Nikolai’s Treats (1999)

A children’s “educational” game from 1999 I found on Macintosh Garden.

“Join Nikolai and his naughty friend Neow-Neow as they travel the world to learn new recipes and see the sights! Help them discover fun facts about Italy, France, Japan and Mexico.”

Nikolai and his talking cat cooking in Japan.

Nikolai and his talking cat cooking in Japan.

However, the game’s treatment of Japan is rather strange; and I don’t just mean because of that screenshot.

As alluded to in the quote above, they walk you through a recipe from French, Italian, Mexican, and Japanese cuisine.  A great way to get kids at least thinking about other cultures, even if it is pretty surface-level.  Mexico and Italy are both predicable, being tacos and pizza, respectively.  For France the authors whip out a chocolate mouse recipe, but what about Japan?

Predictably, they announce they’re going to do sushi, but there’s nothing wrong with that.  I love sushi myself, and I think it’s a great starter for getting your feet wet in Japanese food.  But then that kid and his talking cat proceed to blow me right out of my chair by instructing me to get marshmallows, cut them in half, fill them with candy, squeeze them closed again, and wrap strips of fruit roll-ups around them!

Presumably the white marshmallows represent rice, the candy the fillings, and the fruit roll-ups the seaweed for a candy representation of a cut-up sushi roll.  But what exactly is Japanese about it at that point?  I’m perfectly willing to forgive a “California roll”; use what you got and adapt recipes to your taste, that’s fine.  But marshmallows and fruit roll-ups?  The weirdest thing about it, though, is how they just go ahead with the recipe like it’s nothing strange.  They even start off saying that sushi is rice with raw fish and vegetables, but then run right into their “recipe” without so much as a guilty chuckle.  It’s as if they’re saying, “Yeah, it’s usually rice, fish, and vegetables, but sometimes its not, like this time.”  Like this is a thing they totally eat in Japan (seeing as how they’re supposed to be in Japan while they’re telling you how to make it).  I’ve never even seen anything remotely like a fruit roll-up here!

But the biggest question I’m left with is, “Why only Japan?”  The other three recipes were totally normal.  And it can’t be because they thought sushi would be too complicated for kids, because the French recipe has them beating whip cream into soft peaks and melting chocolate in a double boiler; a simple sushi recipe is not any more complicated than that.  My only guess is that they thought it would be too exotic.  Of course that begs the question of why include sushi, or even Japan, at all then, but I really can’t think of any other explanation.  It truly boggles the mind.

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2 Responses to Nikolai’s Treats (1999)

  1. Are you kidding me? This is a preschool game, and fine at that! These used to be Corel games, the best thing anyone could get for their children. I waited ALL MY LIFE to find this game for PC. I don’t have a Mac that can play this, but I can try my old eMac and see if it helps. I own ALL the other Nikolai/Neow-neow edutainment titles, in BOTH Mac and PC format (I am only missing this one). My Windows 8 PC can actually play all of them (with a little bit of tweaking), but yet no Mac has supported these since about 2002. I may be able to play this on Mac emulation on my PC. At this point, PCs can emulate Macs (and even classic mac) so much better than Macs can emulate PC or classic mac themselves! The irony. Macs used to be the Swiss army knife in computing. Times do change. Your review is interesting, just not what I’d imagine anyone say from a preschool game. Children wouldn’t give it a second thought, it’s all fun and games after all. Sorry you’re offended. My adult children used to love Nikolai and Neow-neow back in 97/98.

    • defenderland says:

      Saying “children wouldn’t give it a second thought” is rather my point. Why give children who wouldn’t know any better such a wrong impression of Japan? If the point of the game is to educate children about other cultures, we shouldn’t be inventing things about those other cultures and then passing them off as facts.

      As for emulation on a modern Mac:
      •If you’re trying to run Windows software, you can boot into Windows with Boot Camp, or run the software while in Mac OS under Crossover. There are also a lot of custom wrappers made using Wine out there.
      •If you’re trying to run DOS software, Boxer is a very user friendly version of DOSBox.
      •If you’re trying to run old Mac software, Sheepshaver runs 7, 8, and 9 very well, and Mini vMac can run anything older than that. Their only real limitation is that they don’t tend to run 3D games (though as pre-OS X 3D games aren’t so common, there are usually individual workarounds for them). I used Sheepshaver running OS 9 for this review, if I recall correctly.

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