American Girls Premiere, The Download (1997 Educational Game)

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If there are any budding playwrights in your family, or even just for girls who are interested in times past or the history, American Girls Premiere is something they will definitely enjoy. Or even if they only like the book series by Pleasant Company, they will also enjoy this CD-Rom Set.

The game is on two CD-Roms and is filled with backgrounds and sets, props, characters and sound effects for players to use in constructing their plays. First, you decide which character you wish to use. The program starts off in that character's bedroom, but you can bring up a list of sets, with thumbnail pictures of each to choose from.

After you have chosen the background, or set, you can choose to add props to the scene. Then come characters. You can choose which characters to add, then rotate them and make them walk around on stage, as well as choosing emotions for them to act out. Each character has 16 different actions to choose from, depending on the set chosen.

Playwriters can write their own dialogue, and either record their own voice or use the CD's text-to-speech function. You can also change the lighting for dramatic effect, choose sound effects, such as crackling fires or a radio playing, to complement the action, and there is even musical themes for the different time periods, ten for each main character.

Despite the many choices given for the characters, it is inevitable, sooner or later, that budding playwrights will have ideas not supported by the props, characters or sets. What if you wanted to write about one of the characters getting lost in the woods. You couldn't write a play like that because the items included don't support it.

Eventually, the stories and ideas generated by the game will move beyond the scope of the game, which is when parents should let the child write down their ideas on paper. Perhaps the only idea I don't fully accept about this particular CD is that children need to have all these things to make their ideas come alive. All they really need is a pen or pencil and paper.

Still, anything that gets kids interested in learning is a good thing. And, in addition to the play-making part of the software, there is a quicktime movie of interviews with the characters playing the various parts in the game. These movies were later digitized into the game.

Some of the movies do hesitate a bit when played, and have an annoying flicker, but that may be due more to the CD ROM than the program. A double speed CD Rom may be recommended, but the higher speed, the better, faster and smoother the plays will run.

Despite the complexity of creating the plays, I think any girl would be entertained by this and it may start them on the road to creating not just plays, but stories and art of their own.

Graphics: Excellent graphics appear more like photos than art.

Sound: Easy to hear, but the text to speech has trouble with some longer or harder-to-pronounce words.

Enjoyment: Anyone who makes a play will be proud.

Replay Value: Eventually, players will have ideas they are unable to do because of the limited number of selections, but until then, the sky is the limit.

The American Girls Premiere puts players in the role of a stage director, allowing them to author, edit and play back unique stage plays starring characters from American Girl's Historical roster, from colonial-era girl Felicity Merriman to Molly McIntire, daughter of a World War II army doctor.

The game makes use of digitised sprites from live theatre actors and actual accessories from the Collection. It also comes with a Director's Guide with behind-the-scenes videos on the game's development, tips and tricks on theatre production, and historical facts about the characters' respective eras, such as the clothes children wore and the pastimes during a particular time in American history.

How to run this game on modern Windows PC?

This game has been set up to work on modern Windows (11/10/8/7/Vista/XP 64/32-bit) computers without problems.


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