Liberty’s Kids – PC – Review

The Liberty’s Kids is a new show on PBS that details the American Revolutionary War through the eyes of young journalists Sarah Phillips and James Hiller, teenagers with opposing viewpoints on the conflict. Sarah is newly arrived from England, waiting to be reunited with her father who is away in the frontier of America. She is sympathetic to Britain’s position in the dispute, but is also ready to give credence to some of the rebels’ views. James, on the other hand, is a hot-headed young man who can only see one side of the issue, the rebel colonists’. Determined to report the truth of events as they happen to the American public, they set out to cover each incident. Their friends Benjamin Franklin and his employee, a former slave named Moses, help by providing information and the use of their press.

The Learning Company has brought this exciting series to the computer in Liberty’s Kids, a faithful rendition of the TV program. Here, kids will conduct interviews with a diverse assortment of colonists, trying to track down the truth of seven different events surrounding the Revolutionary War. James and Sarah travel to the various locations and interview people, asking the questions: “Who, What, When, Where, and Why”. From the list of answers to these questions, kids must choose the best answers from whichever viewpoint they wish to illustrate, and use these quotes to edit and publish a newspaper article detailing the event. In the process of tracking down the truth, James and Sarah must search each location and pick up items that will help the characters they meet, thus paving the way for the interviews to occur.

Included is an excellent reference that details people, events and items of the time, plus twenty printable puzzles. A cool feature is also the inclusion of several of Benjamin Franklin’s inventions around the Print shop, which can be clicked on to elicit an explanation of the item, like his stove and electricity experiment.

This is a good introduction to the Revolutionary War and shows both sides of the issue very well. The program is identical to the TV show, but it’s not necessary to watch the show to enjoy this game. The information is presented in just the right amount for this age group (8-12) in easy-to-understand language and length, and is interesting to hear. The animation is rich and very similar to the Carmen Sandiego games, as is also the essential gameplay of interviewing characters. The adventure is replayable and features randomized objects. People will also appear in different locations, but their stories are the same. It isn’t necessary to watch the TV show to play this game, but the TV programs will add to the experience of this program, as each episode is a dramatic retelling of the event as it happens. And, conversely, the software program will enhance the show by emphasizing key issues of the events.

Although I like this game and its approach to history, I do have to say I was a trifle disappointed in its editing and publishing capabilities. The box claims that kids will “write about events”, but the truth is that they will actually only write the headlines to the stories that are composed of the quotes chosen. This feature could have been a much stronger element, and should have allowed kids to write their own compositions using the quotes as a basis, not the entire substance.

However, my twelve-year-old daughter is a big fan of the PBS show and is willing to get up at 6:30 in the morning to watch it most mornings. She was excited to receive this game and has played it through pretty much non-stop. Even so, I doubt that she will play it again, as there’s not much to do after the game is done except go back over the same ground. Because of the narrow focus, this program is best suited in a school setting, where it can be used by students to enrich their understanding of the Revolutionary War, in a refreshing look through the eyes of Sarah and James.

Gameplay: 8
The game is exciting and interesting to play, with an easy to understand interface for getting around. Kids will enjoy playing the first time around, although replaying is doubtful.

Graphics: 8 
The animation is very nice and rich in color. The style is similar to recent Carmen Sandiego games.

Sound: 7
The sound is average.

Difficulty: Medium
The game isn’t difficult, but locations will have to be searched diligently with some backtracking for objects to use later on characters.

Concept: 8 
This was an excellent concept that wasn’t quite carried out to its potential, due primarily to the lack of features in the editing section, where kids should have been able to write their own news articles.

Overall: 7.8
This is a good, indepth introduction to important events of the American Revolutionary War that is presented in an entertaining manner that will definitely appeal to the target audience. However, the lack of any real replayability and the disappointing nature of the editing feature detracts slightly from the overall quality.