Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978
More Articles Browse All Articles >>

You are in:  Learning | Whodunit?


Was is Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory? What does that secret code mean? What lurks inside your DNA? Mysteries abound for curious minds.

The Backyardigans The Backyardigans "Super Secret Super Spy"
Ages: 2 - 5 yrs.
Nickelodeon, $16.99 (DVD)   

"Super Secret Super Spy" takes the Backyardigans into a double length James Bond style world with super villains and super spies! The super special musical guest is Cyndi Lauper! The DVD includes three episodes for a total approximate runtime of 100 minutes.

Talking Words Factory 2: Code Word Caper Talking Words Factory 2: Code Word Caper
Ages: 3 - 6 yrs.
LeapFrog Enterprises, $14.98 (DVD)   

When Mr. Websley is accidentally silenced by the Silent E Machine, Leap, Lily, and Tad must journey through the Complex Word Complex to build the code words needed to return his voice. Guided only by the "Absent Professor Device," the kids learn how to build the complex words needed to solve the code and save the day. Humorous songs add to the fun and help teach the rules for advanced word building.

Cranium Puzzles Plus Seek & Find Let's Go to the City!
Ages: 3 & Up
Cranium Inc. , Ketchum Public Relations, $9.99

First, put the colorful puzzle together. Then draw cards and hunt for fun pictures. Search for squirrels, hunt for fire hydrants, or look for something that starts with the letter P. Use the dry-erase pen to circle all the fun things you find! Just wipe the durable puzzle clean to play over and over again. Encourages letter identification, counting, and attention to detail. With beginner and advanced cards, kids of all ages can play together and shine. Product Description

Detective LaRue: Letters From the Investigation Detective LaRue: Letters From the Investigation
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Mark Teague  
Scholastic Inc./Scholastic Press, $15.95 (Hard Cover)   

As if obedience school wasn't bad enough, Ike is now in prison! The Hibbins' cats are missing, and Ike is being blamed. Will Ike be able to solve the crime and preserve his spotless reputation? Expect more madcap comedy in Ike's daring escapades (both real and imagined), as well as ingenious split-screen visuals from the incomparable Mark Teague.

Get Puzzled! Get Puzzled!
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Scholastic Interactive, $24.99

The game features six mind-bender activities with over 300 one-minute puzzles. One is an adaptation of the old-fashioned hidden word search game. Another tests a children's memory and visual discrimination by asking them to reconstruct a monster (reattaching arms, legs, eyes and ears) in exactly the same way it appeared at the beginning of the game. A logic puzzle challenges children to assign objects like hats, mustaches, tie and eyeglasses to two or three characters on the screen - while satisfying each character's requirements ("I want a tall hat. I want my hat to be the same color as my tie.") Other games focus on spatial skills, strategy, and mathematics.

Sherlock Sherlock
Ages: 5 & Up
Playroom Entertainment, $7.95

As Sherlock goes around and searches the clues, every player tries to remember each of the eight objects hidden in a facedown circle of cards. Sherlock then travels from card to card - each time Sherlock stops at a facedown card, the player has to remember which object is on that card. Sherlock continues to move, as long as the player guesses correctly.

miniLUK Brain Olympics Collection Set
Ages: 6 - 8 yrs.
Beyond123 LLC, $44.95

Attention fans of tangrams and other shape-based activities: Let the games begin. Here, the "hardware" is a thin plastic tray that opens like a book. One side of the hinged tray is transparent; the other is opaque with numbered spaces. Inside the tray are twelve thin tiles that are numbered. These are shaped to fit into the spaces on the colored side of the tray. The "software" is a series of books that display problem sets. The challenges may be mathematical, logical, or simple arithmetic. The player places the correct question tile in the appropriate answer space on the tray. When the series is complete, the tray is closed and turned over, with the transparent side up. Since the tiles have colored shapes on the reverse side, a pattern is revealed that tells the player at a glance whether or not all answers are correct and complete. This unveiling is a fun way to check on accuracy that doesn't require an adult or an answer book.

Leapster I SPY Treasure Hunt Leapster I SPY Treasure Hunt
Ages: 6 - 9 yrs.
Scholastic Inc., $24.99

Ahoy Mateys--"I Spy Treasure Hunt" is a real treasure! Designed for ages 6-9, some aspects of this game are entertaining and challenging enough for adults to enjoy. The variety and complexity of games keep players on their toes as they sharpen their skills in matching, categorization, finding and search skills, counting, following ordered directions, memory and shape conceptualization. Each game is distinct and serves as a building block to overall game completion. Because game progress is automatically saved, players can complete the game at their own pace over many sessions (up to three player profiles may be saved).

I SPY Mystery
Ages: 6 - 10 yrs.
Scholastic Inc., $19.99

Discover a new way to play I Spy with 13 elusive mysteries that need your sleuth-finding skills. Choose a case file, then earn mystery clues by solving I Spy riddles and searching for carefully concealed objects. Use your problem-solving skills to follow the clues to solve the case of the Locked Gate, Midnight Mouse, Knight Fall, and many more clever mysteries!

National Geographic's Wild Detectives Collection National Geographic's Wild Detectives Collection
Ages: 6 - 12 yrs.
National Geographic TV, $19.95 (DVD)   

This four-episode, two-disc set from National Geographic provides information on a given animal, then allows young viewers figure out the solution based on clues from the narration. Disc One has two parts: "Animals Undercover" which includes information on how photographers and biologists set up blinds and motion-sensing cameras to catch tigers bathing in a pond or to spy on a bear family reunion. "Spy Tools" takes a more in-depth look at the technology which helps researchers observe without disturbing creatures. Disc Two highlights "Mysteries of the Deep" (and how people have learned to solve some) and "Penguin Adventures."

I SPY Spooky Mansion I SPY Spooky Mansion
Ages: 6 & Up
Scholastic Inc., $24.99

I Spy Spooky Mansion builds on the trademark I Spy hidden picture concept with interactive riddles, animated solutions, and a simple story line to compel the player through the game. Here, players search for items hidden within screen displays of rooms or pictures in a haunted house. Players click to enter a haunted house, then click into rooms of the house to find pieces of a puzzle which will provide them with the means to exit the house. With challenges for children of all ages, this game is compelling even to adults.

I SPY Fun House I SPY Fun House
Ages: 7 & Up
Scholastic Interactive, $29.99

Based on the popular, brain-workout "I Spy" books, this game challenges you to search for objects, shapes or numbers that are cleverly embedded in complex pictures. One of the game's six splendid big images, for instance, is a busy, colorful picture of a carousel with painted ponies, and you have to find a hidden pretzel, a whale, a two, a shoe, a blue bow, etc. As with the book versions, there are always a few objects that seemingly take forever to find.

Room One: A Mystery or Two
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Simon & Schuster Audio, $19.95 (CD)   

In rural Nebraska a small one-room school, with only 10 students, faces closing unless more families move into the community. Our protagonist, Ted, is the only sixth grader squeezed between fourth- and eighth-grade students. Ted just loves reading a good mystery story. But, a real-life mystery is what he finds when he catches a glimpse of a girl's face in a window of an abandoned farmhouse.

Neuromatrix Neuromatrix
Ages: 8 - 14 yrs.
Morphonix LLC, $24.95

Players take on the role of a secret agent who must infiltrate a top-secret neuroscience lab where rogue nanobots (microscopic robots) have invaded the brains of the lab's top scientists. Spawned by a secret evil villain, the nanobots' mission is to reprogram the human brain-starting with those who know most about it-and render humans subservient and docile leading to the take-over of the planet Earth. But get this: In conducting brain medically-based diagnostic exams and surfing to different parts of the scientists' brains to "delete" the nanobots, players see what the inside of the brain looks like and how it functions-just like a neurologist would. Lots of grisly (but not gross) internal body scenes that only a scientist or budding scientist could love.

8635 Mobile Command Center 8635 Mobile Command Center
Ages: 8 & Up
The LEGO Group, $89.99

The evil Dr. Inferno makes his first-ever LEGO appearance in the Mobile Command Center, a 1,154-piece Lego Agents building set that features a spy base command station along with smaller vehicles to transport additional spies and secret agents. In its "undercover" closed mode, the command station appears to be a large truck, but its interior is fully-equipped with all the requisite spy gear including computer docks, walkie-talkies, phones, a tool shop, loading crane and even a coffee center. Smaller support vehicles include a mini jet, a hover jet, a jet ski, a car and an ATV.

Crime Lab: Catch the Thief Crime Lab: Catch the Thief
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Hunter S. Fulgham  
Advantage Publisher's Group/Silver Dolphin Books, $19.95 (Hard Cover)   

Thieves have stolen a rare diamond, the Imperial State Crown and a Formula One race car, and it's up to you to find the perpetrator. You have been issued a crime investigation kit -- an ultraviolet scanner, a hand microscope, tweezers, litmus paper, and an evidence test sheet. As you read through a crime case and analyze your clues and evidence, you can mark your findings dwon on a suspect's sheet in order to narrow down and eliminate suspects one by one. This kit give kids a real-life look into leading an investigation while reinforcing their deductive reasoning skills.

Discovery Kids Whodunit? Forensics Lab Discovery Kids Whodunit? Forensics Lab
Ages: 8 & Up
Discovery Consumer Products, $79.95

Introduce your child to a fun and fascinating side of science, with this complete at-home forensic lab. You'll face six tough cases and use the state-of-the-art lab instruments to analyze handwriting, decipher blood type and examine mysterious fibers in your search for answers.

EyeClops Night Vision Goggles EyeClops Night Vision Goggles
Ages: 8 & Up
Jakks Pacific, Inc., $79.99

Take covert operations to the dark side with this handheld unit that lets you see up to 20 feet in the dark. Powered by actual infra-red driven night vision technology, EyeClops Night Vision enables clear visibility in even complete, pitch dark environments. Become a night spy, investigate nocturnal activities in your house and take games like hide 'n seek to a whole new level. Product Description

Fritz & Chessters Chess for Winners Fritz & Chessters Chess for Winners
Ages: 8 & Up
Viva Media, $29.99

When the first Fritz & Chesster title came out in 2003, the game quickly earned awards and checkmated most of the "serious" chess-tutoring programs in sales and popularity. The formula was simple: Make the remarkably educational game of chess both entertaining and easy to learn for children using a funky storyline, a few cute characters, and mini-games embedded with chess lessons.In the latest Fritz & Chesster, the same goals apply to teaching kids the game's more advanced concepts and strategies.

Secret Formula Lab
Ages: 8 & Up
SmartLab, $12.99

Fifteen experiments that use household cooking ingredients detail the recipes to create a variety of secret formulae. The kit comes with a beaker, test tubes, test tube holder, funnel and glow-in-the-dark powder. Projects include invisible ink, glowing alien blood jelly plastic, and hard rock candy.

Serpentiles Serpentiles
Ages: 8 & Up
ThinkFun Inc., $14.99

Serpentiles is a mind-bending game in which one player works to connect a combination of tiles to construct an unbroken loop for each colored path. Sound simple? In order to solve the puzzle, all of the tiles assigned for each challenge must be used. 40 challenge cards offer ten puzzles for each level from beginner to expert. The "Game-Go" bag makes this an easy choice for entertainment in the car, on the ferry, at the beach - or even through the serpentine lines at airport security.

SmartMoves - Home Edition SmartMoves - Home Edition
Ages: 8 & Up
Fablevision, $29.95 (DVD)   

Body Puzzles for the Mind should be on every "required watching" list. It is innovative, intelligent and intriguing. Viewers - be they in a classroom or a family room - follow along as the puzzle presenters (boys, girls, men and women) recreate patterns on the screen. For example, a yellow X will appear, followed by the image of a woman moving her right arm toward her left shoulder, then her left arm toward her right shoulder, thus creating an X. The more than 40 puzzles are arranged from Simple to Tricky to Challenging.

Three of a Crime Three of a Crime
Ages: 8 & Up
Gamewright, Aigner Associates, $9.99

Three of a Crime is a detective-style, "whodunit" card game where players (detectives) try to figure which three suspects are pictured on the eyewitness' card. In this fast-moving game with Dick Tracy-era named suspects like Pencil Top, Loose-Eye Lenny, and No Neck Nick, kids use logic and deductive reasoning skills to solve the mystery.

39 Clues #4 Beyond The Grave 39 Clues #4 Beyond The Grave
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Scholastic Audio, $19.95 (CD)   

Fans of the suspenseful 39 Clues series will enjoy the audio version of the fourth installment, Beyond the Grave. Siblings Amy and Dan Cahill are on a worldwide race to gather clues that will supposedly reveal why the Cahill family is one of the most powerful in history. Their problem is that the family also includes some less trustworthy and even downright dangerous members, all of who are on the same quest. In Book 4, the adventure leads them to Egypt and the Aswan High Dam. The story is packed with allusions and history lessons, referencing Napoleon and Churchill, Isis and Sahket. Issues such as personal destiny and whether or not power breeds corruption are raised throughout the series. The result is an exciting mix of kid-friendly action, mystery and humor, which manages to be surprisingly tender at times as well.

Crazy Machines 2 Crazy Machines 2
Ages: 9 & Up
Viva Media, $19.99

Here come the Rube Goldberg-like inventions again. The essence of this sequel to Crazy Machines and heir apparent to the '90s Incredible-Machines series? How convoluted and complex a machine we can create using oddball stuff to accomplish an otherwise simple task. For tinkerers, brainstormers, experimenters and wannabe inventors, these nearly 200 different machinery puzzles make a deep-thinking, problem-solving, educational game that can quickly become addictive.

Discovery Kids DNA Explorer Lab Discovery Kids DNA Explorer Lab
Ages: 9 & Up
Discovery Channel Store, $79.95

The DNA Explorer Lab is a complete laboratory for exploring the extraction, separation and analysis of DNA. The instruction book, complete with history lessons on the development of DNA, provides thorough explanations for conducting the experiments. The processes described in the manual carefully mimic the actual methods used in human DNA analysis done in forensic laboratories and the plant DNA experiments done in research facilities.

Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow
Ages: 10 & Up
HarperChildrensAudio, $27.99 (CD)   

Jake Ransom and his sister Kady find themselves immersed in a mysterious series of events that takes them on an adventure to an unknown world inhabited by a curious mix of unfamiliar, and sometimes dangerous, characters. An artifact their archeologist parents found on an expedition from which they disappeared, has lead then to this strange place. Now, the siblings must find their way home. Along the way, an evil alchemist, the Skull King, threatens their safe return. Throughout their perilous journey, Jake and Kady have no choice but to muster up the energy and courage to persevere.

Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull
Ages: 10 & Up
HighWater Group, Her Interactive, Inc., $19.99

This time Nancy Drew is off to the Big Easy for an R & R weekend with girlfriend Bess Marvin. But while this latest interactive ND caper is plenty "big" (requiring a gig of hard space), it's definitely not "easy." And you can forget the rest and relaxation. As always, no sooner does ND arrive than an intriguing mystery presents itself. While Bess heads to the French Quarter, Nancy detours to the Bolet mansion to check on acquaintance Henry Bolet, whose great uncle Bruno mysteriously died. A few steps into the opened door, she comes face-to-face with a creep in a skeleton costume who blows knock-out dust in her face.

Look for more Nancy Drew software from Her Interactive

Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships
Ages: 10 & Up
Her Interactive, Inc., $19.99

What could be better than an all-expense paid vacation in the Bahamas with Bess and George? But when Bess is kidnapped and held for ransom, it's up to you, as Nancy Drew, to discover the treasures of the sunken 'Seven Virtues' fleet and find the missing artifact that the kidnappers are demanding in exchange for Bess. Team up with George to sail through the perilous waters of this mystery and defeat the dastardly villain! Product Description

Share This

Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet

Award-Winning Products for Learning

Article Archive

Reference Tools & Homework Helpers

Sign Up
Our news & features delivered to your inbox.