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Sky Island Mysteries

Ages: 8-12

Company: Edmark

Retail price: $29.95

System requirements: Windows 3.1 or later; 486 or Pentium processor; 7 MB on hard disk; 8 MB RAM; 640x480, 256-color monitor; 2X CD-ROM; Windows-compatible sound card. Macintosh: System 7.0.1 or higher; 68040 processor or PowerPC; 2 MB on hard disk; 8 MB RAM; 640x480, 256-color monitor; 2X CD-ROM

What parent wouldn't go for software with fun characters, mystery cases to crack and challenging puzzles that put your child's thinking skills to the test? That's what Edmark provides in Sky Island Mysteries, a collection of games set on different islands.

On Airshow Island, you are the air traffic controller. A bunch of planes are in the air. Your job is to order the flight plan so that all perform their aerobatics properly and return to the ground in an orderly way.

Stadium Island is filled with odd-looking characters, called Fripples, each with its own peculiar behavior. One Fripple's action affects that of another. Kids have to get the right Fripple in the right seat to succeed.

On a third island you must figure out a Rebus, a combination of pictures, letters and sounds that translates into a word.

At Clue Central, you use the clues you have gathered at the other three islands to solve a mystery.

The game offers several options and varying levels of difficulty. It requires kids to think critically and use logic, and teaches them to understand relationships and perform tasks in an orderly way. And it does it with plenty of sound, color and motion.

In our household, however, it didn't hold my kids' interest very long. My daughter, 11, kept getting the same problems each time she went to Rebus Island. No fool this one, she would load up on all the clues there and solve the mystery without bothering with the other islands. She actually did well at Stadium Island and Airshow Island, but was inclined to go the easier route. She did enjoy solving the mysteries, which was good incentive to keep plugging away at the problems.

Although we had mixed results, Sky Island may work well for you. But it can't simply be unboxed, loaded on the computer and turned over to the kids to enjoy. It requires parents to gently direct activities, to monitor progress and to encourage kids to keep trying when they get frustrated. In many ways, Sky Island is as much a challenge for the old as it is for the young.

_ Jim Tyrrell, Times staff writer

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