Multimedia Exploration Journal: December 14, 2003
I just can't get enough of this cheap CD-ROM entertainment. This time, the
subject is 3 different 4-packs of kid-oriented CD-ROMs: Games for Boys, Games
for Girls, and a collection of educational titles for very young
children, published by Simon & Schuster.
Simon & Schuster Educational 4-pack
This collection assures the buyer that it is "Award Winning", so it better
Cheerios Play Time
It is interesting to note that these discs are (c) 2003 (i.e., very recent) and also have an 'EC'
rating-- early childhood. I have never encountered that ESRB rating before.
The bonus disc (which appears to actually work) contains lots of BMP and WAV
files, as well as .anm files which seem to have instructions describing which
BMP and WAV files go together. Scanning through the BMP images with an image
viewer, it is apparent that they are supposed to be strung together to give
the appearance of FMV. Somewhat inefficient. However, it looks like many of
these BMP have transparency information and are supposed to be displayed on
top of static backgrounds. So the developers may have had some reason for
doing things this way. Though it still seems like they could have
concatenated the BMP images in AVI files while retaining the transparency data.
Title screen: I have the worst time understanding how that bee can
fly with a Cheerio glued to its wing; is that the best mascot they could
come up with?
That's right-- A Cheerios(R) cereal branded educational CD-ROM,
a "wholesome CD-ROM! for ages 3-5". I am at a loss to know what do to with
the CD-ROM as the CD-ROM root contains one directory called "CHEERIOS? PLAY TIME/"
which contains 2 files:
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root 33077616 Oct 9 2001 INSTALLER
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root 0 Oct 1 2001 INSTALL_CHK
Maybe it installs better under the officially supported Windows and Mac operating
systems. No matter. I was not too pumped about playing it. Though the package
also included a bonus CD-ROM that looks identical to the first but with the
words "BONUS CD-ROM" emblazoned on the front. Maybe the bonus is that it
Under Wine, InstallShield fails to initialize correctly.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
That's Multimedia Players Present Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, to be
precise. With a distinction like "Multimedia Players", there is bound to
be some kind of FMV. The game is (c) 1995, runs on Win95, Win3.1, and Mac.
It also has a winvideo/ installation directory which is promising.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is apparently based on a song written by the
CD-ROM's producers exclusively for this CD-ROM. Judging from the lyrics, it
has a lot to do with the English alphabet.
There are 100+ AVI files encoded with Indeo 3.2. It turns out that the
Multimedia Players are a group of 5 multicultural children with no notion
of shame, but a gleeful song and dance for each letter of the alphabet. The
letter songs all take the same form:
"<letter>: My name is <name starting with letter>
and my friend's
name is <another name starting with letter>. We come from
<location starting with letter> and we love <something
starting with letter>."
I was curious to know what they would do for the letter 'X'. As best as I
could make out, it went like this:
"X: My name is Xavier and my friend's name is Xylon. We come from X-land and we
No joke, or at least that's what I could discern.
Xavier, originally from X-Land
Beyond that, there are plenty of things to do on the CD-ROM, from reading
stories to recording your own songs (microphone not included). Installation
under Wine proceeds smoothly enough but runs into some runtime errors and
I can't get past the idea that these are probably the earliest gigs in any
of these young actors' careers. One or more of them may become famous somewhere
down the road. And this CD-ROM is going to end up on one of those "Look
how they started out" TV shows or websites.
Curious George Learns Phonics
Full title: Curious Geoge Learns Phonics for Kindergarten-1st Grade.
I vaguely recall Curious George as some kind of monkey popular with young
children. Another CD-ROM for Windows and Macintosh. This one is published
recently enough that it knows what an iMac is. But it only contains 11
megabytes of data and no sign of FMV.
Installation proceeds perfectly with Wine. And it turns out that I spoke too
soon about the multimedia-- The game actually does container a number of
smallish Smacker files as well as the 16- and 32-bit Windows decoding DLLs.
Attempting to run the game under Wine results in a failure to find various
game files which are clearly present
Richard Scarry's Busytown
"Give your child a sense of accomplishment as they learn." A 1999 title that
teaches all kinds of basic skills. According to the CD-ROM copy, it complies
with the stringent standards set forth by the
National Association for the Education
of Young Children. The group really does exist, or at least has some
kind of web presence even though its name sounds suspiciously similar to
one of those weird, euphemistic special interest organizations thrown
together to lobby for a specific cause during election time, like "Concerned
Citizens Helping To Shape a Better Tomorrow" or "Association Opposed To
Destroying The Entire Planet".
The disc has a data directory with several types of multimedia files. Among
them are MIDIs, PCM WAVs and odd QT files. What makes the QT files odd is that they
are very small (7k -> 30k) and only contain a mdat chunk. Where is the moov
chunk? Anyway, the largest files in this directory are the .btf files which
is a mystery format right now.
The game installs more or less smoothly under Wine, and also seems to run.
However, much of sound comes out as loud static. Not to say that the game
cannot still be fun, goodness, no. To the left is a picture of my cat
joyriding through town in his pickup truck and seeking a little offroad
action-- right into where a hippo and his pig friend are trying to enjoy
a sandwich outside a cafe. Wouldn't you know, the cops show up, but I got
off with a slap on the wrist-- repeatedly.
Pulled over by The Man, err, Dog
Games For Boys
A 4-pack of CD-ROMs that the instructions guarantee are "Games Just For
Boys(TM)". Assembly be Encore
Software. I think it is curious that boys would care about
Chase Platinum MasterCard or checks from
Checks Unlimited, but the
package includes marketing literature for both.
This appears to be the same as the title I covered in
a previous entry.
A computer game to capitalize on those little cars. Multimedia is delegated
to Smacker files. Installation under Wine proceeds rather smoothly until
the end when there is an unhandled exception. Running the game is problematic
without DirectX 7 installed.
Ah good, a Quicktime logo on this game based on the timeless Tonka line
of construction vehicles. Alas, the QT files are a bit sparse on the CD-ROM,
save for in a SAMPLER/ directory that pushes some of the company's other
educational titles. The primary game has a DATA/ directory that only has one
file that is obviously a FMV file (MOVIE1.MVE, ~4 MB). Nothing inside looks
familiar except for a 'MVE4' marker at the start, a sample rate, and some 8-bit,
unsigned PCM audio.
The installer does a good job under Wine. When run, Wine does a
good job of explaining to the program what it is supposed to think about my
computer when it uses its "System Analyzer". The game wants 256-color mode
before it is run, though.
Crayola Vehicle Voyages
Why purchase Crayola Crayons and draw when you can purchase a much more
expensive computer and this CD-ROM title? A title that chooses to use Smacker
files for its FMV. Installation under Wine, as usual, goes quite smoothly and then
there is the unhandled exception during play.
Games For Girls
At least the analogous Games For Girls package comes with an AOL CD, not
Rugrats: Totally Angelica Boredom Buster (MobyGames entry)
I know this has something to do with a certain Nickelodeon
franchise, and it also bears the QT symbol. This is a little odd since,
at first glance, there do not appear to be any QT files on the disc-- only
Smacker and WAV files. Installing the game might help reveal some QT files,
but the game fails installation under Wine.
Anyway, no other multimedia files jump out at me. Installation under Wine
runs smoothly enough until I receive a "Severe" dialog box advising that the
setup program could not find the working directory. Too bad. I really did
want to see what this 'game' was all about. According to the literature
from various websites, the CD-ROM simulates various activities such as
composing songs and rehearsing dance routines all in preparation for your
own girl band to compete in a band battle.
The first thing I do with this disc is scan for familiar media files. There
is a directory called "Loose Chippin's". Inside, there are two Cinepak-encoded
Quicktime files: One is a music video for a song called "Inspiration" by
a group called-- what else?-- Loose Chippin's, and the other is an interview
with the Loose Chippin's members. A Google search for the group
turns up a bunch of pages for this particular software title. The sites
insist that the group is an all-new British girl band pop sensation.
I hesitate to criticise anything about the group, the song or the video,
simply because it looks like they are really trying hard, really putting
forth their very best effort, even if they come across as sort of an off-brand
And I would hate to say anything negative and then have to admit that I
sort of dig the song.
Crayola Magic Princess Paper Doll Maker
I expect about as much success from this game as I did from its Games For
Boys counterpart. As for media, the disc contains many AIFF audio files
and DXR (Macromedia?) files. The game installs under Wine perfectly but
expects a 256-color mode to run.
Madeline: Rainy Day Activities
Nothing about this title or disc stands out at me, except for the fact that
the disc has the DiC logo, an animation studio responsible for a childhood
favorite-- Inspector Gadget (the original cartoon, not the live-action
movie series). The setup.exe silently fails when run under Wine, thus bringing
investigation on this title to a screeching halt.
by Mike Melanson (mike at multimedia.cx).
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