Math Rescue – PC
The Apogee Software Series, Part VI
Platform: PC (DOS)
Developer: Redwood Games
Publisher: Apogee Software
Release Date: October, 1992
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
By the power of Zero! There’s a global crisis that needs our attention: someone’s been stealing numbers from across the world, and this theft is causing major problems, more than just the money kind! Seattle is only ten miles from Miami, Stairway to Heaven is only thirty seconds long, and former Xbox 360 owners are discovering to their horror that they now own Xbox Ones! It sounds like the world is in desperate need of a rescue…a Math Rescue! That’s right, this week’s Apogee Software Series installment is an educational game, and contrary to what you might be thinking, it’s VERY good! And not only will I be judging this one as a game, but as a learning tool as well! So throw that calculator away and dust off your brain; we’re gonna do enough math to make us mental!
In Math Rescue, a sequel to Redwood Games’ own Word Rescue (which I’ll be covering later on), our hypothetical situation is a reality caused worldwide by the Gruzzles, silly-looking aliens who are literally stealing numbers from everyday sources and throwing them into number-crunching garbage trucks! As an elementary school kid not more than ten years old, you can’t stop them all by yourself, but not to worry! On this adventure, you’re being helped out by Benny the Butterfly, who will pour slime on the Gruzzles you point out to him (as long as you have a steady supply of it) and keep you from falling into danger! Together, you and your mystical legal guardian will travel through the undersea world, space stations, and even a planet made of candy as you take back your numbers and make the world safe for math again! The story and setting certainly lends itself well to this kind of game concept, and helps immerse the young child’s mind into the game while quietly getting them pumped to do some math problems!
Looking strictly at the non-educational side of the gameplay, Math Rescue is at the least an enjoyable platformer in its own right. As is the standard with Apogee-sponsored games, it handles quite well, with your character moving precisely when you want them to and you being able to aim your jumps both as you’re going up and as you’re coming down. There are a lot of point-related pickups that you can chase, especially if you find the warp signs that will take you to hidden parts of the level. The Gruzzles’ intelligence is dependent on the difficulty level you’ve chosen, letting you choose between making them an easy thing to avoid for the straight-outta-kindergarteners to sneaky enemies ready to test the mettle of the impending middle-schoolers. Trash can lids act as your health points, having more of them lets you take more hits, and you can find more to replace any that you lose throughout the levels.
The rest of the elements in the gameplay are related to the game’s focus on building math skills: The goal of every level in Math Rescue is to collect enough numbers to build the key to the exit door. When you jump up to collect a number pickup, you’re given a math problem to solve by having your character jump and touch the right numbers. If you succeed, you get more slime for Benny to use to protect you from Gruzzles, but if you get the answer wrong, it creates a Gruzzle to hound you! It’s said that practice makes perfect, and the game lets its players put a lot of time behind solving numerical and word problems on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. You can choose before you play whether you want a mix of all topics or all of the problems to be in one area. This means that if you know a lot about adding stuff up, but just can’t get the hang of those times tables, you can have the game throw multiplication problems at you all day until the repetition helps them sink in!
And where would an Apogee-sponsored game be without the option of bonus points? Math Rescue certainly doesn’t disappoint, as like a good report card, there’s a lot of criteria that you can follow to get your top marks. Collecting the numbers in their proper sequence (0-9) is one that sounds easy, but gets trickier in later levels. The garbage trucks rolling around in every level carry the answer to a math problem at the bottom of your screen, and if you smash them all, you get a bonus! Collecting all of the level’s pickups usually involves exploring every level thoroughly to find all of the secret areas, but it can be worth the trouble! And after every level, you get a bonus round, where you can solve math problems rapid-fire in 30 seconds for points, slime buckets, and trash can lids! The game gives plenty of rewards for the diligent learner, while still keeping its classic platformer feel. And if you or your guardian/teacher aren’t satisfied with your results at the end of the level, Math Rescue gives you the option to replay a level right after you’ve beaten it, so you can always strive for that 100%!
The graphics in Math Rescue are reasonably decent for a children’s game; you can tell who your character is, where the Gruzzles are, the backgrounds are colorful and the platforms easy to make out. The only slight point against it would be the little details in the background are sometimes easy to confuse for point pickups, and vise versa. The sound is good, a satisfying “jump” noise every time you jump, sounds whenever you collect items and solve problems, a delightful “got the Gruzzle” sound when Benny hits an alien with his slime bucket, everything sounds real gratifying, which is helpful as some children operate better with definitive audio cues letting them know when they succeeded at something. The music is also quite nice, with that upbeat vibe that makes you feel happy regardless of how the day is going, it’s definitely a “this is a kid’s game and you’re here to have fun” soundtrack, and I really like that. Every little aspect invested into the experience helps it feel like more of a game than a lesson, which is a big step on the road to making math fun for kids.
Now you’ve seen Math Rescue broken down as a game, but there’s another aspect that I need to analyze, and that’s the effectiveness of its educational goals. The game is very helpful in building a solid foundation of basic math skills, but it also promotes problem solving (word problems, finding secret areas), mental math (30-second bonus rounds), good work ethic (striving for 100%, even deciding to play this game in the first place!), and many other areas of development that children need careful attention paid into early and often. Math Rescue may have the option to Skip Problems, but it also includes instructions for teachers and parents on disabling this feature, so that children don’t catch on to the idea that they don’t have to solve math problems to play the game (which honestly defeats the purpose of installing it in the first place). All of the educational fundamentals are well-represented in a friendly and accessible manner, making this a well-rounded educational experience for teacher and student alike.
In summation, Math Rescue is the kind of title that we could still use to teach children today, and probably even should! I’ve seen some of the less subtle educational games developed by people who think that kids are as smart as bricks, with voice actors speaking insultingly slow and math problems that practically solve themselves if the child playing the game waits long enough. This isn’t one of those games that insults your child’s intelligence, it doesn’t need a hint system because that won’t teach your kids anything (except that if you play dumb long enough, other people will do the work for you — not a good lesson to teach your kids). It knows that what you need to learn is a chance to practice and delivers you that while still letting you have fun. It’s done so well that even though most of you who are reading this are outside of this game’s intended market of 4-10 years old, it’ll still be worth your time to play! So go ahead, parents, sneak onto this game when your kid’s headed to bed, and who knows? Maybe you’ll end up being smarter than a fifth-grader…insofar as math is concerned, at least!
Since Math Rescue was mostly distributed digitally, even back in the day, it’s hard to point you to a hard copy for this one. Amazingly enough, Redwood Games still allows you to download the shareware and full versions of the original Math Rescue trilogy from their home site, along with an enhanced version called Math Rescue Plus. Both versions are priced at $30, but it drops to $12 if you buy it via email, and they accept PayPal! If you know an elementary school student in need of some serious homework help, be it one of your own children, a neighbor’s kid, or one of the students in your class, point this program out to your teachers and fellow parents! What it costs in money, it more than makes up for in a child’s education. (And some BIG credit to Redwood Games for keeping it publicly available for so long, that’s some serious dedication to your audience, right there.)
Check out these other Apogee Software titles reviewed by Action Zero.
- Bio Menace
- Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold
- Duke Nukem II
- Halloween Harry, aka Alien Carnage
- Hocus Pocus
- Math Rescue
- Mystic Towers
- Raptor: Call of the Shadows
- Wolfenstein 3D
- Word Rescue
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