Heroes of the Savannah

Reviewed by: David & Steven Reitter, send e-mail
Published by: Interactive Television Entertainment, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 95 or higher, Pentium computer, 64MB RAM, VGA video or higher, 16-bit color, mouse, sound card
MSRP: $14.95

Interactive Television Entertainment (ITE ApS) was founded in 1988 in Copenhagen, and in 1990 the interactive TV show "Hugo the TV Troll" appeared for the first time on Danish television. Since then, the company has been actively producing interactive kids TV entertainment for markets in Europe and South America. Hugo the Troll shows are currently aired from Denmark to Venezuela (who knew?). In 1998, ITE founded the company ITE Media ApS, which develops games based on the characters from the interactive TV shows. Today, the games are sold on PC, PlayStation, Nintendo Game Boy (not GBA), Set Top Boxes based on the Open TV standard and Internet portals.

Like all Hugo titles, it helps if you've seen at least a few episodes of the cartoon TV show, but young kids soon get the idea anyway. In this game Hugo the Troll, and his friends Fernando the Toucan and Jean Paul the Monkey have moved out to Hugo's hut in the Savannah. Suddenly a very busy but exhausted stork arrives in the cave. The stork needs the help of Hugo and his friends to deliver the last three eggs on the stork's delivery route.

Dumb fathers who can't get the Ostrich egg to its rightful place are an embarrassment to grown men everywhere. Right off the bat the game suggests that you get the mouse from the lion, but I never figured out how to do it. The 9 year old who tested the game for us more or less whipped through the Ostrich egg delivery, essentially leaving some you-know-what on my face.

In addition to the Ostrich egg dopiness, you've got Fernando and the Eagle's egg, where you guide the toucan through treetops and mountain labyrinths, while keeping an eye out for flying elephants, irritating monkeys and several other dangers hiding in the mountain grottos. As well, Jean Paul and the Crocodile egg is a bouncy sort of quest (you get to jump on trampolines to get around and leap dangerous animals) to reach the crocodile nest.

The Photo Safari, in which you have to quickly take snapshots of certain animals, was interesting only briefly. There weren't enough key elements to keep the 6 year old's attention. Best of all however, as usual for real youngsters, the Memory Game lets kids turn over tiles to see what the various animals eat, what their young look like, where they live and so on.

Cons: Although ITE recommends Heroes of the Savannah for 6-12 year olds, for our 6 year old tester, the learning curve was a bit like a vertical climb - the game was very difficult for him. There are certain things you have to know in order to play, but the information is usually only known by experienced gamers - the standard sorts of things that a more experienced youngster (7-9 years old) usually knows. Definitely not for very young beginners - stick to Reader Rabbit. It was difficult getting started because the game tells you press F1 and displays an F1 icon on-screen. Off course you're supposed to press F1 on your keyboard. Worse is the instruction that 'after choosing the face you want, click on the VEE' - the only problem being that it's a check mark (some Danish to English localization problems we think?). Needs a user interface review by someone who knows kids games. Companies such as Edmark, Riverdeep and The Learning Company have all proven that great kids' user interfaces can be created for a variety of titles.

Pros: Our 9 year old tester really enjoyed this one. Eight of the other ITE game titles are supported by full online game engines, allowing kids to play with the peers around the world, in a kid-safe environment. Note that Denmark is a little more liberal than some other countries (Canada and the U.S. for instance?). As well, don't let your kids miss the Hugo's World part of the hugo-net web site. Game and site are both recommended.

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