The Magic School Bus (video game series)

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The Magic School Bus
Genre(s)Educational
Developer(s)Music Pen, Scholastic

The Magic School Bus is a series of educational software video games developed by Music Pen and published by Microsoft via their Microsoft Home brand. The interactive adventures are part of the larger franchise and based on The Magic School Bus book series and public television series (which originally aired on PBS).[1][2][3][4][5]

Development[edit]

Most of the original software games were created by the software company Music Pen in collaboration with Microsoft and Scholastic Press, the publisher of the Magic School Bus book series. Scholastic, which created the "Magic School Bus" television series on PBS, licensed its content to Microsoft.[5] To access the home market, Microsoft created a video game brand called Microsoft Home, and a software series was created under that umbrella.[6][7] At the time, many companies lacked the expertise to develop multimedia project so turned to smaller new media companies.[8] The company hired the garage shop Music Pen to create a program, a company started 15 years prior by concert pianists Wu and Philip Lui who wrote programs that taught music comprehension.[9] After the contract, Music Pen grew from 5 people to 40,[10] and was based in New York.[11] The games were based on the books and the PBS show.[12]

By 1997, Microsoft Home was struggling due to a crowded market.[13] In 1998, Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Adventure Series Volumes 1, 2 and 3 were announced.[14]

The team received feedback from teachers and parents to inform their products.[15] The series won: Software Publisher's Association Codie award for Best Elementary Educational titles and the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval. Most recently, Scholastic's The Magic School Bus CD-ROM series by Microsoft received the FamilyPC Family Tested Software Recommended Seal in the education category and was named Top Picks of 1997 by the Toy Testing Council.[15]

Like the TV series, the bus was animated in the usual way, in the CD-ROM games, it is typically animated with computer generated imagery (or "CGI"). 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 in the original software were based with the book series (the original series books) and TV series. Most of the games also have seven different locations, including the classroom. There is some goal to find a specific number of missing collectibles for the user in almost every game (with the exception of The Magic School Bus Explores the Human Body). In the other games, there is a "missing collectible" minigame where the player has to find three or four missing collectibles. The video game series (both original titles and activity centers) are targeted for children ages 5–10.

The games include activities to assist the player's learning.[16]

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.

Original Software[edit]

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

This game is based on both the book The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System (from the classic series books) and episode The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space. The user flies the bus to their chosen planet and play experiments and click on things there. To win the game, the user has to discover the whereabouts of Ms. Frizzle. To do so they have to play a "whatsit" game to earn a token (for a total of three missing tokens in order to find Ms. Frizzle) 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 and Earth's moon can be visited. When the gas giants are visited, the bus lands on one of their moons.

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.[17] The Spokesman-Review deemed it a "fact-and-fun filled ride".[18]

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 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 the only game to not have a "missing collectible" minigame (where the player must find a specific and fixed number of missing collectibles).

Both Quandary and All Game Guide gave the game 70/100.[19][20][21] Superkids gave it 3.5/5 stars.[20]

The Milwaukee Sentinel was bemused that the program got a kindergartner playtester interested in the small intestines.[22] Bangor Daily News deemed it a "splendid mix of experiments, explanations, and games".[23] The Daily Gazette deemed it "delightful".[24] 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.[25] 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.[26]

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 episode The Magic School Bus Gets Eaten (including its TV tie in book adaptation). This is one of the two games which is based with any book from the TV tie in books, with the other being The Magic School Bus Explores Inside the Earth. The class has taken a field trip to the beach; here they find a message in a bottle, which contains clues (three 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 is the only game where the classroom cannot be visited. A Nintendo DS version was released in 2011.

The game won an award for Home PC - Holiday Gift Guide - The Best Programs of 1996.[27] The Cedartown Standard praised the game for combining fun with education.[28]

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 episode The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top (and its TV tie in book adaptation). Arnold has lost some of the rocks and minerals in his collection. He is missing four rocks. The user (who has to find four missing rocks) explores several places such as a canyon, a geode, a fault, a volcano, and an undersea environment; the undersea environment 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.

Superkids gave the game a score of 4.3/5.[29] Alamo PC Organization wrote that "the program is both educating and entertaining".[30]

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

This game (in the original software series) is based on the book The Magic School Bus in the Time of the Dinosaurs and the episode The Magic School Bus The Busasaurus. This is the last game in the software which is based with books from the book series.

Ms. Frizzle's photo album is missing three snapshots of prehistoric animals (from a specific album; meat eating dinosaurs, plant eating dinosaurs, or prehistoric reptiles that aren't dinosaurs). The user travels back in time with her class, to seven different dinosaur locations, in order to search for live dinosaurs and help replace the photographs. When the player finds all three photographs, they are awarded with a mask of a prehistoric animal (matching to an animal from that specific album; either Tyrannosaurus rex, Brachiosaurus, or Pterodactylus).

For saving the game, unique to just this game, if the player has too many driver's license panels saved up already, if they decide to quit and save the game, they can (before exiting) choose an old driver's license to replace/discard to make room for the new file.

Both All Game Guide and Quandary gave it 70/100.[31] Metzomagic gave it 3.5/5 stars.[32]

Microsoft donated copies of the game to high school students via the University of Maine Upward Bound Program.[33]

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 some "bio-clones" (four of them) are missing from the kit. Ms. Frizzle takes the class on a field trip to the Costa Rican rainforest to find the missing bio-clones. This game is the first one in the original software to be not based with any books from the book series. However (like the other five previous games in the software), it is based with TV episodes from the cartoon series. This game is based with the TV episode The Magic School Bus In the Rainforest. But it is the last game to be based with any adaptation. This is also the last game to be created by Music Pen.

All Game Guide gave it 80/100.[34] Harfort Courant thought "Even on a slower PC, the game was fun and interesting".[35]

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

This is the first game in the software series to replace the original voice actors of the eight children from the TV series. This is the first of the two games in the original software which is not based with any adaptation (book series, TV series, and TV tie in books). In this game, the user has to find all four animals (which are placed into their wrong habitats) and send them back to their own (and correct) habitats where they each belong. If the game is played at another time, the player has two options (to "Continue saved game" or "Collect 4 missing collectibles"; the second option "Collect 4 missing collectibles" starts a new game if chosen and the save data from the previous use gets deleted). When traveling to certain habitats, one of the children will be transformed into an animal (for example, Arnold becomes a bullfrog in the swamp).

This is the first of the two games in the software to be created by Know Wonder instead of Music Pen (since starting with this game, Microsoft stopped collaborating with Music Pen and started collaborating with Know Wonder).

Superkids gave the game a score of 4.7/5.[36]

Bangor Daily News said the game "is jampacked with unusual animals, interesting information, games, puzzles, and experiments".[37]

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

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 in The Magic School Bus Explores the World of Animals, this game is not based with any adaptation. 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; for example, Keesha changes into a luna moth when she is in the forest.

The game was given a score of 90/100 by Tech with Kids (Computing with Kids) and 50/100 by Macworld.[38] SuperKids gave it 4.5/5.[39]

Ludington Daily News praised the game for its high quality engaging multimedia and accurate information.[40]

Activity Centers[edit]

Like the final two games from the Magic School Bus original software (The Magic School Bus Explores the World of Animals and The Magic School Bus Explores Bugs), Microsoft for the activity center software games collaborated with Know Wonder.

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

This 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.[41]

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

This game was developed by KnowWonder and published by Microsoft.

It received a score of 77/100 by Review Corner and 50/100 by All Game Guide.[42] Superkids gave it 4.7/5.[43]

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

This game was developed by KnowWonder and published by Microsoft.

It received a score of 90/100 by Tech with Kids (Computing with Kids), and 85/100 by Review Corner.[44]

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

This game was developed by KnowWonder and published by Microsoft.

It received a score of 90/100 by Tech with Kids (Computing with Kids).[45] Superkids gave it 4.3/5.[46]

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

This game was developed by KnowWonder and published by Microsoft.

It received a score of 90/100 by Tech with Kids (Computing with Kids), 83/100 by Review Corner, and 40/100 by Mac Addict.[47]

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; Ms. Frizzle would take off into outer space, and the player (sd 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 putting together a sliding jigsaw puzzle to complete the stage.

Sega-16.com gave it 90/100, while Video Games & Computer Entertainment gave it 60/100.[48]

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.)

Portable Mobile Games[edit]

Nintendo DS[edit]

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

This 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.[49]

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."[50]

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

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." [51]

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. ^ "Scans". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  3. ^ Desrosiers, Gregory (2020-04-21). "First Computer — The IBM Aptiva E Series". Medium. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  4. ^ Moore, Scott (1995-07-09). "MAGIC SCHOOL BUS'". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  5. ^ a b "The Seattle Times". archive.seattletimes.com. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  6. ^ "The Hour - Google News Archive Search".
  7. ^ "Lawrence Journal-World - Google News Archive Search".
  8. ^ http://besser.tsoa.nyu.edu/impact/w95/RN/feb17news/Merc-news-nymultimedia
  9. ^ RAMSTAD, EVAN. "BRIGHT MINDS, BIG FUTURES\". Greensboro News and Record. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  10. ^ "A whole new breed of software visionaries". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  11. ^ ""Today's High-Tech Entrepreneurs Make Multimedia Software" by Ramstad, Evan - THE JOURNAL RECORD, October 13, 1994 | Online Research Library: Questia". www.questia.com. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  12. ^ "Charming Madeline Leads Children Through Puzzles and Projects". Los Angeles Times. 1998-03-05. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  13. ^ "Microsoft makes a big play for kids". www.bizjournals.com. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  14. ^ "Microsoft to Roll Out Three New Collections For Top-Selling Scholastic's Magic School Bus Software Series". Stories. 1998-06-16. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  15. ^ a b "Scholastic's Magic School Bus Takes Kids On Exotic Adventure Through Rain Forest". Stories. 1997-04-21. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  16. ^ "CD-ROM Roundup". Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  17. ^ "Ocala Star-Banner - Google News Archive Search".
  18. ^ "The Spokesman-Review - Google News Archive Search".
  19. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores the Human Body for Macintosh (1994) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  20. ^ a b "The Magic School Bus Explores The Human Body Review by metzomagic.com".
  21. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores the Human Body". Rovi Corporation. Archived from the original on 16 November 2014.
  22. ^ "The Milwaukee Sentinel - Google News Archive Search".
  23. ^ "Bangor Daily News - Google News Archive Search".
  24. ^ "The Daily Gazette - Google News Archive Search".
  25. ^ "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)
  26. ^ "Bestsellers". 1997-10-06. Archived from the original on 2016-10-08. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  27. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores the Ocean for Macintosh (1996) Trivia - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  28. ^ "The Cedartown Standard - Google News Archive Search".
  29. ^ "SuperKids Software Review of Magic School Bus Inside the Earth".
  30. ^ "Review: The Magic School Bus Explores Inside the Earth".
  31. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores in the Age of Dinosaurs for Windows (1996) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  32. ^ "The Magic School Bus Explores in the Age of Dinosaurs Review by metzomagic.com".
  33. ^ "Bangor Daily News - Google News Archive Search".
  34. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores the Rainforest for Windows (1997) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  35. ^ MEHLHORN, SANDY. "INVESTIGATING THE RAIN FOREST BY MAGIC SCHOOL BUS". courant.com. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  36. ^ "SuperKids Software Review of Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Explores the World of Animals".
  37. ^ "Bangor Daily News - Google News Archive Search".
  38. ^ "The Magic School Bus Explores Bugs for Macintosh (2000) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  39. ^ "SuperKids Software Review of Magic School Bus Explores Bugs".
  40. ^ "Ludington Daily News - Google News Archive Search".
  41. ^ "Magic School Bus in Concert for Windows (2000) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  42. ^ "Magic School Bus Lands on Mars for Windows (2000) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  43. ^ "SuperKids Software Review of Magic School Bus Lands on Mars".
  44. ^ "Magic School Bus Whales and Dolphins for Windows (2001) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  45. ^ "Magic School Bus Discovers Flight for Windows (2001) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  46. ^ "SuperKids Software Review of The Magic School Bus Discovers Flight Activity Center ".
  47. ^ "Magic School Bus Volcano Adventure for Macintosh (2001) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  48. ^ "Scholastic's The Magic School Bus: Space Exploration Game for Genesis (1995) MobyRank - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  49. ^ "Scholastic Debuts Its Line Of Touch & Tilt Interactive Storybooks For iPad". AppAdvice. 2011-01-03. Retrieved 2019-10-07.
  50. ^ "Mobile Apps". www.scholastic.com. Retrieved 2019-10-07.
  51. ^ "Mobile Apps". www.scholastic.com. Retrieved 2019-10-07.

External links[edit]