The Magic School Bus (video game series)

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The Magic School Bus franchise includes many units of educational software published by Microsoft. The video game series of interactive adventures was based on The Magic School Bus book series and public television series.[1]

Computer[edit]

Most of the original titles were created by the software company Music Pen in collaboration with Microsoft and Scholastic Press, the publisher of the Magic School Bus book series. To access the home market, Microsoft created a video game brand called Microsoft Home, and a software series was created under that umbrella.[2][3]

Though in the cartoon series, the bus was obviously animated in the usual way, in the CD-ROM games, it is typically animated with computer generated imagery. In all these titles the user gets to "drive" the bus, which almost always involves clicking on the steering wheel and choosing a location. (The exception is The Magic School Bus Explores Inside the Earth where it is the gear shift instead of the steering wheel.) Most of the games have about seven different locations, including the classroom. There is always some goal for the user in each one. (Tip: However the CD rom series feature the same characters from the TV series and TV tie in books; not the original series by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen.) The video game series (both original titles and activity centers) are targeted for children ages 5-10 (kindergarten through fifth grade). In the original titles, if counting just the classic series books (the books by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen), the first six games are based with the books from the book series.

System requirements vary among the games. Games with the Macintosh indication can be used on a Macintosh LC 550 or newer with a minimum of System 7.1, 8 MB RAM, 8 MB hard disk space, color monitor and 2X CD-ROM drive.

The Magic School Bus Explores the Solar System (1994)[edit]

This game is essentially a computer version of the book The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System (and the cartoon adaptation from the TV series on PBS; The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space). Except that Ms. Frizzle is lost as soon as the bus flies away from Earth. The user can fly the bus to any planet he or she chooses and play experiments and click on things there. To win the game, the user has to discover the whereabouts of the Friz. To do so they have to play a "whatsit" game to earn a token which gives them a clue as to which planet Ms. Frizzle is on. Once Ms. Frizzle is found, the bus will return to the classroom and the game begins again. All nine planets, plus the moon can be visited. When the gas giants are visited, the bus lands on one of their moons (because in reality, one can't at all land on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune as they are gas giants, lack a solid ground, and are way to dangerous to land on if you land on them). This game is also one of the few in the series in which Liz can talk.

The game was one of the chosen few "highly visual scholastic programs" in the Citrus Country library System's new youth CD-ROM station in 1997.[4] The Spokesman-Review deemed it a "fact-and-fun filled ride".[5]

The Magic School Bus Explores the Human Body (1994, Macintosh)[edit]

This game is based on the book The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body and the episode from the TV series The Magic School Bus for Lunch. Arnold has become the class' next field trip. The user can drive the bus to 12 different organs. In some locations, the player can leave the bus. Each place has an arcade game and a science experiment and a lot to explore. This is the first game that allows the user to sign in and go to the back of the bus. This is also one of the few games in which Liz can talk. This is also the only game to not have a "missing collectible" minigame (where the player must find a specific and fixed number of missing collectibles).

Quandary and All Game Guide both gave the game 70/100.[6][7][8] Superkids gave it 3.5/5 stars.[7]

The Milwaukee Sentinel was bemused that the program got a kindergartner playtester interested in the small intestines.[9] Bangor Daily News deemed it a "splendid mix of experiments, explanations, and games".[10] The Daily Gazette deemed it "delightful".[11] The Boston Globe tested the problem on the latest Compaq Presario computer, yet experience game-breaking technical issues; the newspaper therefore commented that "Microsoft should be ashamed of itself".[1] The Economist said the game was less informative than DK Multimedia titles.[12] The game was the 6th most popular education titles in the education category sold in Software Etc. and Babbage's stores in the Washington area in the week ending September 27, 1997.[13]

The Magic School Bus Explores the Ocean (1995, Macintosh)[edit]

This game is based on The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor and the TV episode (and TV tie in book) The Magic School Bus Gets Eaten. The class has taken a field trip to the beach. There they found a message in a bottle, with clues to a treasure. The user explores the ocean and follows clues that lead him/her to the treasure. This was the first CD-ROM that featured the entire cast on the bus and the only one where the classroom can't be visited. This is also the first game to save the game in multiple files. A Nintendo DS version was released in 2011.

The game won an award for Home PC - Holiday Gift Guide - The Best Programs of 1996.[14] The Cedartown Standard praised the game for combining fun with education.[15]

The Magic School Bus Explores Inside the Earth (1996)[edit]

This game is based on the book The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth and the television episode (and TV tie in book) "The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top." Arnold has lost some of the rocks and minerals in his collection. He is missing four rocks. This is the first game in the software to have a specific number of missing collectibles (a set number of it). The user (who has to find four missing rocks) explores several places such as a canyon, a geode, a fault, a volcano, and even an undersea environment which features a subduction zone, a mid-ocean ridge and an underwater volcano. The user can collect rocks in various ways. The goal is to find replacements for the rocks and minerals Arnold lost. When the user creates a file, up to six files can be saved at the maximum. Even though Liz speaks in this game, her voice is deep instead of high-pitched.

Superkids gave the game a score of 4.3/5.[16] Alamo PC Organization wrote that "the program is both educating and entertaining".[17]

The Magic School Bus Explores in the Age of Dinosaurs (1996)[edit]

This game is based on the book The Magic School Bus in the Time of the Dinosaurs and the TV episode The Magic School Bus The Busasaurus. This is the last game in the software series to be based with the books from the original series books. The next game after this one (The Magic School Bus Explores the Rainforest) however is based with the TV episode (The Magic School Bus In the Rainforest) and the TV tie-in book adaptation, but not any of the books from the classic series books. Ms. Frizzle is missing three photographs of prehistoric animals from her photo album (which can either be "Meat Eating Dinosaurs", "Plant Eating Dinosaurs", or "Reptiles That Aren't Dinosaurs"; chosen at random) of her last trip to the age of dinosaurs and the user has to find replacements. There are three missing photos. After the player finds all three of the photos, the Friz awards them with a mask of a prehistoric animal (Tyrannosaurus rex for "Meat Eating Dinosaurs", or Brachiosaurus for "Plant Eating Dinosaurs", or Pterodactylus for "Reptiles That Aren't Dinosaurs") to print and cut out. There are seven different places (Triassic Arizona, Triassic Argentina, Jurassic Colorado, Jurassic Tanzania, Jurassic Tethys Sea, Cretaceous Mongolia, and Cretaceous Alberta). Unlike in its two adaptations (the said book from the book series The Magic School Bus: In the Time of the Dinosaurs and the cartoon version The Magic School Bus: The Busasaurus) where the Bus transforms into a time machine, the Bus (in this version), it however, transforms into three different prehistoric animals (not a time machine unlike in the book and TV versions). The prehistoric animals (one from every time period in the Mesozoic era) that the Bus transforms into is Coelophysis (for the Triassic Period), Stegosaurus (for the Jurassic Period), and Pteranodon (for the Cretaceous Period). Occasionally, the time machine on the bus may malfunction and take the player to one of two cutscenes from the Cretaceous (both cutscenes have the Bus take form as a Pteranodon from the Cretaceous; which is seen for Cretaceous Mongolia and Cretaceous Alberta). However, to skip the cutscenes, the player can click on the "X" sign. But there are two cutscenes. The first cutscene is the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The T. Rex, he tries to chew the Bus and ends up eating the "X" sign (leaving that untouched as he tries to chomp down and eat his way on everything else on the bus). The second one is in the Cretaceous; set where meteors shower down where the dinosaurs face extinction.

This game has very elaborate CGI forms for the bus. Although the classroom location song has changed in the following games, the game's classroom location song is the same as The Magic School Bus Explores Inside the Earth, but had added more rhythm in between. Also, in this game the user can replace previously saved data on one of the files when all 6 have already been saved.

All Game Guide and Quandary both gave it 70/100.[18] Metzomagic gave it 3.5/5 stars.[19]

Microsoft donated copies of the game to high school students via the University of Maine Upward Bound Program.[20]

The Magic School Bus Explores the Rainforest (1997)[edit]

The class is decorating their classroom for "Rainforest Day." Wanda brought a "Right-Away-Rainforest Toolbox" that could do the job, but three or four "bio-clones" are missing from the kit. Ms. Frizzle takes the class on a field trip to the Costa Rican rainforest to find the (three or four) missing bio-clones. This is the only game where Ms. Frizzle's middle name is mentioned. This game was the first game (first of three games) in the CD-ROM series not to be based with any books (original series/TV tie in books). However, the game is based with the TV episode from the TV series (The Magic School Bus In the Rainforest). But this is the last one in the CD ROM series that is based with any adaptation. Starting in The Magic School Bus Explores the World of Animals, this following CD ROM is not based with any adaptation (classic series books, TV tie in books, or the TV series). This is also the second game following The Magic School Bus Explores the Solar System where the back of the Bus cannot be visited. It was also the last one created by Music Pen.

All game Guide gave it 80/100.[21]

The Magic School Bus Explores the World of Animals (1999)[edit]

While Tina Marie Goff continues her role as Ms. Frizzle in the software series, this is the first game in the software series to replace the original voice actors of the eight children from the television show. Starting with this game, this game is the first of two CD ROMs to not be based with the books (original series/TV tie ins) nor TV series. This game is not based with any adaptation. In this game, the user has to find all the four missing animals from the incorrect habitats and send them back to their own habitats where they each belong. Unlike the previous games, the user enters his or her name before playing the game instead of creating a file within creating a face on the Driver's License screen, and the save option was removed so the game is automatically saved when quitting the game. So if the player plays the game at another time, they have two options (continue the saved game or collect 4 missing collectibles). When traveling to certain habitats, one of the children is transformed into an animal, e.g. Arnold becomes a bull frog in the swamp (which is a reference to how the bus transformed into a bullfrog from the TV episode and TV tie book adaptation The Magic School Bus Hops Home).

Superkids gave the game a score of 4.7/5.[22]

Bangor Daily News said the game "is jampacked with unusual animals, interesting information, games, puzzles, and experiments".[23]

The Magic School Bus Explores Bugs (2000)[edit]

The replacement voice actors from Animals continue their roles in this game, in which pairs of the children have designed biodomes for a contest, but each pair has lost one of the bugs from their projects. This is the final game in the original software series. Like the other game (The Magic School Bus Explores the World of Animals), this last game in the software is again not based with any adaptation (book series, TV tie in books, or TV series). The player's task in this game is to find a specimen of each of the four missing bugs in one of four natural habitats. In each habitat, one of the children transforms into a bug, e.g. Keesha changes into a luna moth in the forest.

The game was given a score of 90/100 by Tech with Kids (Computing with Kids) and 50/100 by Macworld.[24] SuperKids gave it 4.5/5.[25]

Ludington Daily News praised the game for its high quality engaging multimedia and accurate information.[26]

Sega Genesis[edit]

  • Scholastic's The Magic School Bus: Space Exploration Game (1995)
    • This was the only game created on a medium other (Sega Genesis) than PC CD-ROM. The premise was for the Magic School Bus to select a destination (starting with The Moon and reaching all the way out to Pluto). The game would then follow the same format, where Ms. Frizzle would take off into outer space, and the player (As Phoebe) would have to find her. All missions consisted of flying to the planet (while taking photographs of various space objects, shooting apart meteors, and collecting "space buoys" for fuel), landing the bus on a platform successfully, traversing the planet on foot to find Ms. Frizzle, and finally, putting together a sliding jigsaw puzzle to complete the stage. All this with plenty of bonus games along the way, one based heavily on Asteroids and the other on Breakout.

Sega-16.com gave it 90/100, while Video Games & Computer Entertainment gave it 60/100.[27]

Sega Pico[edit]

  • A Sega Pico title under the same name was released in 1995. The game is about going to various places (such as the time of dinosaurs, the solar system etc.)

Activity Centres[edit]

The Magic School Bus: In Concert Activity Center (2000)[edit]

The game was developed by KnowWonder and published by Microsoft.

It received a score of 76/100 by Review Corner and 60/100 by All Game Guide.[28]

The Magic School Bus: Lands on Mars Activity Center (2000)[edit]

The game was developed by KnowWonder and published by Microsoft.

It given a score of 77/100 by Review Corner and 50/100 by All Game Guide.[29] Superkids gave it 4.7/5.[30]

The Magic School Bus: Whales and Dolphins Activity Center (2001)[edit]

The game was developed by KnowWonder and published by Microsoft.

The game was given a review of 90/100 by Tech with Kids (Computing with Kids), and 85/100 by Review Corner.[31]

The Magic School Bus: Discovers Flight Activity Center (2001)[edit]

The game was developed by KnowWonder and published by Microsoft.

The game has a rating of 90/100 by Tech with Kids (Computing with Kids).[32] Superkids gave it 4.3/5.[33]

The Magic School Bus: Volcano Adventure Activity Center (2001)[edit]

The game was developed by KnowWonder and published by Microsoft.

The game has a score of 90/100 by Tech with Kids (Computing with Kids), 83/100 by Review Corner, and 40/100 by Mac Addict.[34]

Portable Mobile Games[edit]

Nintendo DS[edit]

The Magic School Bus: Oceans (2011)[edit]

The game was developed by Big Blue Bubble Inc.and Published by Scholastic for the Nintendo DS console.

Mobile Smartphone[edit]

Published by Scholastic and released on Android and Apple devices as "Touch and tilt" storybooks that included games [35].

The Magic School Bus: Dinosaurs (2010)[edit]

Described an in iterative storybook, the app included a game with "7 different levels that explores where dinosaurs lived around the world."[36]

The Magic School Bus: Oceans (2010)[edit]

Also described as an interactive storybook, this one "features 1 highly re-playable game that includes over 20 animals in which children can play to earn points for more science facts and to travel to other areas of the ocean." [37]


References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Seeing the body electric Programs can help children learn anatomy". 1994-12-16. Archived from the original on 2016-10-08. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ "The Hour - Google News Archive Search".
  3. ^ "Lawrence Journal-World - Google News Archive Search".
  4. ^ "Ocala Star-Banner - Google News Archive Search".
  5. ^ "The Spokesman-Review - Google News Archive Search".
  6. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores the Human Body for Macintosh (1994) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  7. ^ a b "The Magic School Bus Explores The Human Body Review by metzomagic.com".
  8. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores the Human Body". Rovi Corporation. Archived from the original on 16 November 2014.
  9. ^ "The Milwaukee Sentinel - Google News Archive Search".
  10. ^ "Bangor Daily News - Google News Archive Search".
  11. ^ "The Daily Gazette - Google News Archive Search".
  12. ^ "How does water become wee? (worthwhile educational and entertainment software titles for children)". 1995-05-13. Archived from the original on 2016-10-08. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ "Bestsellers". 1997-10-06. Archived from the original on 2016-10-08. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores the Ocean for Macintosh (1996) Trivia - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  15. ^ "The Cedartown Standard - Google News Archive Search".
  16. ^ "SuperKids Software Review of Magic School Bus Inside the Earth".
  17. ^ "Review: The Magic School Bus Explores Inside the Earth".
  18. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores in the Age of Dinosaurs for Windows (1996) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  19. ^ "The Magic School Bus Explores in the Age of Dinosaurs Review by metzomagic.com".
  20. ^ "Bangor Daily News - Google News Archive Search".
  21. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores the Rainforest for Windows (1997) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  22. ^ "SuperKids Software Review of Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores the World of Animals".
  23. ^ "Bangor Daily News - Google News Archive Search".
  24. ^ "The Magic School Bus Explores Bugs for Macintosh (2000) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  25. ^ "SuperKids Software Review of Magic School Bus Explores Bugs".
  26. ^ "Ludington Daily News - Google News Archive Search".
  27. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus: Space Exploration Game for Genesis (1995) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  28. ^ "Magic School Bus in Concert for Windows (2000) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  29. ^ "Magic School Bus Lands on Mars for Windows (2000) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  30. ^ "SuperKids Software Review of Magic School Bus Lands on Mars".
  31. ^ "Magic School Bus Whales and Dolphins for Windows (2001) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  32. ^ "Magic School Bus Discovers Flight for Windows (2001) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  33. ^ "SuperKids Software Review of The Magic School Bus Discovers Flight Activity Center".
  34. ^ "Magic School Bus Volcano Adventure for Macintosh (2001) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  35. ^ Author, AppAdvice Staff (2011-01-03). "Scholastic Debuts Its Line Of Touch & Tilt Interactive Storybooks For iPad". AppAdvice. Retrieved 2019-10-07.
  36. ^ "Mobile Apps". www.scholastic.com. Retrieved 2019-10-07.
  37. ^ "Mobile Apps". www.scholastic.com. Retrieved 2019-10-07.

External links[edit]