CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 15 . . . . March 29, 2002
Mia: Just in Time! is the most recent of three Kutoka-generated interactive odysseys featuring the winsome Mia, a "mouse with a mission." In this instance, Mia must travel back in time to determine the cause of a fire that has destroyed her home. On the first leg of her quest, Mia must solve various mathematical puzzles (with the player's assistance) in order to obtain each of the four parts that her friend Marty needs to complete a time machine. Once the machine is fully operational, it transports Mia to a time before the fire started. She then makes her way up to the house's attic, facing more mathematical challenges along the way, to do everything within her power to prevent the disaster.
Upon executing the MiaMath program for the first time, a player receives a warm welcome and basic instructions from host Scary Spider. After these preliminaries, the program launches a five-minute movie sequence that establishes the setting as well as the motivations that drive the plot. Additional movie clips throughout Mia: Just in Time! serve as segues between the interactive activities. These activities are designed to tease out players' math skills, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, geometry, fractions, and estimation. Although the game proceeds in a linear fashion insofar as one must progress through activities in a particular order, the location and appearance of collectible objects change from one round to the next. In total, without bypassing any movie segments or activities, a player may expect to spend as much as two to four hours on one game alone.
Much care and consideration have gone into the design and development of this Mia adventure, so that it reflects Kutoka's commitment to "innovation in edutainment." For instance, four levels of difficulty take into account the abilities of a wide range of elementary school math students, from the novice to the veteran. The higher the level's number, the more advanced are the concepts and terminology it contains. The expectation would be that a level one child should "grow into" the advanced levels in time. In any event, regardless of the player's mathematical sophistication, the game provides positive and negative feedback via visual and aural (sound) effects. Verbal feedback for a player who answers a question incorrectly is couched in the kindest, gentlest, and most encouraging tones: "not exactly," "uh-uh," "sorry," and "try again" are all examples of such diplomacy. Not only does the game offer "second chances" to answer questions correctly, responses are not timed -- although Mia does tap her foot impatiently after a lengthy pause.
Alongside its educational objectives, Kutoka aims for high standards in terms of its product's entertainment value. In this respect, the graphics, with their attention to the minutest shadows and details, are of exceptional quality. Digital experts have done a commendable job of rendering the engagingly anthropomorphic 3D cartoon characters in great detail, right down to their eyelashes and whiskers. They have also rendered realistic perspectives from various angles, especially in the tool shed scene where the player first views Mia from a point high overhead, in a far corner of the ceiling. Certain whimsical touches -- a Lego block, cookie cutter, or hockey puck that serves as Mia-sized steps or stairs - add to the product's aesthetic appeal. The sound effects, too, are well-chosen: the characters' voices match their appearance, with Mia's voice ringing high and crisp and clear, for example, and Mole's resonating soft and low and gravelly.
MiaMath loads onto a computer's hard drive, but the actual activities are stored on two CD-ROMS (7 on disk 1, 5 on disk 2). Switching back and forth between disks is a bit of a nuisance. Also, since there is so much to take in the first few times one plays the game, I would have liked to have a key to depress to repeat the instructions preceding each activity. These minor pet peeves aside, however, Mia: Just in Time! is a well-conceived, well-tested product. It makes learning fun: no wonder Kutoka has won over 45 national and international awards!
The other titles in the Mia series are Mia: The Search for Grandma's Remedy and Mia: Romaine's New Hat; they strengthen reading and science skills, respectively. For additional information on Mia products or on the corporation itself, consult Kutoka's Web site (www.kutoka.com).
Nepean, ON's Julie Chychota looks forward to the next Mia adventure...
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.