Pre-Algebra World – when edutainment meets drugs… maybe
2015 update: Mathrealm is dead. Pre-Algebra World was apparently created by a company called Cognitive Technology Corporation, perhaps based out of Maryland. Information on this title has grown even scarcer. Word on the street is that the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium has a copy of this floating around in their system.
So I’ve been investigating my childhood, under the belief that it might explain why I am myself. There are some really crazy things there – some are well known, like Animaniacs and Pokemon. And some… what can I say?
Anyways, I had computer access as a small child, and as a result, my parents showered me with access to edutainment software. This was during the mid ’90s, when the big paradigm in computing was “multimedia”… which then basically translated to “omg u can has a picture of somethin in ur text while a midi plays omg omg omg windowsgasm!!!11!!”, and probably resulted in some of the worst excesses of the early Internet before games like Half-Life, Unreal, Final Fantasy VII, etc shifted this madness into 3D gaming. But there’s a lot to be said for what may as well be referred to as the “Super VGA era”, named after the standard resolution of 640x480x256. And I digress.
So anyways, I remembered that there was, outside the rush of hackjob “activity centers” and god knows what, this title called “Pre-Algebra World”. It was released in 1997, and has some of the trippiest visuals (if I remember correctly) of any video game, short of something like Rez. And all for the sake of teaching kids fractions, prime numbers, base systems, estimation, and such.
Looks pretty out there for math teaching, doesn’t it? By now, some of the freakier members of the audience are probably like “Dude, where can I find this?”… and it’s going to set you back a hefty fee. Unlike Oregon Trail, which has entered cultural meme status, and Math Blaster, which has at the very least been immortalized in SNES ROM Goodsets, the average edutainment stuff has fallen into an abyss, probably due to the limited appeal and use of it. This is probably included, but if my memories serve me right, this needs to be rescued from the claws of time.
One slight problem: the publisher (some Mathrealm company that I’d never heard of until today) is basically the only place to get this. They are asking $39.95 for this. Let that sink in – a company wants $39.95 for something they made in 1997. You could find much newer edutainment for a similar price, and the average game from this era rarely commands this price unless it’s highly rare or hard to set up (like an arcade cabinet). I don’t know WHY they’re charging this, or who still buys this stuff, but if anyone can shed some light on what’s up with this, or get some native resolution screenshots up for the public to see, it’d be interesting. Maybe. Just look at the cone guy with the bulging eyes.
This basically boils down to someone being willing to spend $40 dollars on this thing, or just happening to have it in their basement.