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One of the last titles published under Sierra's "Discovery Series" brand, Driver's Education from Dynamix is an excellent edutainment program designed to teach youngsters the basics of safe driving: including the rules of the road, laws, spotting and understanding road signs, and safety precautions. So confident were the developers of the effectiveness of Driver's Education that it was sold with a money-back guarantee: if you don't pass your driving test after using the program, you would get your money back.
Playing Driver's Education is very much like a real driving school experience except for the virtual cars. You go through lessons in order, each of which is followed by a 3D driving lesson with driving teacher named "Ed" as your (very talkative) passenger, who gives you both lessons and encouragement you drive in the virtual city. While behind the wheel, you will lose points both for breaking the rules and not taking enough safety precautions. Point-losing events include speeding, pulling out into traffic without signalling, and not buckling your seatbelt. After the lessons, you will eventually take a review test. Released for US consumers, the program takes into account laws of different states by offering the lessons and tests that is appropriate to your state (you are asked this information at the beginning).
While the 'meat' of the program is definitely the lessons, kids will have a lot of fun driving the virtual car, which can be controlled via a keyboard, joystick, or even a driving/racing wheel (with pedals to boot). Anyone familiar with Dynamix's superb flight simulations will feel at home with sharp, detailed SVGA graphics. The car comes equipped with brake lights, automatic transmission, rearview and sideview mirrors, directional brake lights, and other features you see in a real car. You can switch the view to different camera angles, much like a typical racing game. The underlying car physics is realistic enough to give kids a feel for driving, without overwhelming them with technical minutiae.
While it will never replace driving lessons behind the real wheel, Driver's Education is an outstanding educational program that does exactly what it sets out to do: teaches driving in a safe environment without any risk of an accident. If you have younger kids in the house (say, 11-13 years old) who can't wait to drive but are a bit too young to learn, Driver's Education is a great alternative to putting them behind the wheel. If you like the program, you may also want to search on-line stores and bargain bins for the 1999 Edition of the program, which offers improved graphics and more driving simulations.
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Driver's Education '98 screenshot
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