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CONSOLE: PC DEVELOPER: The Learning Company PUBLISHER: The Learning Company
RELEASE DATE (NA): 1992 GENRE: Educational
// review by SoyBomb

Rabbits are, by nature, illiterate.

Edutainment, we meet again. It's more challenging to review educational games for children from the perspective of an adult (or as close to one as I can be if I'm still playing these games). Yes, it's obvious that the game will be surprisingly easy and simple. Yes, the characters will be so saccharine sweet that I will feel a sudden urge to run to the dentist soon after playing. And yes, it will not be quite as fun as, say, playing Super Mario Bros. or licking a melting candle. There is, however, merit in at least a few edutainment games, and they do indeed have their rightful place in our gaming community, if solely for ridicule's sake. And so, if you'll pardon my language, I'm going to review Reader Rabbit's Ready For Letters, goshdarnit! I could sit here and tell you all about it, but why don't we just play it and see how that turns out?

So here we are. The Learning Company produced this; they're known for edutainment games only, so they at least picked out a logical company name. Reader Rabbit is ready to play some fun letter games. I assume Reader Rabbit is his name, which makes me believe that his parents automatically and optimistically assumed they would have a literate offspring and be part of the first generation of Rabbits to possess this trait. Reader Rabbit lives with his grandparents, I assume. They're pretty old, and I doubt they would be reproducing so late in their lifespan. If the average lifespan of a rabbit is between 9 and 12 years, they must be 8. This is bad if they still have 20 years left to pay their mortgage. You can visit five different parts of the house, plus two areas to the left and right. We'll get to those parts eventually. Let's start by seeing what Grandma is doing.
Alright, so we're in the kitchen, doing something that has nothing to do with letters. Okay, you can see the words for each food item in her cookbook, which is good exposure to full words, but this isn't "Ready for Words". And this CERTAINLY isn't "Ready For Words with Bonus Cooking Class." Here, we have to follow a recipe for various tasty treats, such as sundaes and chocolate cakes. Grandma tells us what ingredients we need (and it's written in the book, too), and you have to rummage through the fridge and the cupboards to find each one. Here, we're making chocolate milk, which is being prepared in a bowl, the way all internationally-renowned chefs and elderly cottontails do it. All we need here is milk and chocolate sauce. When you click the ingredient needed, it floats right into the bowl automatically. It's magic food. Also, we don't need to remove anything from its container. I don't mind floating carton pulp in my chocolate milk, Grandma. That's called roughage. She must be an amazing cook because she can just stir everything together in her bowl and magically the recipe completes itself. After adding the milk and chocolate sauce, she stirs very briefly and suddenly, there's a big poof and chocolate milk appears. And it's in a pitcher. Did she add shards of glass to the recipe? That seems dangerous. Where's child services? I'm sure she washes all those meals down with Shard-onnay. Okay, that was terrible.
Next, we get to look into Reader Rabbit's awesome bedroom. By clicking on the different parts of his room -- the toy chest, the bed, the lamp, etc. -- you can change the theme of his room. It starts out with a rainbow theme, but you can change it to a bunch of different ones, including the manly football theme or a more docile musical theme. By ensuring all aspects of his room are in the same theme, you get a special animation. Uh... if you're looking for educational material, I guess having the different parts of the room match counts. There's nothing really exciting in here, although I am impressed by his overall level of neatness. When I was Reader Rabbit's age, my bedroom sometimes appeared as though a tornado flew through it... then came back and took temporary residence as Don Juan Tournade, the foreign exchange student from Cumulonimbus, causing even more toys and presumed lost socks to fly into random corners and nooks. ...Wait, what was I talking about again?
Clicking on the outhouse leads you here. We get to peek in on Reader Rabbit while he takes his Sunday bath. I guess there's no such thing as privacy or decency in this household. I should NOT be able to walk in on a naked rabbit. But he looks quite happy to see me, which is even more concerning. Anyway, it looks like we get to play Bathroom Graffiti Artist, a moniker normally reserved for people who spend large quantities of time stuffed into stalls at downtown dives and feel the sudden urge to scroll bawdy poetry and phone numbers into the partially unhinged doorway. He tells us a letter of the alphabet, and you need to click on it. Doing so correctly will reveal part of a picture. There are only two letters to choose from, so it's not that difficult. You can also play with a few of the surrounding accoutrements, such as flushing the toilet, playing with the toilet paper roll, and turning the fan on and off. Also, just out of curiosity, if the bathtub is raised off the ground, and there's a tap, where does the water come from?
Reader Rabbit and his family have a very old-fashioned living room, filled with the latest in technology, including a hip 1920s victrola AND a touch-tone telephone! Add a dish filled with ribbon candy and you have yourself a party, mister! Although examining the elements of the room can be exciting, it's the photo album that brings the most education. When you open it up, you'll be shown a picture without any people/fauna in it; a description on the left side, with a highlighted preposition, tells you what you SHOULD see. For example, it says here, "Grandma is in the car." You need to click on the part of the photo where Grandma should go. And the process repeats until you decide prepositions are as exciting as buttermilk and move on. Reader Rabbit's voice is borderline creepy; you may want to venture into the living room of doom with the sound turned down.
Our last stop in the Rabbit household is down in Grandpa's musty workshop, located down in the storm cellar, as far away from crazy ol' Grandma and her forsaken glass muffin recipes. Grandpa apparently is somewhat of an artiste, as he has many canvases laying around amidst the tools and the erotic landscape calendar on the wall circa 1968. Anyway, when you show up, he'll turn off the lights for a brief moment. When the room is illuminated, he will have many canvases with shapes on them in the background; when he holds up his own, you have to find the one that matches, with the help of his trusty vermin assistant who apparently is wearing her undergarments Urkel style. I like Grandpa's overalls. He was so proud of them, he put his initials on there: "GR". Grandpa Rabbit. Or it could just stand for the first part of "Grandpa" before he got drunk and lethargic, halted his sewing project, and said, "Urrrrhhh, I ain't no sailor!" while passing out in a wheelbarrow. This part of the game is pretty easy; it's usually the colour you have to find, rather than the shape. Wow, Grandpa looks like Barnard Hughes...
If we leave the house and go east a bit, there's a pond with some trees, shrubbery, and hideously spoiled shroomery. But this isn't just a wildlife documentary -- it's a jamboree in disguise! By click on the various nooks and crannies of the wilderness, animals will pop out, either to play an instrument or just bust a move like the village fool. Here, for example, a beaver is playing a harp made of vines, the tuxedo frog is jamming away by using turtles as drums, and the lizard thing in the back decreed that we need two drummers in a band. The rest are just dancing, or looking coy like those twin crows up there. Yeah, they want our flesh. This hootenanny is all good fun, but these songs are yearning for a good bassline. Make that other beaver play the bass. What's he doing that so important over there besides pretending to clap? Also, Reader Rabbit pops up in a conductor's uniform that he so gracefully cached away in a secret location, alongside with a getaway car, a fake mustache, and a portable phone that is also an edible carrot. ...Seriously, where did he get that jacket? Did he rob an usher?
Last but not least is traveling to the west of the Rabbit cottage of love. There isn't much to do here. Clicking on either of the tunnels will cause a train to chuff through the valley. There's also an indie band playing in the gazebo; they don't really have an audience, so they must be REALLY indie. Plus, they only play cover songs like "I'm A Little Teapot" and "Yankee Doodle". No wonder Def Jam Recordings isn't pounding on their doors to sign them. Other than this, there's nothing really to do around here. Nothing else is interactive, except me going to get a sandwich. And I didn't even do that.

So there you have Reader Rabbit's Ready For Letters in a nutshell. Out of the five mini-games, technically only one was about learning your letters. Two of them were semi-connected, where you could read words (although they were read TO you, so there wasn't really a need to know any letters), and two that had no relevance to letters. If you think about it, that's literally only 20% of the game relevant to the title. Add in the two screens with crows dancing and indie bands playing 1991 Sound Blaster music, and you have a percentage I don't even wish to conceive! Don't expect to be fully knowledgeable about letters after playing this edutainment title. Just be prepared to learn how to make a sundae without taking the ice cream out of the carton. That's voodoo!

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