, it was partly that, and partly because I forgot (as I sometimes do) that I even have this blog. Plus, many of the things I want to talk about are so obscure, I can't even find pictures or videos of them!

Which brings me to Learning Voyage. Unfortunately, I only have a few screenshots that are in grayscale, as I don't have a copy of the game itself and it falls into the "extremely obscure" category (which is right below "so obscure that there are exactly zero photos/videos/whatevers of it"). On the plus side, screenshots are screenshots.

Okay, so here's a little bit of background before I talk about the games themselves. A long time ago, I saw a video on YouTube of a very cheesy and downright awful FMV (full-motion video) intro to an old 90's edutainment computer game. When I saw the video, I thought, "Oh my God, I actually remember this game!" It was yet another game that I only played at school, and not at home. The reason? It was part of Knowledge Adventure's ClassWorks Gold, a suite of edutainment games for use exclusively and specifically in schools. The suite is now completely and totally Internet-based and is owned by a different company, Curriculum Advantage, but from what I can tell (which isn't a lot), many of the games are the same.

Despite being published by Knowledge Adventure, ClassWorks Gold contained games from other publishers, including Davidson and Associates, Educational Publishing Concepts (whose "games" were just quizzes created specifically for ClassWorks), Tom Snyder Productions (the company behind the original Science Court games), and the publishers of this game: Learning Way... Which I've also seen stylized as "Learningway" and "LearningWay".

Now, sadly, the video I mentioned is long gone, so I had no way of finding out what it was called when I decided I wanted to track it down. Long story short, I eventually, through Googling, not only found out the name of one of the games I distinctly remembered playing in that series, but also came across screenshots of other games in that series, as well as other games in unrelated series that I remembered playing.

But I'm not here to discuss those. The focus of this post will be on a particular Learning Voyage game: Learning Voyage Grade 3 Reading.

The activity I most remember playing was a clown dunking activity. The intro to the activity is as follows:

Alien-bug kid: Here's a game that's sure to make a huge splash! (rimshot) Ahem. (he proceeds to explain how to play the game proper) Once you finish, you get to dunk the clown! Choose how you wanna do it, then click the "Dunk!" button. And remember: don't try this at home; this clown is a drained professional! (rimshot) All right, I'll leave the humor to the clown.

Of course, that's just how I remember it, and even though I have a good memory, I could always be wrong (the SmartyPants Tales of Beatrix Potter theme song, anyone?).

So yeah, you start by answering questions about a sentence, or putting parts of a story in order, or something along those lines.

If you weren't scared of clowns before...
Then, once you answer enough questions correctly, you get to dunk him. You have several oh-so-humorous ways to dunk him. Select a combination of ones you want, click "Dunk!", and watch him fall into the watery abyss below.

And by "watery abyss", of course, I mean "DUNKING POOL".
There are other activities as well, but this one was the most memorable.

Now, as for that intro...

Dad: What? I told you to put the ant traps by the doors!
(cut to a bunch of ants inside the family's home)
Boy: Whoops. I thought you said to put the trapdoors by the ants!

...Yeah. These games are like that. But there's one thing I know: I MUST HAVE THIS GAME! And I will not give up until I find it! And hopefully others in the series as well.

Oh yeah, um, random screenshot from ClassWorks itself because... it exists.

This screenshot took me way back when I saw it...
And that will be it for now. Next time, I hope to have other games for y'all. Also, I'm postponing the toy I had been talking about for a while for a couple of reasons:

1. I don't have any pictures of it.
2. I doubt anyone remembers my talking about it by now.

So next time will be... I don't know. I'll figure it out. I don't wanna make any promises, because I'm worried that I won't have any high-quality pictures of it. But anyway, see ya then!