May 2008 - Children`s Technology Review

May 2008 - Children`s Technology Review
The Educational Guide to Software, Electronic Toys, Video Games & Web Sites
May 2008
Volume 16, No. 5, Issue 98
2Simple Math Games 1
Backyard Sports Baseball ‘09
Boom Blox
Build-A-Bear Workshop A Friend Fur
All Seasons
Building Thinking Skills Level 2
Chaotic Trading Card Game: Starter
Deck
Cory in the House
Deca Sports
Diner Dash: Flo on the Go
Disney Pix Jr. Digital Camera For
Preschoolers
Eco-Creatures
Exploring Nouns Sterling Edition
Exploring Verbs Sterling Edition
Farm Vet
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue
High School Musical 2: Work This Out!
Let’s Face It!
Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes, The
Lowey Hija & Friends (Book One, Ages
2-6)
MapleStory
Mario Kart Wii
Matrix Math Plus
My Horse & Me (Wii)
Naruto: Path of the Ninja
NetOp School
Okami
Operation Vietnam
Pajama Sam in “Don’t Fear the Dark”
Petz: Horsez 2 (Wii)
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers
of Darkness
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers
of Time
Pulse Smartpen
Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo
Weekly Reader Visual Guides: Weather
& Global Warming
Wild Earth: African Safari
Word Roots A1 Software
A first look at Steven Speilberg’s
BOOM B
BOOM
BL
OXX
LO
PLUS
LittleClickers: Roller Coaster Sites
A Web 2.01 Patch
11 Editor’s Choice Selections
36 Fresh Products
Teachers: It’s Time to Wii
I took a call last week from a subscriber from a
large New Jersey school, serving children with
Editorial
special needs. She explained that her students
ranged widely both in age (from K-12) and in
their cognitive and motor abilities. She was on the
hunt for new software.
I started by mentioning some classics, like
Exploring Verbs Sterling Edition from Laureate
Warren Buckleitner
Learning Systems and 2Simple Math Games
(both reviewed in this issue). But she wanted something more.
As I glanced over the top-rated products from last year, I made a
recommendation that I could hardly believe I was saying. “Get a
Wii,” I blurted, immediately feeling better after saying it. There was
silence. “A what?” she said. “A Wii, from Nintendo.” “What’s a
Wii?”
After providing a quick Wii 101 tutorial over the phone, I started
to convince myself that my recommendation made a lot of sense.
“For a social, engaging classroom experience, you just can’t beat
what a Wii can do, especially with four controllers,” I said. Now of
course, every school board member is going to ask the same question at once. “What’s a Wii have to do with our curriculum?” That
answer obviously depends on how you define “curriculum.” But
consider this reality. Using our database, I can find a growing number of viable educational releases for either the Wii or the DS. And
these are titles that ask children to touch and move rather than point
and click.
Take the spatial thinking and impulse control required to knock
down a tower of blocks in Boom Blox (on this month’s cover) or the
hundreds of realistic animal facts
waiting to be discovered in Wild
Earth African Safari (page 16).
And at Mediatech, we’re training
future New Jersey
drivers with Mario
Kart Wii (if you’ve
ever tried to drive into Manhattan during rush hour,
you know what I mean). As we ended the conversation, it was clear that I had her pretty confused, but
she noted that she was at least eager to give a Wii a
try. She then said “I have just one more question. Where can I buy
one?”
Enjoy the issue.
Warren Buckleitner, Editor
PS. The Consumer Reports WebWatch study on how young children use
online content is finally available. Let me know what you think!
http://www.consumerwebwatch.org/dynamic/press-release-kidsonline.cfm
Your Key to 8424 Reviews
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database—a collection of reviews going back to 1985. If you’ve
lost or forgotten your password, please call 800-993-9499
between 9-3 PM EST.
2
May 2008
Volume 16, No. 5, Issue 98
EDITOR Warren Buckleitner, Ph.D.,
([email protected]) [WB]
MANAGING EDITOR Bobbie Nester
([email protected]) [BN]
REVIEWERS Debbie O’Grady [DO]
REVIEWS COORDINATOR Lisa Della
Fave ([email protected]) [LD]
CIRCULATION
MaryBeth Griffith
([email protected], 800993-9499)
ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTIONS cost $30 for the
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Review™, 120 Main Street, Flemington, NJ
08822 or call 800-993-9499. Other subscription
options are available, including Print, Electronic,
Site Licenses and Top 100 reports. Visit
www.childrenssoftware.com, or call to learn
more.
PRODUCT SUBMISSIONS. Send two products,
with release information to Lisa DellaFave,
Reviews Coordinator, 120 Main Street,
Flemington, NJ 08822 (Phone: 908-284-0404)
EDITORIAL GUIDELINES. We want our readers
to know that there are no ulterior motives behind
our reviews. CTR follows a set of editorial
guidelines found at
(www.childrenssoftware.com/editorialguidelines.
html). Highlights include:
• We don’t sell software or profit from products
that we review. Review copies of software are
donated to Mediatech, a non-profit, public
technology center.
• We don’t distribute/trade or sell subscriber
information.
• There is no advertising content.
PUBLISHER INFORMATION Children’s
Technology Review™ (ISSN 1555-242X) is published monthly for year by Active Learning Associates, Inc. Send address
changes or new subscriptions
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Review™, 120 Main Street,
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Use of this publication for any commercial
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permission is strictly prohibited.
Readers are subject to the TERMS OF USE found at
www.childrenssoftware.com/disclaim.html
Entire contents © 2008 by Active Learning
Associates, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Directory
Preschool & Kindergarten
Build-A-Bear Workshop A Friend Fur All
Seasons, www.gamefactorygames.com
Disney Pix Jr. Digital Camera For
Preschoolers, www.disney.com
Lowey Hija & Friends (Book One, Ages 2-6),
www.pianoplaymusic.com
Early Elementary
Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo,
www.humongous.com
Backyard Sports Baseball ‘09, www.backyardsports.com
Boom Blox, www.ea.com
Mario Kart Wii, www.nintendo.com
Pajama Sam in “Don’t Fear the Dark”,
www.humongous.com
Petz: Horsez 2 (Wii), www.ubisoft.com
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of
Darkness, www.nintendo.com
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of
Time, www.nintendo.com
Both full reviews and future releases are grouped by age.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, www.us.playstation.com
High School Musical 2: Work This Out!,
www.disney.com
My Horse & Me (Wii), www.atari.com
Wild Earth: African Safari, www.majescoentertainment.com
Schools
2Simple Math Games 1,
www.2simpleusa.com
Building Thinking Skills Level 2, www.criticalthinking.com
Exploring Nouns Sterling Edition,
www.laureatelearning.com
Exploring Verbs Sterling Edition, www.laureatelearning.com
Let’s Face It!,
http://info.med.yale.edu/chldstdy/neuroimg
Matrix Math Plus, www.StellarLearn.com
NetOp School, www.netop.com
Middle School
Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes, The
MapleStory, www.maplestory.com
Naruto: Path of the Ninja, www.d3publisher.us
Okami, www.capcom.com
Weekly Reader Visual Guides: Weather &
Global Warming, www.innovative-knowledge.com
Word Roots A1 Software, www.criticalthinking.com
Upper Elementary
Chaotic Trading Card Game: Starter Deck,
www.chaoticgame.com
Cory in the House, www.disney.com
Deca Sports, www.hudsonent.com
Diner Dash: Flo on the Go, www.brightermindsmedia.com
Eco-Creatures,
www.majescoentertainment.com
Farm Vet, www.legacyinteractive.com
CTR Editor’s
Choice
Selections,
May 2008
2Simple Math Games 1
Boom Blox
Diner Dash: Flo on the Go
Exploring Nouns Sterling Edition
Exploring Verbs Sterling Edition
Farm Vet
Mario Kart Wii
Pajama Sam in “Don’t Fear the Dark”
Pulse Smartpen
Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo
Wild Earth: African Safari
IN THE NEXT ISSUE....
Classic Quotes
“The test of the morality of a
society is what it does for its
children” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
(1906-1945), German
Theologian and Nazi
Protestor
As we go to press, we’re testing the titles below
for next month. Have you used them?
We welcome feedback, at
http://ctr.childrenssoftware.com/writeuser.html
Clicktoy: The Meadow
Crosswords DS
Doko! Discs
(www.dokodrop.com)
Jetix.com
Kids Can Publish
(www.kidscanpublish.com)
LEGO Indiana Jones:
The Videogame
My Piano
PetPetPet Habitats
Sega Superstars Tennis
Shining Stars
SPY Fox in Dry Cereal
Tamagotchi Connection
V5: Familitchi
teachermate
The Meadow
The Tuttles: Madcap
Misadventures
Toy Shop
Type to Learn 4
Wall-E
ZooGames
Soundtech Lightsnake
Vocal Trainer
Acknowledgments
An inside view of the Mediatech Foundation, where we test and archive our software.
Visit www.mediatech.org for more information.
Thanks to the following individuals,
including the members of the Mediatech
Foundation, who contributed their valuable feedback during the testing process.
Lorele Bennet, 15; Jenna Buckleitner, 13; Sarah
Buckleitner, 16; Jared C., 2; Tyler C., 4; David Carr 12;
Daniel Della Fave, 8; Nick Della Fave, 12; Kelly H., 11;
Thomas H., 14; Mohamed (Mo) Farid, 13; Caleb, H. 9;
Ethan H., 11; Griffith, Tyler, 15; Griffith, Troy, 12;
Griffith, Brett, 7; Jon Gick, 18; Michael Harrington, 14;
Laura Henry, 14; Ellie Hilgen, 6; Erin Hilgen, 12;
Matthew Kursa, 10; Frank Mondella, 13; Matthew
Mondella, 10; Alyssa Mondella, 15; Keith Paternoster,
15; Greg Shriener, 25; Matt Ivans, 22; Austin Lyons,
15; Connor Lyons, 113; Owen Lyons, 8; Colleen Nester,
12; Ross Rackin, 12; Jose Rincon, 13; Steven Rofrano,
12; Tim Wolock, 16.
Products are tested and stored for public access and
research at the Mediatech Foundation (www.mediatech.org), 118 Main Street, Flemington NJ.
3
Roll e r Co as ters
When it comes to roller coasters, you either love ‘em or hate
‘em. Here’s a closer look at these truly incredible machines.
1) What is the fastest roller coaster in the world?
At http://www.rcdb.com/ig2832.htm?picture=42 you will find some pictures of the
world’s fastest roller coaster, in New Jersey (our home state!) Called Kingda Ka, this
coaster goes 128 mph, is 45 stories high and does it all in just 15 seconds.
2) Who invented the first roller coasters?
According to Britannica.com, or
http://search.eb.com/coasters/index.html
you can learn about a Russian roller coaster
made from icy hills and cut lumber dating
back to the mid-1600s (you rode on straw
mats). The first such rides with attached
cars and a track, however, date back to 1817
in Paris, France with a ride called The Les
Montagues Russes.
http://www.coastergallery.com.
3) Could you design a Roller Coaster?
There’s a lot of math involved with creating a roller coaster, but don’t worry. This is
fun math. Thanks to sites like http://www.funderstanding.com/k12/coaster,
http://kids.discovery.com/games/rollercoasters/buildacoaster.html and
http://www.ux1.eiu.edu/~cfadd/1150/05UCMGrav/Vert.html you can make your own
roller coaster by dragging and dropping track parts into place. Will your coaster car
make it to the end?
4) What do the Thunderbolt, the Beast and the Texas Giant have in common?
All are famous roller coasters from around the country, and each is described at
http://kids.discovery.com/games/rollercoasters/coastervideos/coastervideos.html.
If you’re hungry for more photos of cool coasters like the one of the Kingda Ka
(upper right), visit http://www.coastergallery.com.
A front row view of the
world’s fastest roller coaster!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN8nv4tVFuA
http://kids.discovery.com/games/rollercoasters/coastervideos/coastervideos.html
LittleClickers.com (this page and the associated web site, is sponsored by Computer Explorers
(http://www.computerexplorers.com). Neither CTR or Computer Explorers has any vested interest in any of the sites
listed on this page. Librarians and teachers are permitted to copy this page for non-profit use. To report a bad link, please
contact [email protected], or call 908-284-0404 (9 - 3 PM, EST). Links were selected by Bobbie Nester.
4
Web 2.01 Patch
Thoughts for Designers: Announcing the
L
By Scott Traylor
ast month, I was presenting at a conference for education publishers when someone raised his hand and asked “What’s a
Webkinz?” Hmmmm, I thought. Doesn't everyone know about Webkinz World (www.webkinz.com)? Shouldn’t everyone
know about this site and others like it without the excuse “I don’t have kids.” The next day, somebody asked me, “What’s an
avatar?" I was starting to understand that there were still plenty of publishers firmly stuck in yesterday’s Web 1.0 world. But don’t
worry. We’ll fix the problem the way we developers always do—with a Patch.
The Web 2.0.1 Patch is designed to help
you become more thoughtful when creating interactive experiences for children
(and it works well for school or library
websites, as well). Installing this Patch in
your brain is a quick and painless process
as long as you have a USB 2.01 port just
behind your left ear. Or, you can follow
these three steps.
STEP 1) Create an account for yourself in a virtual world like Club
Penguin, Pirate’s Online,
Nicktropolis, Second Life or any of
the many virtual worlds that are
popping up all over. Once you have an
account, test it out and play with it. Keep
in mind—like many other Web 2.0 products available you may not see the benefits immediately, but you will see incremental improvements every time you
come back to visit one of these virtual
worlds.
STEP 2) Upload digital photos to
Flickr or a video to YouTube. Don't
forget to include some tags that describe
what you’re uploading so for others can
easily find it. Once you have posted
something, control your excitement, pat
yourself on the back, and email friends
and family with a link to your newly posted UGC (User Generated Content)!
STEP 3) Create a personal profile
on Facebook, LinkedIn, or any
another similar social networking
site. If you don't know one that's right
for you, ask a smart computer friend
what she uses (chances are she will have
already installed the 2.0.1 Patch and will
be familiar with the requirements). If
your techy friend is not available, casually
ask someone under the age of 20 what
sites they use. Don't tell them that you
are setting up a new account. If you do,
he or she might give you that “Web 1.0
look” and then slowly back away.
(DRUMROLL)
“I am pleased to
announce the Web 2.01
Developer Patch”
Here are just a few of the benefits you’ll
be able to enjoy from downloading and
installing this Patch:
• You will start from, and work
from, a central plan. If you’re
designing a site or service with social
features, there will be no more "winging it" or making it up as you go
along. Thinking through the design of
your new web idea, writing it down,
and sharing it with all of your team
members are more important now
than ever before.
• You’ll test your work with your
target audience. The Patch works
best when testing is considered at the
very beginning of your product's definition on paper and throughout the
development process. Some of you
might explain "We never had to test
our products during the Web 1.0
days!" Yes, in many ways the Web 1.0
days were a simpler time, and a time
we will all look back on with nostalgia. However, the hustle and bustle of
today’s fast-paced Web 2.0 world
demands ongoing testing.
• After you install the 2.0.1 Patch,
you’ll have zero tolerance for UI
(user interface) mistakes. If buttons or other interactive controls
don't function as they are supposed
to, your product will be in violation of
the User's Agreement. It is important
to fully think through the entire user
experience fully before launching an
interactive product. This requirement
can’t be overstated. You can’t blame it
on Flash, Microsoft or some browser
Want to see a Web 1.0 site? Visit www.DustorMagic.com
5
error. That's the 1.0 baby talk of the
past.
• If you are a Web 2.0 savvy developer, keep in mind that it is possible your audience is not
acknowledging that he or she is
a Web 1.0 user. Education outreach
and friendly intervention is an important component of the Web 2.0
vision. Take the time to gently explain
how their actions are hurting others
around them. Also explain the benefits of the Web 2.0 universe. (Note:
This should be apparent in the development documentation you will have
recently created for your plan). To
keep your Web 2.0 chops fresh, try
out the latest ground breaking technologies, like the iPod Touch interface, for example. You may not know
how to find it at first, but be diligent.
These steps can avoid wasting countless
hours and dollars, and they can prevent
you from having to install the 2.11 Patch
and a 2.2 Update. In the end, keeping
your Patches up-to-date can result in better products and happier users.
Scott Traylor is
one of our
favorite presenters at the Dust
or Magic
Institute each
year. A former
teacher at the
Harvard
University’s
Extension School, he’s
the founder of the development studio
360KID (www.360kid.com). His collection of electronic learning aids is stored in
his Newton, Massachusetts office.
(Nov. 2-4, 2008 in Lambertville, NJ)
Feature Reviews
MAY 2008
Here's an alphabetical listing of new products, along with a full review, ratings and tester
feedback. The "Entry Date" refers to the date we first learned of the product.
2Simple Math Games 1
Teachers or homeschoolers, take note of this six-pack of math games that forces
children to think and apply basic math facts such as adding, subtracting and factors in
real time. For example, in FunkyPlatform, they use the arrow keys to move a calculator
across two moving platforms (like a typical log/river game) only they must balance an
equation to make it across.
Other games include: Factoroids (break down the factors into equal parts); Dividers
(target each number with the correct divider); FacWall (arrange the fractions together to
create a whole); BondBubbles (join the bubbles for rapid recall of number facts) and
SeqSnake (work out the sequence to grow the snake).
For teachers longing for the days of Math Blaster, when you could put in a disk and
get some solid games that worked like a charm for a reinforcement activity, this is an
excellent choice. The program was written by Max Wainewright.
The $50 price is for a single license. Additional licenses are available at a cost of $30
each for 5-9 licenses; $20 each for 10-19 licenses; $17 each for 20-49 licenses; or $884 for an
unlimited site license.
Details: 2Simple USA Inc., www.2simpleusa.com. Price: $50. Ages: 9-up. Platform:
Windows. Teaches/Purpose: math, fractions, basic math facts, factors. Rating (1 to 5
stars): 4.7 stars. Entry date: 8/27/2007. [WB]
Boom Blox
Ease of Use 8
Educational 10
Entertaining 10
Design Features 10
Good Value 9
94%
Ease of Use 9
90%
If you've ever tossed pebbles at a stack of cans, you can easily get to the core of Boom
Educational 8
Blox -- a throwing/problem-solving game for one to four players that exploits the Wii's
Entertaining 10
kinesthetic controls. The concept is easy to learn, and once you start, it is hard to stop.
Your goal might be to inflict as much damage on a tower of blocks as possible, or
Design Features 9
perhaps to grab as many blocks as you can from a tower, without knocking it over. The
Good Value 9
better you get, the more challenges you can unlock, and your high scores can be saved on
the Wii's hard disk. (EA is quick to remind you that the producer of this game was movie ESRB Rating: Everyone, Cartoon Violence
director Steven Spielberg, who was inspired by the Wii's controls.)
Comic Mischief
However, before you break the shrink wrap on this game, you might want to actually
follow those warnings that appear at the start of every Wii Game -- the ones that tell you
to put on a wrist strap. That's because to play the game, you continually make sharp
throwing motions at the screen; a motion that can easily send a controller flying. Get four
kids doing this, and the breakage could become real.
To make a throw, you first choose a target by positioning cross hairs onto a block.
Then, while holding the A button, you make a throwing motion. The effect is amazingly
like real throwing, partly because of the motion, and partly because of the tactile feedback
as you release your throw. But the most exciting part of this game is the creative aspect,
where you can build your own structures and knock them down. You can also populate
your level with 30 characters, each preprogrammed to interact with others in a certain
way. Because of the variety in building options, it is possible to make a pretty
sophisticated chain reaction, which you can share online (a feature we did not try). You
can play as a single player or against your friends with just one controller that you pass
back and forth.
So how could it be better? The menus are a bit clunky (not bad, but the pop-ups cover
the choices when you roll over them), and despite the variety of the levels, all the
throwing can get a bit tedious. We also didn't like the commercial implications of seeing
EA's logo integrated into one of the puzzles. These points are more than compensated for
by the rich creative possibilities, and the idea that you can have a virtual set of smart
blocks that never need to be cleaned up or moved when you vacuum the rug. This can
add months of playtime to the $50 investment. Another plus is the implied physics behind
the graphics. It is very fun to toss rocks at a structure to see if it can take the punishment;
and then watch it slowly start to sway as the foundation gives way. See the preview at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zjWzpZN2Cg.
Details: Electronic Arts, Inc., www.ea.com. Price: $50. Ages: 4-up. Platform: Wii,
Mobile Phones. Teaches/Purpose: spatial relations, logic, gross motor development
(throwing), creativity, programming. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.5 stars. Entry date:
4/16/2008. [WB]
6
11
Au
E
12
Au
E
FEATURE REVIEWS, MAY 2008
Building Thinking Skills Level 2
Like Building Thinking Skills, Level 1, this single CD contains 38 activities that
provide a guided introduction to logical thinking concepts, especially related to spatial
terms, classification and following directions. The activities are designed in Flash, and
work fine on either Mac or Windows computers.
Each activity contains about 20 problems. In a typical activity, children are asked to fill
in sentences by dragging and dropping terms into the sentence. For example, you are
asked to "drag the green ball with the blue triangle under the red ball with the black
square." Each problem is instantly graded, so children can see their progress, and reading
is required.
There are two modes of play. In the adventure mode, you are required to pass each
level before going to the next. You can choose easy, medium or hard -- in the hard level,
you must get 95% of the problems correct in order to progress. In practice mode, you can
freely access any of the games. The program tracks each child's progress when in the
adventure mode.
In easy mode, children are asked to label spatial relationships shown on the screen. At
the hardest level, children are asked to complete verbal sequences, such as "inch is to
length, as square is to (correct answer: volume)."
The features are classroom friendly, and the activities -- while dry -- get children
thinking about concepts they'll most likely be encountering on a typical standardized test.
If you're looking for flashy graphics and sounds, you won't find it with this program. For
a classroom or home school setting, this program is worth a second look.
Details: The Critical Thinking Co., www.criticalthinking.com. Price: $37. Ages: 9-12.
Platform: Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: logic, vocabulary, reading,
mathematical reasoning, analytical skills. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.2 stars. Entry date:
3/19/2008. [WB]
Diner Dash: Flo on the Go
Warning, this game is addicting, so consider yourself warned. Anyone who's ever
waited tables knows that it requires juggling a variety of tasks at once. In this game, you
assume the role of a fast-footed waitress named Flo. As customers line up at the front
door, you must seat them, take their orders, turn them into the kitchen, deliver the food,
take the bills, bus the tables and seat the next customers. The better you do, the bigger
your tips. Customer satisfaction is measured by a set of hearts; if a customer waits too
long, they will leave and your score goes down.
There's been a variety of Diner Dash games in the past (the original idea comes from
GameLab). This edition combines casual gaming with a story where Flo is going on a
vacation, but loses her suitcase. She has to use her waitress skills to get her vacation and
wardrobe back on track. The game features 50 levels and includes blackout and
turbulence modes that make waiting tables more difficult, as well as nine types of
customers -- including tacky tourists and lovebirds. For $20, you can't go wrong with this
fun game, and it definitely stretches your short-term memory. Created by PlayFirst for
Bright Minds Media.
Details: Brighter Minds Media, Inc., www.brightermindsmedia.com. Price: $20. Ages:
10-up. Platform: Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: logic, timing, memory, some
math. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.3 stars. Entry date: 4/2/2008. [WB]
7
Ease of Use 8
Educational 10
Entertaining 7
Design Features 8
Good Value 9
84%
Ease of Use 8
Educational 6
Entertaining 10
Design Features 9
Good Value 10
86%
ESRB Rating: Everyone, Use of Alcohol
FEATURE REVIEWS,
Disney Pix Jr. Digital Camera For Preschoolers
These days, every kid needs a digital camera, especially if a trip to the zoo is on
agenda. The $60 Disney Pix Jr. Digital Camera (at www.disneyshopping.com) is one
consideration, although there are weaknesses to note.
Shaped like a large rubbery bar of soap, the camera has 32 MB of RAM plus an
internal SD card slot for more, and 1.3 Megapixels of resolution, producing images on par
with most modern cell phones. The 4AA batteries give it enough power to last for several
days.
The clunky-feeling camera has rounded edges which makes it completely
symmetrical, giving a child a 50% chance of grabbing it upside down. There's no optical
viewfinder, and getting the SD card from the camera or changing batteries requires a
small Phillips-head screwdriver.
This camera is a case study in how an Interface can be simplified to the point of
bewildering you (the user) -- at first anyway. There's no power on/off button, for
example. The idea is, that if you press any of the five buttons, the camera turns on. A
timer automatically turns it off after 30 seconds if nothing is pressed. The problem with
this approach is that the camera can turn on and possibly take pictures when being
bumbled around inside a backpack.
Getting the pictures off the camera is simple -- just plug in the USB cable (provided) to
any Macintosh or Windows computer. You can use your existing photo editing software,
or you can install the included disk on your Windows computer -- for even more Disney
themes. Other features include an auto flash, 1.5-inch viewfinder, wrist chord, and the
ability to overlay Disney characters onto the subject in the viewfinder.
Digital cameras are great creativity devices for all ages, and every child should have
one. This particular camera can do the job, but keep in mind that a real camera is only a
few dollars more, and can take much higher resolution photos.
Details: Disney Consumer Products, www.disney.com. Price: $60. Ages: 3-up.
Platform: Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: creativity, digital photography. Rating
(1 to 5 stars): 3.5 stars. Entry date: 4/17/2008. [WB]
Eco-Creatures
Ease of Use
Educational
Entertaining
Design Features
Good Value
5
N
8
8
12
Au
Ed
7
8
Ease of Use 5
Confusing and hard to learn, this one-player DS game attempts to teach players about
Educational
the effects that over-industrialization, deforestation, pollution, extinction and global
Entertaining
warming have on the environment. While these are big topics, it is hard to figure out what
they have to do with this game. Players use the Touch Screen to move a tribe of woodland
Design Features
creatures around an island. Each creature-type has different abilities (Ecolis grow trees,
Good Value
Ecoby build bridges and swim, and Ecomon move objects and fly, and so on). There are
40 missions, but we couldn't get through the first, and our testers all gave up as well. So
ESRB Rating: Everyone
this really could be a good game, but we'd never know. Other features include a two-tofour player game-sharing mode, and a make your own island feature. Developed by
Lightweight Co. Ltd., and Headlock Corporation for Majesco.
Details: Majesco Entertainment, www.majescoentertainment.com. Price: $30. Ages: 5up. Platform: Nintendo DS. Teaches/Purpose: environment; pollution; deforestation.
Rating (1 to 5 stars): 3.6 stars. Entry date: 3/18/2008. [WB]
70%
7
8
7
9
72%
12
Au
Ed
FEATURE REVIEWS, MAY 2008
Exploring Nouns Sterling Edition
Designed to teach and reinforce vocabulary in English to children with special needs,
this program uses full screen scenes to train 120 early developing nouns, by way of 10
nicely illustrated scenes, such as a barnyard, restaurant or jungle.
Like prior Laureate programs, the content is extremely customizable. Teachers can
quickly toggle on/off which items are illustrated and work with a set of just one or two
words. Once a scene is launched, children are asked to find a particular item, with direct
instructions such as, “This is a horse. Find the horse.” A child must click the horse to get
the problem correct.
Later, a child might be asked to identify the nouns associated with a simple statement
such as, “The girl is singing.” There are two types of reinforcements for correct answers:
either the noun animates or characters perform a short skit using enriched language. The
skits and animated graphics are well done, and the graphics are clear and well illustrated.
In other words, a spoon looks like a spoon, and there's no additional visual clutter.
There are eight types of activities, as follows. Optimized Intervention tracks student
responses and guides the user through the curriculum; Exploration is an open-ended
activity that lets students select an item on the screen, hear the word, and see the
associated text and animation; Identification lets students identify nouns from selected
scenes; Mixed Explore/Identify alternates between the Exploration and Identification
activities; and Testing is used to document pre- or post-training performance. There are
also three supplemental activities. Word Introduction (Cards) presents a single word and
it's associated animation, Word Introduction (Scene) introduces vocabulary items one at a
time until a full scene is displayed, and Animated Routines.
It is based on behavioral theory; with a lot of direct instruction and training (another
approach might be to let the child visit a real farmyard). When used in conjunction with
real experiences, this type of software works best.
Management features include the ability to keep detailed records (recorded for each
student), and switch between scanning or direct select input.
Prices are $225 each for one to four copies, $157.50 each for five to nine copies, $135
each for 10-19 copies, $112.50 for 20-49 copies, and $1125 for a Network License. Note: See
also Exploring Verbs.
Details: Laureate Learning Systems, www.laureatelearning.com. Price: $225 and up.
Ages: 5-up. Platform: Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: language arts for special
needs, reading, grammar, phonics. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.4 stars. Entry date: 1/25/2008.
[WB]
Exploring Verbs Sterling Edition
Designed for children with special needs, this program uses eight scenes (such as
children playing at a camp) to train children on 50 early developing verbs like singing,
jumping or running. After you set up an account for every child, children sign-in and
press "go." They are taken to the last point in the program. First, they see a scene, and then
are asked to identify the verbs -- for example, "The girl is singing. Find the girl that is
singing." Once a child can identify each vocabulary item, the program automatically
moves to the next scene. There are two types of reinforcement for correct answers: either
the noun animates or characters perform a short skit using enriched language.
The software features eight activities including: Optimized Intervention (tracks
student responses and guides the user through the curriculum); Exploration (open-ended
activity that lets students select an item on the screen, hear the word, and see the
associated text and animation); Identification (students must identify nouns from selected
scenes); Mixed Explore/Identify (program alternates between the Exploration and
Identification activities); Testing (used to document pre- or post-training performance),
and Three Supplemental Activities (Word Introduction (Cards) presents a single word
and its associated animation; Word Introduction (Scene) introduces vocabulary items one
at a time until a full scene is displayed, and Animated Routines).
The items are well illustrated and the speech is clear; this looks and feels very much
like the type of software that Laureate is best known for. We were able to run in on a very
old iMac with no problem.
Prices are $195/each for 1-4 copies, $136.50/each for 5-9 copies, $117/each for 10-19
copies, $97.50 for 20-49 copies, and $975 for a Network License.
Details: Laureate Learning Systems, www.laureatelearning.com. Price: $195 and up.
Ages: 5-up. Platform: Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: language arts for special
needs, reading, grammar, phonics. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.4 stars. Entry date: 1/25/2008.
[WB]
9
Ease of Use
Educational
Entertaining
Design Features
Good Value
9
Ease of Use
Educational
Entertaining
Design Features
Good Value
9
9
88%
8
9
9
9
8
9
9
88%
FEATURE REVIEWS, MAY 2008
Farm Vet
Ease of Use 8
Say, can you cure a nasty case of greasy pig disease? You'll be able to after you play
Educational 10
Farm Vet, another veterinarian simulation from Legacy Interactive, a company that has
Entertaining 8
become known for first-person medical simulations. After you sign in (progress is saved
automatically), you choose and dress a boy or girl avatar. Next, you meet an old, wise
Design Features 8
farmer who explains how important it is to be able to take care of the animals in order to
Good Value 9
save the farm.
As you explore the 3D barnyard, you meet a variety of sick animals. There are
ESRB Rating: Everyone
chickens with eye infections, ducks with broken wings and a pig with bad-looking skin.
Your job is to cure as many animals as you can before the day ends (which takes about
30 minutes in real time). Content includes three challenge levels, 60 cases and five minigames. The program doesn't skimp on the real terms; words like Exudative Epidermis.
Our testers, aged 13, commented that the "boy sounds wimpy" and the "girl looks stiff".
But the content is good, with real tools and treatment using authentic antibiotics. The
music and graphics have a distinct feel to them that some children might find to be
initially strange.
Features include the ability to increase or decrease the level of detail in the game, and
the ability to toggle subtitles on/off. Note that you'll need to have a 3D graphics card with
at least 128 MB of RAM. If you're expecting state-of-the-art characters, you'll be
disappointed in this game. But if you're a future vet, you should jump in. Visit www.
farmvetgame.com for more information.
Details: Legacy Interactive, www.legacyinteractive.com. Price: $20. Ages: 6-up.
Platform: Windows. Teaches/Purpose: science, medicine, veterinary science, deductive
reasoning, problem solving. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.3 stars. Entry date: 3/4/2008. [WB]
Lowey Hija & Friends (Book One, Ages 2-6)
Designed to introduce musical terminology to young children, this is a cartoonish
collection of seven activities that vary in quality, but are generally poorly designed -- too
much narration and not enough feedback.
Children can choose a game using a menu that requires reading, which is unfortunate
given the target age range for this title (ages two to six). In the first game, children are
supposed to sort sounds by loud (Forte) or soft (Piano); the sounds are represented by
various farm animals. But the goal isn't clear, and mistakes can be confused with correct
answers. Much of the content is delivered by way of short, narrated episodes. To learn
about instruments, children are supposed to select one, but it won't stop playing until the
animation finishes, reducing feelings of control. If you make it to the end, you can print
out a certificate. There are better music software packages.
Details: Piano Play Music Systems, www.pianoplaymusic.com. Price: $40. Ages: 2-6.
Platform: Windows XP, Windows 98, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: music appreciation,
musical terminology. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 1.6 stars. Entry date: 2/26/2007. [WB]
10
Ease of Use
Educational
Entertaining
Design Features
Good Value
4
3
2
3
4
86%
12
Au
Ed
32%
11
Au
Ed
FEATURE REVIEWS, MAY 2008
MapleStory
This Korean massive multiplayer online game (MMOG) shows off some nice animated
graphics and state-of-the-art game sharing technology, with free-chat abilities. It was first
released in 2006 and appeals primarily to middle and high school age players. (Note that
you first need to download and install a small file to play the game. It would not work on
our Macintosh.) While the game has no cost to start playing, some of the game items cost
real money, presenting a type of velvet rope approach.
The game puts you on journeys that require cooperation with other players. Your job
is to protect Maple World by fighting monsters (there are plenty of battles) and eventually
build your own house in a quiet rural village. There's a variety of settings to explore -- an
island, a town and back alleys of a city. You can choose one of four roles: Warrior,
Bowman, Thief, or Magician. The more you play, the more skills you earn.
Jon says, "This is a fun way to spend a boring Saturday. Whether you are a serious
adventurer looking for a challenge, or you just want to walk around fighting monsters,
MapleStory is fun. You start as a beginner with no particular skills. The controls are easy
to learn and there's a lot to explore."
MapleStory is free to play, but some items can be purchased with real money online.
There is also a MapleStory trading card game which includes cards with codes that can be
entered into the game to earn special items. With cute characters, fun music and loads of
character customization, MapleStory is worth the download, providing you have a
Windows computer.
Details: NEXON Corporation, www.maplestory.com. Price: $free. Ages: 13-up.
Platform: Windows. Teaches/Purpose: logic, reading, economics. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.2
stars. Entry date: 4/15/2008. [JG]
Mario Kart Wii
Ease of Use 7
Educational 8
Entertaining 9
Design Features 8
Good Value 10
Ease of Use 9
Fun, fast, and full of surprises, the Wii edition of Mario Kart provides some top notch
Educational N
racing, and is an ideal way to transform your TV into a racetrack. This edition comes with
Entertaining 10
the Wii steering wheel, a peripheral that our testers deemed unnecessary for the game. In
fact, they preferred to race with the Nunchuk instead.
Design Features 9
Once you sign in by either creating a Mii or using an existing Mii icon, you choose a
Good Value 9
car and Nintendo character. Or you can put your personalized Mii behind the wheel.
There's a wide variety of multiplayer features in this game. You can play either in split ESRB Rating: Everyone, Comic Mischief
screen mode or compete against 11 other players online. There are 32 racetracks (16 new
and 16 from previous Mario Kart games) and a variety of cars, including a rocketpowered baby carriage. A big part of winning the race is in your ability to defend your car
by dodging missiles, mud baths or zaps of electricity. There's plenty of random events to
keep things interesting, including a set of cows that might wander onto the track. With
Mario Kart Wii, Nintendo also announced the "Wii Wheel," a non-electrical accessory that
is rally more a prop than a controller. You can also drive with the Wii Remote, Wii
Remote & Nunchuk combination, or older Nintendo GameCube controller in case you
can't afford Nunchuk/Wii Remote sets. Visit www.mariokart.com to see the latest scores.
Our high school intern, Jon, says, "This game has the best controls for a Wii racing game
I've played yet."
Details: Nintendo of America, www.nintendo.com. Price: $50. Ages: 6-up. Platform:
Wii. Teaches/Purpose: racing, social play, strategy, logic, spatial relations, fine motor
development. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.6 stars. Entry date: 3/12/2008. [WB]
11
84%
93%
FEATURE REVIEWS, MAY 2008
My Horse & Me (Wii)
Ease of Use 6
Like the Windows version of this game, the Wii adaptation (for one player, Nunchuk
Educational
required) also features beautiful scenery but a clunky design, following the same pattern
Entertaining
used by previous horse sims we've reviewed over the years. You choose a horse, take care
of him, practice, and compete in a variety of jumping events to unlock more horse
Design Features
equipment and tracks.
Good Value
You can choose from girl or boy characters, then customize your character and horse
with clothes, hair color and so on. You can clean and groom your horse, and learn how to ESRB Rating: Everyone
ride with basic dressage and jumping lessons. There are different obstacles in both the
indoor and outdoor areas, and players train to win the five international championships.
Mini-games include collecting butterflies, herding chickens and catching falling stars,
all to improve your riding skills. The game features four outdoor environments -- each
with multiple courses that can be tackled at different times of day -- and four indoor
locations with their own courses. In addition, you can take pictures of yourself and your
horse while riding, then add them to your user profile on the official website (www.atari.
com/myhorseandme). Testers were not impressed by the controls or the feedback, which
they said was for "little kids." Versions are also available for Windows or the Nintendo
DS.
Details: Atari, www.atari.com. Price: $30. Ages: 8-up. Platform: Windows, Wii*,
Nintendo DS. Teaches/Purpose: creativity, timing, equestrian sports, horses. Rating (1 to
5 stars): 2.7 stars. Entry date: 5/2/2008. [WB]
5
54%
4
Au
Ed
6
6
Operation Vietnam
Ease of Use 8
86%
This one-player DS simulation game lets players command their soldiers through warEducational 8
torn Vietnam. On a routine run over the Vietnam war-zone, your chopper is taken down
Entertaining 9
in enemy territory. The object of the game is to make it out of the war zone while freeing
civilians and eliminating the bad guys. You use the touch screen to issue commands and
Design Features 9
select which squad members to give orders to. Up to four soldiers can be commanded at
Good Value 9
once, and you can use their squad to combat multiple enemy types (including soldiers,
tanks, turrets, and enemy barracks), while taking advantage of different specialties and
ESRB Rating: Teen, Blood, Mild Language, Mild
weapons per soldier (including long range shot, grenade launcher and automatic
Violence
weapons). The game also features 20 different jungle missions including rescuing POWs,
saving civilians and hunting enemy soldiers.
Our tester (Jon) really liked this game, saying that it put players in a dark time in
American history. "The features are really cool... each soldier has different skills; your
medic can heal wounds. Plus, your sniper can pick off far away targets and detect traps.
Keeping your soldiers alive is important because each of them has useful skills that you
may need. This is a game definitely worth playing." Developed by Coyote Console for
Majesco.
Details: Majesco Entertainment, www.majescoentertainment.com. Price: $20. Ages: 10up. Platform: Nintendo DS. Teaches/Purpose: history. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.3 stars.
Entry date: 8/24/2007. [LD]
Pajama Sam in “Don't Fear the Dark”
Formerly released in 1996 as Pajama Sam in "No Need to Hide When It’s Dark
Outside” this newly titled version runs on Windows computers.
The program stars Pajama Sam, an adventurous little boy who's afraid of the dark.
Led by his imagination, Sam enters a secret world to capture Darkness. In the end, he
learns that Darkness isn't all that scary after all; a nice underlying theme for many young
children.
There's no shortage of content in this adventure, with 50 locations to explore. As kids
travel, they must work out solutions to puzzles. In one scene, they meet a wooden boat
named Otto, who is afraid of sinking. Since they need to ride up the river in this boat,
children must find a board to show Otto that wood actually floats. In another scene, kids
pick up a magnet behind a hidden door and then later use it to grab a lunch box. It takes
hours of play to find all the necessary items and solve all the puzzles—and then players
finally get to meet and defeat Darkness.
Children unfamiliar with the Humongous navigation systems may need assistance at
first, and three- and four-year-old children will need help all the way through. Some
parents questioned the recommended age range; they felt that the program would be too
tricky and a little scary for preschoolers. We say 5-up is best for this title (even adults will
enjoy the hunt).
Details: Humongous Entertainment, www.humongous.com. Price: $19.99. Ages: 3-8.
Platform: Windows. Teaches/Purpose: dealing with fear of the dark, problem solving.
Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.5 stars. Entry date: 5/1/1996. [WB]
12
Ease of Use 8
Educational 9
Entertaining 10
Design Features 9
Good Value 9
ESRB Rating: Everyone
12
90%
11
Au
Ed
15
Au
Ed
FEATURE REVIEWS, MAY 2008
Petz: Horsez 2 (Wii)
Ease of Use 7
If you're looking for a horse or pony-related game for the Wii, this is currently the best
Educational 9
(better than My Horse & Me, according to our testers who played both). Also, for some
Entertaining 10
reason, this game is not nearly as poorly designed as the other recent Wii Petz titles
(Dogz2 and Catz2).
Design Features 9
Designed for one player (Nunchuk required), children can choose a pony to raise,
Good Value 8
earning points by cleaning, feeding and grooming, and earn the chance to compete. You
can use the Wii motion controls to spray a hose, move a brush or lean left or right to ride. ESRB Rating: Everyone, Comic Mischief
The competitions include cross country and jumping. Versions are also available for the
Nintendo DS and PS2 for $30, and for the PC for $20. According to Jenna, age 13, "this
game is far, far better than My Horse & Me from Atari, but younger kids may need some
help to figure out all the steps." There is no worrisome content (we were a bit mystified by
the ESRB descripter of "comic mischief").
Details: Ubisoft, Inc., www.ubisoft.com. Price: $40. Ages: 8-up. Platform: Wii*,
PlayStation 2, Windows. Teaches/Purpose: spatial relations, horses. Rating (1 to 5 stars):
4.3 stars. Entry date: 11/26/2007. [WB]
13
86%
FEATURE REVIEWS, MAY 2008
Pulse Smartpen
Ease of Use 9
Ideal for augmenting an older student's note-taking abilities, the Pulse Smartpen
Educational 10
(www.livescribe.com) is a lithium-ion, Java-powered recorder that is just a bit fatter than
Battery Life 9
a Sharpie marker. The pen has a tiny camera in its tip that can detect a faint pattern of
dots on the paper to give the pen its bearings. Without this special paper, you're left with
Design Features 9
an old fashioned, rather expensive (and fat) ballpoint pen. Here's a summary of the three
Good Value 9
biggest features:
a) It can capture everything you write and "replay" it on a Windows computer screen, ESRB Rating:
when synced with the included charging cradle.
b) It can record large amounts of extremely clear stereo audio (up to 100 hours for the
1GB model and 200 hours for the 2 GB model), using innovative stereo headphones that
double as stereo microphones -- one in each earbud.
c) It can associate written notes with the sounds that are going on, at the exact instant
the marks on the page were made. So you go back to a page of old notes that you made
yesterday, touch the point of the pen on a sentence or sketch, and hear that exact point in
the lecture. For a reporter doing an Interview, this feature alone could be the killer
application, and it was this feature that made the biggest impression on high school kids I
showed it to.
But wait, there's more. Those who remember Leapfrog's FLY Pentop computer (later
called the Fusion) will recognize the writing recognition features, where you write a word
and hear it repeated back to you. The pen we tested did not have unlimited handwriting
recognition, beyond the ability to say a collection of 20 or so words in Spanish, Mandarin,
Arabic and Swedish. The demonstration is amazing but limited -- you write a world like
hello and can hear it (and see it in the pen's display) translated. There were some notable
empty icons for features in the works; a reminder that this pen represents a new platform,
and you'll be able to download more software in the future. Currently, besides the
amazing note-taking and recording abilities, there's not much else it can do, besides the
ability to tell time, draw a piano on any page, a calculator (just write the math equation
and the pen does the math) and the language sampler.
The pen uses the very same Swedish-based Anoto dotted media technology as the
Leapfrog FLY, and it also comes from the mind of the same inventor, Jim Marggraff,
who's been championing pen-and-paper-based computing at LeapFrog, and later at
Anoto. The Pulse will come in two varieties: the 1GB for $150 and 100 hours of recording
time; and 2GB, with 200 hours recording time.
If there's downside to the pen, it's in the paper. It has to be preprinted with a faintmist of dots to give the pen its bearings. In addition, there's no way to stop or start the
recorder if you are away from a printed page (the pen can only be controlled by touching
the cross-shaped menu). But the good news is that for the first time, you can print your
own paper on a laser printer. The kit includes 100 sheets of paper, USB mobile charging
cradle, the 3D headset, case and two spare ink cartridges.
For years, the computer-in-pen technology has been the classic solution in search of a
problem. In the Pulse form, however, with the hearty batteries, slimmer form factor and
amazing audio recording, it will become a must-have item for back to school. Why?
Because students who have one will have "bigger ears for listening" compared to the
student without such a device. Just don't put it through the wash.
Details: Livescribe, Inc., www.livescribe.com. Price: $150 and $200. Ages: 14-up.
Platform: Windows XP (Macintosh promised for Fall '08). Teaches/Purpose: creativity,
pen-based computing. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.6 stars. Entry date: 2/29/2008. [WB]
14
92%
12
Au
Ed
FEATURE REVIEWS, MAY 2008
Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo
Rereleased in 2008 and sold exclusively in Target stores, this cartoonish scavenger
hunt-style program lets you drive Putt-Putt (a car) around the paths in three zoo regions
(the jungle, the arctic and the grasslands) in search of six missing baby animals. As you
explore, you find special items necessary to help the animals. For example, a rope found
in an arctic snow bank must be taken into the jungle and lowered down a waterfall to
rescue a trapped lion cub. Freeing a stranded hippo requires building a bridge of
uniquely shaped icebergs and finding a shovel to clear away an avalanche. Unless the
necessary special items are found, the animals remain lost and the zoo cannot open.
Testers aged three and four became frustrated in their first few plays, and required adult
assistance. Older children (and adults) loved the program.
Especially enjoyable are the multilevel activities found around the zoo. In Animal
Tag, kids must pay attention to detail as they match special animals that pop up at
random from the Savannah. Other activities include six different information stations
offering interesting animal facts like "hippos eat 100 pounds of grass for five hours each
night". There's also a water-slide maze game that's just for fun and a camera option for
printing out pictures of each animal. The program was first released in 1995, setting a new
standard for excellence in interactive design. Today, this game still makes a welcome
addition to any home library. Note that the graphics can look grainy on large screens.
Details: Humongous Entertainment, www.humongous.com. Price: $18. Ages: 3-7.
Platform: Mac CD-ROM, Windows CD-ROM (plug & play). Teaches/Purpose: problem
solving, logical thinking, animal facts, shapes. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.4 stars. Entry date:
8/30/1995. [WB]
Weekly Reader Visual Guides: Weather & Global Warming
For classrooms that don't have Internet access for such things as Google Earth, but do
have computers, this two-CD package may be a solution. Best described as a weather
encyclopedia, children can use it to browse through general weather-related topics like
meteorology, climate change or pollution, delivered by way of professionally produced
photos, narrated movies or diagrams. The title was designed for both instructors as a
teaching aid as well as students or anyone interested in weather, global warming and the
environment. Topics include the difference between El Niño and La Niña, sandstorms of
the Sahara, nuclear waste, air pollution, the Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming. The
interface is clean and easy to use, and can be searched; although there is no quiz or
application component. Because it was designed in 2002 in Montreal by QA lnternational,
metric units are used. The second disk claims to contain Podcasts, but we found only
three biased essays on global warming, complete with typos. With the exception of disk
#2, this is a solid, general science reference.
Details: Innovative Knowledge, www.innovative-knowledge.com. Price: $20. Ages:
10-up. Platform: Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: weather and global warming.
Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.1 stars. Entry date: 10/2/2007. [WB]
15
Ease of Use 7
Educational 9
Entertaining 10
Design Features 9
Good Value 9
88%
Ease of Use
Educational
Entertaining
Design Features
Good Value
82%
ESRB Rating:
9
8
7
8
9
FEATURE REVIEWS, MAY 2008
Wild Earth: African Safari
Ease of Use 8
You can almost smell the elephants in this safari simulation that represents another
Educational 10
important addition to the growing category of educational exploration games for the Wii,
Entertaining 9
such as Endless Ocean. The game embeds facts about 30 common indigenous African
animals in each mission, including cheetahs, crocodiles, bats, gazelles, hippos, zebras and
Design Features 10
leopards.
Good Value 9
After you create your player card (which saves games automatically), you start a
mission as a novice nature photographer, assigned to collect a set of specific shots for a
ESRB Rating: Everyone, Comic Mischief
magazine. As you wander a 3D African safari with your powerful camera (press the + and Mild Cartoon Violence
- keys to zoom in or out), you are given specific picture assignments. The Nunchuk is
required to move, while you point the Wii Remote to determine your direction -- a very
easy-to-learn process, for both children and adults. Content features 11 missions that
include observing giraffes from a helicopter and meeting a family of elephants as they
take care of their young, plus 11 arcade games -- such as the Elephant Wash (point the Wii
Remote to aim your trunk and hold the B button to shoot water) and Meerkat Madness (a
game of whack-a-mole with the Wii Remote, earning the "comic mischief ESRB rating).
As in the real world, you are penalized for disturbing the animals. An "Impact Meter"
tracks how much of a disturbance you make. If you disturb too many animals, the Wii
Remote will rumble at varying degrees (like a rattlesnake) until you've gone too far and
have to start the mission over. Your photos are collected in a slide show that mixes facts
with articles. Other unique features of this game include the ability to drive the vehicle or
take the pictures while playing with up to three friends.
Our tester, Daniel (8 1/2), had plenty to say about this game, comparing it to Endless
Ocean. "The fourth assignment, where I had to take pictures of meerkats, was my favorite.
The meerkats were near my campsite, and I had to sneak up on them to take their
pictures, but they kept going back into their holes in the ground so it was very
challenging." He observed that it really doesn't matter how good your pictures are in
completing the assignment, but that he liked the challenge of trying to get the best picture
he could. Daniel also liked taking shots of the giraffes from the helicopter. In addition, he
noted, "You can also learn a lot about the animals from this game because your pictures
are put into an article with facts about the animal you've photographed. I learned that
zowilla is a skunk-like animal that can spray you." This game was created by for Majesco
by James Thrush of Seattle-based Super X Studios (www.superxstudios.com).
Details: Majesco Entertainment, www.majescoentertainment.com. Price: $40. Ages: 6up. Platform: Wii. Teaches/Purpose: biology, African animals. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.6
stars. Entry date: 4/28/2008. [WB]
16
92%
12
Au
Ed
New & Future Releases
MAY 2008
This section contains a listing, with notes, on products currently being reviewed or being
considered for a review. Some of these may appear in upcoming issues following further testing.
Backyard Sports Baseball '09
The seventh game in the series, and the first one for both the Nintendo Wii and DS, this game
features animated kid versions of the top MLB players including Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols,
Derek Jeter, and the cover athlete David "Big Papi" Ortiz. Also for the first time, the game includes at
least one pro player from each of the 32 MLB teams. Additional features include a new MLB All-star
Game, new tournament mode, new power-ups with meter, new player capabilities, and unlockable
Babe Ruth. Prices are $40 for the Wii, $30 for the PS2 and DS, and $20 for the PC version.
Details: Humongous inc., www.backyardsports.com. Price: $40. Ages: 5-up. Platform: Wii,
PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS, Windows. Teaches/Purpose: sports. Entry date: 4/8/2008.
Build-A-Bear Workshop A Friend Fur All Seasons
Coming Fall 2008, a second Build-A-Bear title designed especially for the Wii (the first ran on
the Nintendo DS).
According to press materials, this edition will be more of a party game, so up to four players
can create a bear, play the mini-games for medals, experience an "adventure mode," and use the
medals to buy more outfits and accessories.
The Wii Remote will be used to "hop" in a sack race, throw flying discs or jump on a
trampoline. The game is being created by Neko Entertainment, with 3D rendered graphics. The
Game Factory is a subsidiary of the K.E. Mathiasen Group A/S, a Nordic company that creates
apparel, toys, candy, home furnishing and games. For more corporate and product information visit
www.gamefactorygames.com.
Details: The American Game Factory, Inc., www.gamefactorygames.com. Price: $40. Ages: 3up. Platform: Wii. Teaches/Purpose: socialization, creativity, economics. Entry date: 4/16/2008.
Chaotic Trading Card Game: Starter Deck
Based on the animated TV series, this is a trading and collecting card game combined with an
online game experience. After purchasing the cards, players can battle friends in person, or upload
each card's code to play online at www.ChaoticGame.com. They can store their decks, trade cards,
form player communities, and compete online against other Chaotic players.
The online game feature seven leagues of increasing skill level, all included free with the
purchase of Chaotic trading cards. In addition to playing online, you can also participate in
monitored message boards and chat rooms. The Starter Deck includes a 48 card pre-constructed
player deck ready for play, an additional four (random) collectible rare foil cards, one Tip Card, one
Master Upload Card, one Rule Book, and one Playmat. Additional cards are available in five sets of
five booster packs for $20.
TC Digital Websites LLC, the developers of the Chaotic game, say they monitor the message
board and chat for predatory behavior. In addition, they do not allow the posting of any personally
identifiable information such as full name or phone numbers. If a child attempts to post an item that
breaks the rules, their membership may be suspended. Parents can also manage their child's
activities by logging onto the Parent Zone to approve your child's level of participation. You can
choose the activities in which you want your child to engage and block their access to forums and
chat, or limit the users with whom your child can chat.
Details: TC Digital LLC, www.chaoticgame.com. Price: $14. Ages: 8-12. Platform: Internet Site.
Teaches/Purpose: collecting, logic. Entry date: 4/3/2008.
17
NEW & FUTURE RELEASES
MAY 2008
Cory in the House
In this one-player game (set in the White House and based on the the Disney Channel show of
the same name), you play as characters Cory, Newt, or Meena. Cory's award-winning presidential
bobble-heads have gotten into the hands of an evil toymaker who is trying to control people's minds
through the hypnotic technology that he has built inside the toys. In the game, you explore classified
locations to obtain top secret clearance, and you unlock security doors and PDAs through brainteasing mini-games. You must also use stealth tactics to sneak past patrolling guards, security
cameras and automated toys to reclaim the bobble-heads and save the nation's capitol. Developed by
Handheld Games Corporation for Disney.
Details: Disney Interactive Studios, www.disney.com. Price: $30. Ages: 6-up. Platform:
Nintendo DS. Teaches/Purpose: reading, logic, memory, timing, spatial relations. Entry date:
4/25/2008.
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Deca Sports
Released exclusively for the Nintendo Wii, Deca Sports features 10 sports including Soccer,
Beach Volleyball, Supercross, Kart Racing, Basketball,Snowboard Cross, Badminton, Figure Skating,
Curling and Archery. The 10 sports can be played in both single player or muti-player modes for up
to four players, and in some events, the players can play cooperatively on the same team. The singleplayer modes include Open Match, Tournament, Deca Challenge and Deca League. Players can keep
track of their medals and trophies using the Locker Room feature.
Details: Hudson Entertainment, www.hudsonent.com. Price: $30. Ages: 5-up. Platform: Wii.
Teaches/Purpose: sports. Entry date: 4/8/2008.
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Gran Turismo 5 Prologue
Released exclusively for the PS3, this game runs in 1080p High Definition and is the first Gran
Turismo game to feature an in-cockpit view -- giving you a unique perspective. It also features realtime gauges and human animations that represent the true performance and handling of the race
cars. Also for the first time, the game will support up to 16 players online. In addition, 60 detailed
cars -- including vehicles by Ferrari, Audi and Nissan -- are featured, as well as five reversible tracks
from the around the world. Developed by Polyphony Digital, Inc., this game is available both on BluRay disc and as a download via Playstation network.
Details: Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., www.us.playstation.com. Price: $40.
Ages: 8-up. Platform: PlayStation 3. Teaches/Purpose: racing, timing, strategy. Entry date:
4/22/2008.
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High School Musical 2: Work This Out!
Play as any of the six High School Musical characters (Troy, Gabriella, Ryan, Sharpay, Chad
and Taylor) as you work, dance and play your way to winning the Star Dazzle Talent Show. You will
explore the Lava Springs country club, carry out daily assignments, find and collect hidden items,
and rehearse dance routines. The content includes 10 songs from the show, which can be played with
the Nintendo DS lid closed (how did they do that?). Parts of the game are two-player, using the DS
wireless download play or multi-card play.
Daniel (8) loved the game, citing the ability to find jobs and switch characters as strong points.
He also liked the music, calling it "fun to listen to." Says Daniel, "The mini-games are a lot of fun, but
the best feature is that the gave saves automatically after each mission, which comes in handy when
your mom tells you you have to stop playing right now and eat dinner." The game was developed by
Artificial Mind and Movement, for Disney.
Details: Disney Interactive Studios, www.disney.com. Price: $30. Ages: 8-up. Platform:
Nintendo DS. Teaches/Purpose: music, rhythm. Entry date: 4/25/2008.
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18
NEW & FUTURE RELEASES
MAY 2008
Let's Face It!
This is a collection of free Internet-based face and expression recognition games designed to
teach "face processing skills" to children with autism. The idea is that in addition to their difficulties
with language and social communication, children with autism may experience difficulties in their
ability to recognize facial identity and emotions. The activities consist of straight forward matching
games, and recognition of facial emotions, interpretation of eye gaze and eye contact, and the
recognition of people across changes in facial expression.
For example, Smile Maze is an interactive face training exercise that incorporates the active
production of expressions into the human-computer interaction using CERT technology. Users are
required to produce and hold a target expression for varying lengths of time in order to pass
obstacles while navigating their way through a maze. Game players interact via real-time video
capture and analysis. The result is a tight coupling between user action and system feedback,
providing an intuitive and comfortable interaction.
Let's Face It is a collaborative effort between the University of Victoria Brain and Cognition Lab
and the Yale Child Study Centre. Visit http://web.uvic.ca/~jtanaka/letsfaceit/index.html for more
information.
Details: International Society for Autism Research, http://info.med.yale.
edu/chldstdy/neuroimg. Price: $call. Ages: 3-up. Platform: Internet Site. Teaches/Purpose:
classification, expressions, interpersonal development. Entry date: 5/1/2008.
Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes, The
In an example of a new way to distribute software, this one-player mystery is available as a
download. You become part of the Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson team, using your powers of
deduction to identify the culprits in 16 different cases. As you explore, you find puzzles and minigames, hidden objects, a game of picture Sodoku and tests of memory. Content includes 40
historically accurate locations set in Victorian London. You can download the game at http:
//legacygames.com/download_games/394/the_lost_cases_of_sherlock_holmes.
Details: Legacy Interactive, www.legacyinteractive.com. Price: $20. Ages: 12-up. Platform:
Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: logic, puzzle solving, memory, observation. Entry date:
5/2/2008.
Matrix Math Plus
Matrix Math Plus is an educational program designed to improve basic math skills in addition,
subtraction, division, and multiplication. The publisher claims it will help students achieve and
exceed grade level standards. Note that this upgraded version includes a Help Tutorial feature that
students can access by pressing the "H" key at any point on the main screen. Cost for a 50-unit site
license is $2925 (includes a 10% discount) and a 100-unit site license is $4550 (includes a 30%
discount). Although it is designed primarily for classroom use, a home version is also available as a
single unit for $65.
Details: Stellar Learning, www.StellarLearn.com. Price: $65 & up. Ages: 6-up. Platform:
Windows. Teaches/Purpose: math, addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, negative numbers.
Entry date: 1/9/2008.
Naruto: Path of the Ninja
This game for the Nintendo DS features a time-based combat system where players must
determine each characters' strengths and use them to help defeat the enemy. In addition, by choosing
individual character's stances (aggressive, neutral, or defensive) the team can build formations that
will give bonuses to the entire group's abilities. Players can choose from six different characters from
the show including Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, Shikamaru, Neji, and Rock Lee. Players can also train
their ninja team to learn 90 different jutsu, and use the DS Touch Screen and button inputs to take
their attacks to the next level, or combine their jutsu techniques to create all new jutsu.
Brett (age 7 1/2) enjoyed this game so much that he played it for four hours and definitely
wants to buy it. He noted that there was some cartoon violence, but that it was fun to "learn jutsu".
Developed by TOSE for D3 Publisher.
Details: D3Publisher of America, Inc., www.d3publisher.us. Price: $30. Ages: 10-up. Platform:
Nintendo DS. Teaches/Purpose: logic, jutsu. Entry date: 10/26/2007.
19
NEW & FUTURE RELEASES
MAY 2008
NetOp School
Designed to let teachers control and monitor student PCs, this package lets teachers broadcast
their screen to the students' screens, scan the classroom to view each students' PC, lock-down the
students' keyboards and mice, control applications and Internet access, and create tests that are
distributed and collected automatically. Other similar services include Vision, Synchroneyes,
NetSupport School, LanSchool, SchoolVue.
Details: NetOp Tech, Inc., www.netop.com. Price: $call. Ages: NA. Platform: Windows.
Teaches/Purpose: classroom or computer lab management. Entry date: 4/15/2008.
1
Okami
Previously released for the PS2 in 2006, this game is now available for the Wii. This edition is
designed with higher definition graphics for widescreen, as well as the Japanese art style. The game
tells the story of the Japanese sun god, Amaterasu, who takes the form of a wolf and sets out on a
journey to restore a ruined, darkened world into a beautiful place of life and color. You use the Wii
Remote to paint on the screen to revitalize life and defeat the monster, named Orochi. Not yet
reviewed.
Details: Capcom Entertainment, Inc., www.capcom.com. Price: $40. Ages: 12-up. Platform: Wii.
Teaches/Purpose: creativity, logic. Entry date: 4/25/2008.
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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness
Pokémon Players become a Pokémon after first taking a personality test at the beginning of the
game. You will then embark on a journey to find out why you've become a Pokémon and to try and
stop another Pokémon from stopping time and plunging the world into darkness. In the game,
randomly generated dungeons make every mission different so that players never see the same
dungeon twice. The game features 490 Pokémon appearing in both this game and Pokémon Mystery
Dungeon: Explorers of Time, and these Pokémon can join you on your expedition teams. You can
also use the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to rescue friends in trouble or send out an SOS Mail if you
need rescuing. Also see the review for Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time.
Details: Nintendo of America, www.nintendo.com. Price: $35. Ages: 6-up. Platform: Nintendo
DS. Teaches/Purpose: reading, logic. Entry date: 4/22/2008.
1
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time
We've reviewed 38 Pokémon titles to date, and most are designed especially for the Game Boy
or DS handheld game platforms, like this one. So what's so special about number 39? This is the first
time you can become a Pokémon. First, you take a personality test. You will then embark on a
journey to find out why you've become a Pokémon and to try and stop another Pokémon from
stopping time and plunging the world into darkness.
Randomly generated dungeons make every mission different so that players never see the same
dungeon twice. Because the dialog requires reading, the game is an excellent early reading activity,
with a good dose of spatial reasoning (e.g., navigating a maze) thrown in. Content includes 490
Pokémon -- appearing in both this game and its sister title, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of
Darkness. If you meet another player with either copy, you can connect your DS units via Wi-Fi and
compete, or perhaps cooperate on one of the expedition teams. You can also use the Nintendo Wi-Fi
Connection to rescue friends in trouble or send out an SOS Mail if you need rescuing. Also see the
review for Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness.
Details: Nintendo of America, www.nintendo.com. Price: $35. Ages: 6-up. Platform: Nintendo
DS. Teaches/Purpose: reading, logic, spatial relations, math. Entry date: 4/22/2008.
1
Word Roots A1 Software
This Win/Mac CD-ROM is designed to teach spelling and vocabulary by teaching Latin
prefixes, roots and suffixes. By learning word elements, students should be able to better decode
unfamiliar words and improve their spelling. For each lesson, students learn the meanings of
prefixes, roots, and suffixes. Then they divide known and unknown words into their elements, or
assemble elements to form whole words. After that, they match word parts or whole words to their
definitions by analyzing meanings, and then they apply their new vocabulary in sentences. Content
includes 30 activities and records can be kept.
Details: The Critical Thinking Co., www.criticalthinking.com. Price: $26. Ages: 9-up. Platform:
Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: language, reading, spelling. Entry date: 3/19/2008.
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