No sooner do you lash out a couple of grand on a culturally essential PC with eight-speed CD-Rom drive, than the same smartarses who advised you to buy it start writing articles on the "death of CD-Rom". The supposed down-turn was symbolised by the scaling down of publisher Dorling Kindersley's commitment to new CD ventures. The company itself denies that it has lost faith in the future of CD. I am glad of this reassurance because, on the basis of the titles I've seen, Dorling Kindersley should be encouraged to stick in there.

Dinosaur Hunter coincided with my six-year-old daughter's school project, and the cardboard skeleton included in the box was the talk of 2W, apparently. Sloping round the dark passages of the virtual reality museum, stopping to animate a deinonychus here, or a diploducus there, was fun. Descending into a dark basement to disinter and reassemble a Triceratops, introduced concepts of excavation, discovery and reconstruction.

Castle Explorer entails schlepping through a medieval castle and clicking on one of the vast panoramas to find out more about a particular area. This action is accompanied by sound effects such as chickens clucking (for the courtyard) or groans (for the dungeons and the latrines).

There is also an awkward little game requiring you to steal things from beautifully detailed virtual reality rooms, and encountering their inhabitants (including a camp baron). Most enjoyable.

How Things Work is the scientific equivalent of the Ten Minute Cook Book. If, like me, you struggle every time your child asks you to explain the functioning of a fridge or a vacuum cleaner, this is a great CD. Turn it on, search the index, and an animated mammoth appears to show you the basic principles. Inventors are listed with helpfully truncated biographies, allowing you to sound knowledgeable when dealing with the scientifically challenged. (Warning: do not try this with a real scientist).

Dorling Kindersley (0171-753 3488)

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