Sunday, August 14, 2005

Review: The Fantastic Food Challenge

The Fantastic Food Challenge (Comm Tech Lab, Michigan State University, 2005) is an edutainment game designed to motivate young adults to learn about nutrition, food safety, menu planning and food purchasing, consists of 4 games.

In "The Great Meal Deal," the player clicks on the dice to “roll” – 5 dice show selections from the USDA food pyramid’s groups: milk, meat, fruit, vegetable, & bread. The goal is to combine the die to create a snack, meal, or recommended daily allowance after dragging the die to the appropriate category. Placing a die in the wrong food group eliminates the die from the round. In each turn, the player can roll 3 times to get the best combination. The sixth side of the die is “Bonus,” and, the player gets a multiple-choice question about food categories or serving sizes. If the answer you select is incorrect, the game does not tell you the correct choice. If the answer is correct, you can select which side of the die you wish to use to build up the combination of your choice.

“Store it Safe” is an drog and drag food safety game where items drop towards a refrigerator, cupboard, and freezer at the bottom of the screen, while the player uses the arrow keys to move the item left or right. The goal is to prevent spoilage and food poisoning by storing the item in the correct location. An incorrect choice regulates the item to the trash, but there are opportunities to move items from the trash. A screen at the end goes over the incorrect answers. The items drop quickly.

A matching game called “What Can You Make?” has cards with items available from WIC, such as cheese and cereal, paired with recipes such as cheeseburger pie and snack mix. The goal is to match the dish with an ingredient that goes into it. Gameplay is against the computer, with each round becoming more challenging. Choices are sometimes confusing – tomato sauce could go in pizza or lasagna, while flour could be in pancakes or tortillas. Also, vegetables should be the number one choice in vegetarian enchiladas, but tortillas are the correct answer – the student must be familiar with ethnic foods to play this game. A few new recipes are introduced in each round. Each round concludes with bonus questions that gain no extra points, and again, no corrections are given for incorrect answers. At the end of the game, the recipes uncovered by the player are provided. Spelling and capitalization are erratic, but printer friendly format works well; each recipe includes a list of ingredients, step-by-step instructions and nutritional analysis; there is no access to recipes uncovered by the computer.

“Makes Cents” employs math skills by asking the player to divide cost by number of servings, or compare prices to determine which purchase is a better deal. The goal is to learn comparison-shopping and (indirectly) to learn how to shop on a budget by figuring cost per serving. The raw product is always a better buy than the processed prepackaged one.

A fast reading teen could complete all four games in less than an hour. Generally, the graphics are fast loading and the animations well executed, but the scanned photographs of generic brand foods are out of place with the cute illustration style of the background, props and characters, resulting in a discordant composition. There is no unifying graphic or vision to tie the nutrition theme together, although a game show style and robots are common elements in two games. The announcer’s voice is mild and enthusiastic throughout. Students accustomed to fancier graphics won’t be impressed by the rudimentary style, but this would be a fun way to extend a health lesson. Each game is designed as single player, so teens would have to team up, which might result in higher scores.

The Fantastic Food Challenge is available from MSU Extension, Family & Consumer Sciences. It costs $4.00, which includes shipping and handling. To order, contact us at:

MSU Extension, Family & Consumer Sciences
240 Agriculture Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: 517-353-9102
Fax: 517-353-4846

No comments: