Monday, September 5, 2011

Reader Rabbit hops over to the Wii

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reader Rabbit has been teaching kids with his entertaining antics for 25 years, and now he is doing it on the Nintendo Wii.

  • Reader Rabbit has been teaching kids with his entertaining antics for 25 years, and now he is doing it on the Nintendo Wii with


    Reader Rabbit has been teaching kids with his entertaining antics for 25 years, and now he is doing it on the Nintendo Wii with "Reader Rabbit 1st Grade."


Reader Rabbit has been teaching kids with his entertaining antics for 25 years, and now he is doing it on the Nintendo Wii with "Reader Rabbit 1st Grade."

"Reader Rabbit 1st Grade" is a learning adventure where kids ages 6 to 8 help Reader Rabbit and Sam the Lion solve the mystery of why it is raining umbrellas and galoshes. In the process of sleuthing, kids will meet interesting characters and play eight learning games. These games teach math, science, problem-solving, art and language arts skills.

This new Nintendo Wii game from Graffiti Entertainment is based on the original 2001 "Reader Rabbit 1st Grade: Capers on Cloud Nine" computer software game created by The Learning Company (now owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

In porting this game over to the Wii, Graffiti Entertainment did a good job in keeping the charm of the original story and its characters. When Reader Rabbit and Sam the Lion discover that it is raining weird things, they jump into their magical flying ship and navigate to the aerial city of "Cloud 9." Queen Cumulus, a friendly, fluffy character, greets them with a song and then asks for their help in stopping the production of rain gear that is polluting the skies. Queen Cumulus directs the brainy bunny to an island that is flinging the raingear up into her kingdom.

At the island, Reader and Sam meet a misguided inventor who had thought that if he filled the sky with raingear, it would no longer rain. When the inventor learns of the pollution he is causing, he agrees to cease the production of raingear. But before he can turn off his machines, he needs Reader and Sam to find three items. Kids help Reader and Sam to find the three items and, in the process, play a number of learning games.

These learning activities are also derived from the original software game. They can be played on three levels of difficulty and auto-level, unless parents turn off this option in the settings.


Reader Rabbit for the Wii.

Kids must play the learning activities in order to move the story forward. For example, to be able to get to the raingear-flinging machine, kids need to distract the guard dog by putting a sandwich in his bowl. This means going to the local sandwich shop, where you must choose and pay for three ingredients to make a sandwich. Kids have to select the correct coins to pay for each of the ingredients. The ingredients are novel, so that a sandwich can include giggle-inducing fried worms, dog bones and cupcakes.

Another way this game ties its learning activities into the story is that kids need to earn singing marbles. The marbles are rewarded when completing educational activities and are a key component to acquiring one of the three items needed by the inventor. This needed item is locked behind a door controlled by a big talking machine that loves patterns and sequences. If kids complete patterns using the singing colored marbles, the machine will open the door to the needed item.

One of the marble-earning activities includes a game where kids learn science facts by dropping gumballs down a series of ramps to land in the correct answer slot. For the question "A (blank) is the largest mammal," kids will want to slant the ramps so that the ball falls into the slot with the word "whale" on it.

While the story sounds kind of convoluted — boots, slickers, and umbrellas falling from the sky — it works within the context of this game. And the educational activities are all fun games to explore in and of themselves.

However, this game isn't perfect. The controls do not make good use of the Wii's capabilities. You do not control Reader Rabbit; instead you point the Wii remote at the edges of the screen until the arrow turns green. Then you click the "A" button and wait while the scene and animation change. To play the educational activities, you must point the Wii remote at the screen to land precisely on an object and wait for the arrow to turn into a hand — indicating that you can pick it up by clicking the "A" button. You can then move the object and drop it by clicking "A" again. This method of interaction requires precise control and can be somewhat frustrating. Parents who own a classic controller may want to give that method a try. We tried adding an optional Nunchuk and that too was cumbersome.

For kids with good manual dexterity when it comes to using the Wii remote, "Reader Rabbit 1st Grade" can be a fun way to explore educational activities on the Wii. Reader Rabbit, Sam and their animated book friend offer kids lots of help as they play through the educational activities. They are supportive, funny, and always upbeat. And the story unfolds with full video cutscenes. Parents can even check their kids' progress via a Progress report.

Score: 3 stars (out of 4)

Rating: E for Everyone

Best for ages 6-8

Publisher: Graffiti Entertainment,

Platform: Nintendo Wii

Price: $19.99

Gudmundsen is the editor of Computing With Kids ( magazine. Contact her at


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