Antic's Top 18 PicksBy ANITA MALNIG Antic Contributing Editor
Right now you can choose from over 100 educational
products for your Atari. Many software publishers believe that educational
programs are the next big growth area in the home computer market and they
are rushing out new packages as fast as they can.
Some of these programs are superb, but others are frankly not so hot. The mass of products crowding the shelves is confusing for parents who are searching for the educational software that best meets their children's needs.
That's where this Antic round-up comes in. We tried to look at every piece of educational software currently released for the Atari computer. The 18 best products we found are described here, arranged for you by subject. We tested these products on Antic's line-up of Atari computer models and made the reviews using an 800XL.
We also include a chart of 25 runner-up educational programs that might meet some of your children's needs. And at the end of this article you'll find the addresses and phone numbers of every publisher whose software made these pick lists.
The Learning Company
Ages 6 to 10
$39.95, 48K disk
What can you learn by knowing the difference between a Bibbit and a
Gribbit? Find out by playing Moptown Parade, a collection of seven
learning games for children aged 6 to 10, probably best suited in style
to the younger end of the spectrum.
The games progress in difficulty from the easiest "Make My Twin" to "Clubhouse." The skills taught include matching, pattern analysis and problem-solving strategies. Children are invited into a story and asked to get to know the characters. Bibbits have big feet, Gribbits have tails, some are short, some are tall.
When children are given a "What's Different" problem they must not only state which character is different but also what characteristic distinguishes the differing creature. When playing "Parade;' children must figure out the pattern in which the characters appear and insert the next creature according to that pattern. Clear crisp graphics will appeal to children and the lesson-games have been well thought-out.
Ages 8 to 13
$39.95, 48K disk
Moptown Hotel follows Moptown Parade in this series. The child
still plays with the same Moptown Bibbits and Gribbits but at an increased
skill level. The games feature more advanced concepts of logic-making
analogies, formulating and testing hypotheses.
For instance, you have to guess the four attributes of "your secret pal." You find out that two of the four characteristics you guessed are correct but you don't know which 2. So you must invent a strategy to guess the secret pal in 4 tries or less.
TONK IN THE LAND OF BUDDY-BOTS
Ages 4 to 8
$39.95, 48K disk
For years Mercer Mayer has been delighting children with his funny little
monsters and now he's brought that childlike appeal to these odd shaped,
bright green, orange and white robots.
In "Match the Shadow" the child must decide which shadow best matches the robot being shown. In "Remember Me" a robot flashes on the screen then disappears. A selection of robot parts then appears. Did it have a round head or a square one? Did it have big red feet with bowed legs?
There are six games, each with four levels of play, ensuring a fairly long game span time. The easiest game is "Different/Alike" and the most challenging is "Mini-Bot Factory" in which you must grab robot pieces off an assembly line in the right order to build your robot.
The animated robots and the accompanying music will draw the whole family to the computer screen. As I viewed an early prototype of the program, no documentation was yet available.
MICKEY IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Wait Disney Productions
Ages 7 to 10
$44.95, 32K disk
The timeless Wait Disney creation has come to the Atari computer to
teach language skills, spelling, math, and logic.
The Great Outdoors software includes four engaging learning games, all with several levels of difficulty. In these games, the child must help Mickey complete a journey, catch butterflies and perform other fun activities in the great outdoors. To help the mouse, the child must correct misspelled words, solve mathematical equations, spell words and logic problems.
All four games include delightful graphics and assure hours of play while providing excellent entertainment. However, the fourth game, concerned with solving logic problems, may require the help of an adult.
Ages 3 to 6
$39.95, 48K disk
Children's book illustrator Richard Hefter co-authored this program
and his bold, amusing graphics come across very well on the Atari.
StickyBear greets us dressed in bright blue and orange and then shows the
child lots of different objects numbered from one to nine.
Pressing a number key gives a display for that number: two geese, five hats, eight rockets. The objects displayed for each number change whenever you run the program. Hitting the space bar subtracts or adds a particular object. The geese fly, the trains chug, the penguins flap and waddle. Kids will love the animation.
You also get a StickyBear counting book as well as a poster and stickers. Hopefully, these supplements will increase the longevity of play time. Other programs in the series are the games StickyBear Basket Bounce and StickyBop. Upcoming for the Atari are StickyBear Opposites, Shapes, and ABC.
TEASERS BY TOBBS
Ages 8 to Adult
$39.95, 32K disk
This charming program stars Tobbs- a little guy who lets you know if
you've figured out the arithmetic answer properly. And, to figure
out those answers you've also go to do some logical thinking.
There's a grid with several numbers along the top and down one side. The correct answer must be placed in a specific square within the grid. The introduction very clearly explains how you decide where each answer belongs. Not only does this program offer an arithmetic drill and practice, it encourages the child to think about logical patterns.
As the program progresses the child must figure out increasingly complex patterns. The problem becomes, "What must I add to 5 in order to get an answer in the right square?" Sometimes it seems impossible to figure out which is the next correct square. But all necessary clues are right there and the child begins to discover them.
Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division all have four levels of increasing difficulty so there's no quick run through the program. Tobbs first challenges you and then rewards you with a delightful nod when you get the correct answer. This is an innovative and encouraging way to practice arithmetic.
The Learning Company
Ages 4 to 10
$39.95, 48K disk
Bumble, a furry creature from the planet Furrin, helps children locate
and plot points on lines and grids. The six games grown increasingly
difficult starting with "Find Your Number" which offers practice in choosing
whether a number is more or less than another number.
In "Butterfly Hunt" the child must locate a butterfly in a 5 x 5 array of boxes. The program prompts children to go to the left and up, the right and down, and so on, until they find the box hiding the fluttering butterfly. Lovely color, sound and animation make the learning process lively
The user progresses to a Tic Tac Toe game. In the final game, "Bumble Dots," children actually draw pictures by plotting dots. This is a well-thought out learning package.
Ages 2nd Grade to Adult
$39.00, 32K disk
Users look for a series of jumps that will move a frog across a series
of lily pads to the final magic lily pad. The route is typed in and
then the frog takes off on its own. A child playing this game must
plan logically and gains practice in recognizing abstract patterns.
Sequences progress from a simple two-pattern route to a four-pattern route with distractions. The child is challenged on a variety of levels. Further, the child uses experimentation to form a hypothesis and also recognizes that there may be more than one solution for a problem. I expect younger children will want to try to play and older children may find the frog concept a bit young.
Visually, The Pond is filled with shades of green, yellow, and a bright pink magic lily pad. The documentation for the teachers' edition explains the game's educational potential in depth and offers supplemental activities. Home documentation is written more to the young user and offers extra projects to extend use of the program.
Ages 7 to Adult
$39.00, 16K disk
Here Sunburst offers older children a more advanced level of the same
logical building skills taught in The Pond. The factory's machines
punch, make stripes and rotate. With those devices children design
and produce their own products or duplicate existing products. Each
product is a square object with a variety of holes and shapes on it.
Children gain practice in spatial perception, logic and pattern recognition as the machines grind, whir, and move up, down and around. The program encourages children to repair and salvge an incorrect product. It'll be no hardship at all for parents to spend time with their kids on this package.
Ages 10 to Adult
$44.95, 48K disk
In Snooper Troops you use deductive reasoning to find out who's scaring
the Kim family out of their home! The screen format is mostly text-you've
got to answer questions and piece together information that comes in from
a wrist radio and from SnoopNet Computer files on the suspects. You
also move the detective inside the supposedly haunted house.
Children's solve-it yourself mystery books have been big hits for quite some time and this is a computer version. The accompanying book gives additional facts about all the characters and is fun to read.
Ages 9 and Up
$29.95, 48K disk
This program also exercises skills of deductive reasoning-by encouraging
Agent USA to investigate the Fuzzbomb that's on the loose, turning helpless
citizens into Fuzzbodies! Agent USA travels all over the country
by train, consulting maps and train schedules. It's a painless way
for a young person to learn basic geography and time-table reading.
The whole program is an ongoing story in which the child must become involved in order to play successfully. The documentation includes a map of the United States and memos from Agent USA's director with leads to follow, dangers to avoid and top secret info on how to disarm the Fuzzbomb. The upbeat music, clanking of trains and little folks with feet sticking out from ten-gallon hats keep the action moving.
HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE
Spinnaker Software Corp.
Ages 3 to 10
$29.95, 32K disk
This is truly an electronic-age nursery rhyme book. The first
section of the program, "Storytime," displays the opening verse of a poem
followed by a picture illustrating it. Then, the next verse appears
and a lively tune plays. Parent participation is helpful. It's
unlikely that children who appreciate nursery rhymes will be able to read.
The second section, "Storybook," displays more sweet, funny verses and colorful pictures as the music adds a dimension that hand-held storybooks don't have.
The last section, "Rhyme Game," might bring a 10-year-old into the computer room. It's a poem with all the lines out of order. You must race a clock to move the lines into proper order. This game/exercise is fun for adults as well as children and gives a good introduction into the structure of verse. Documentation is adequate for understanding what to do but doesn't offer any additional activities or exercises.
Ages 9 to Adult
$39.00, 48K disk
C-n y-- r--d th-s s-nt-nc-? Reading sentences like this is what
M-ss-ng L-nks is all about. It's an ingenious way to get to know
some classic works of children's literature and to begin understanding
the structure of words, sentences, and paragraphs. And it's a lot
There are nine formats to choose from ranging from the easiest-omission of vowels-to the hardest-blank spaces! But if you progress through each step, knowing the work by heart at the end won't be too difficult. The software authors choose passages from excellent books: The Wind in the Willows, The Cricket in Times Square, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, among others. It's more than likely that when you're done playing this game with your children you can get them to take the book out of the library and read it all. Unfortunately, the home version of the program does not have an editor which would allow you to add other stories. Note: We needed a translator disk to make this work on our XL.
Ages 6 and Up
$29.95, 48K disk
Bright graphics and bouncy music introduce this active spelling game.
The trick is to get your deep sea diver to remove the lettermoss from large
letters-only part of the letter shows up on the screen at one time-and
guess what the hidden word is.
This diver must avoid pesky fish that nibble at his toes and larger sharks that cruise by. There are three levels of game play: in the first you figure out words that are coordinated with a story in the accompanying documentation. In the second you can choose the length of the word you want to find. The program gives you over 2,000 words to choose from. The last is a "do it yourself' which allows you to choose your own words. Lots of activity here, excellent graphics and music.
The following games were not designed or marketed for their educational value. But although they are primarily entertainment products they have built-in learning factors-as well as representing state-of-the-art software ...
PINBALL CONSTRUCTION SET
$40.00, 48K disk
Already a classic of software that fosters creative thinking, this program
invites you to design your own pinball game. Everything you'll need
is beautifully laid out next to the blank pinball table in the form of
With the joystick you move a pointing hand to a particular picture to drag chosen objects onto the pinball table. You change colors, place the bumpers, slingshots and flippers where you want them. Play by the real-world rules of physics or modify gravity to your own wishes.
Games like this use the computer's interactive capabilities to a high degree. The player is the creator. Striking colors ranging from deep blue and purple to amber add drama to the creating and game playing. This game is a challenge and a work of art.
MUSIC CONSTRUCTION SET
$40.00, 48K disk
This uses the same principles as Pinball Construction Set. Uses
a pointing finger to choose the notes you want, set the tempo, and cut
and paste to move sections of your music around. This program is
not intended for those who know nothing about music, but it's a delightful
creative tool for someone already in the process of learning an instrument.
You are the composer, producer and final critic of your work.
Introductory baroque music draws you into the action; excellent graphics and the compelling tasks at hand can keep a budding musician busy for hours. Documentation for both Electronic Arts programs offers clear instructions and useful background information.
Ages 8 to Adult
$39.95, 16K cartridge
With this program you can build a graphic maze adventure game for others
to play, or the computer can set up a game for you.
You'll find yourself setting up all the walls and corridors of a dungeon, hiding trapdoors and placing creatures to guard treasures. You set the goals for each game and distribute the tools at your disposal, such as torches, shields and hobbles that can freeze creatures.
This is far less sophisticated-looking than the Electronic Arts construction sets, but perhaps it will be more appealing to young children because of that. It's certainly imaginative and fun. The players are in charge of their own universe here
CHESS VERSION 7.0
$69.95, 48K disk
Hailed as a classic, Larry Atkin's Chess provides excellent experience
for learning and playing the king of thinking games. A demo runs
you through the various options and functions. From there the very
precise manual takes you through a tutorial that will be invaluable if
you're a beginner.
When you're ready to make a move the cursor shows you which are your legal choices. You progress from introductory levels through advanced modes. You're able to replay your game so you can see step-by-step just what transpired. You can also get a play-by-play of 30 all-time classic games.
25 HONORABLE MENTIONS
Educational Software Worth Considering
|Name of Program||Cassette||Disk||Cartridge||Publisher||Age||Subject||Description|
|Additon & Subtraction||16K||24K||
||Edupro||5-9||Arithmetic||Fill-in's and mazes covering basic skills; more than one child can play at a time|
||PDI||5-9||Language Skills||In first game you find underwater letters in alphabetical order. The more exciting game gives you words of increased difficulty to alphabetize.|
||Spinnaker||3-8||Language Skills||Three games: first gives pictures that coordinate with letters in alphabet; second two games are mazes in which you must (1) identify first letter of word, (2) spell whole word. Very nice for young ones.|
||Prentice Hall||Jr./Sr. High||Algebra/Biology Chemistry||Drill and practice with clear explanations; graphics weak.|
||Carousel||5 and up||Games involve memory & change||Games of matching musical notes; matching sounds with colors; concentration game with very small cards that are hard to read.|
||Dorsett Educational Systems, Inc.||Jr./Sr. High||Most school subjects||Covers a lot of ground; mostly all text and a lot of on-screen reading.|
||PDI||All ages||Spelling||You're given two cassettes; one to run the program and one audio. You decide what spelling words to enter, Word list included.|
|Easy Reader Series||NO||48K||
||American Educational Computer||Grades 1-6||Reading Comprehension||User reads story in accompanying book and answers questions about it on the computer. Needs a translation disk to run on 800XL.|
||Unicorn||8-14||Math||Soon-to-be released program offers multi-screen chutes and ladder game/tutorial.|
||Spinnaker||7-adult||Math||Game moves very quickly and the visual representation of the fractions is hard to grasp.|
|Getting Ready To Read And Add||NO||16K||
||Sunburst||Pre-readers||Visual discrimination, Shape recognition, Eye-hand coordination||Match letters and numbers in pictures of birds, dinosaurs, martians.|
||Sunburst||3-adult||Problem solving||Trial and error to figure out how l5 chemicals combine to create colorful monsters.|
|Kids On Keys||NO||48K||
||Spinnaker||3-9||Letter/Word recognition||Kids must type letters as they appear on screen, and words as pictures appear; features a moving hot air balloon.|
|Learning With Leeper||NO||NO||
||Sierra-on-Line||3-6||Early Learning Skills||Child must maneuver through a maze; match numbers of objects; color in pictures. Bright graphics.|
|Match Maker Series||NO||48K||
||American Educational Computer||Grades 4,5,6||Language Skills||Match homonyms, antonyms, synonyms, metaphors, etc. Nice graphics for a drill and practice; good reinforcement. However, too arbitrary in certain answers, ie., the answer "rapidly" was ok but"quickly" with same meaning and number of letters was not.|
||CBS Software||Family||Memory/General Information||A colorful, lively game of Concentration in which user can create new games. More!|
||CBS Software||6-10||Math||You steer a race car on the shortest route to a number goal. Good for young ones.|
|Montana Reading Program||NO||32K||
||PDI||Pre-primer to 3rd grade||Learning Sight Words||Child is given a sentence and one word in it flashes. Word disappears and he or she must replace it.|
||Edupro||5-9||Math||This needs a translator disk on 800XL. A maze to find greater than and less than; rhymes in math context. Instructions could be clearer.|
|Playful Professor Math Tutor||NO||48K||
||Screenplay||6 & up||Math||The more correct answers the child supplies, the better able he or she is to trap a ghost in a haunted house. Action's a little slow.|
||Maximus||Not stated||Safety Instructions||A movie and games focus on how to cross streets, avoid strangers. Good concept. Games a little slow.|
||Scholastic||7-12||Memory Games||A game of concentration; user can create own game.|
||Spinnaker||10-adult||Planning, money management||You run trains to pick up anddeliver goods; strategic thinking involved in a game that is fun.|
||Scholastic||9 & up||Introduction to concepts of programming||Uses the "turtle" concept of Logo to create designs.|
||Electronic Arts||Pre readers to good readers||Spelling||Letters and words fly around on screen and user must match them with others. Interesting graphics but confusing game elements.|
Educational Software Publishers
Below is a list of the educational software publishers covered in this
issue. Regardless of individual companies' policies for damaged disks,
all require that you send in the registration card immediately on buying
the product to be eligible for the warranty. Some companies also require
proof of purchase along with a damaged disk, so be sure to hold on to a
Most companies cover their products with a standard warranty: they will replace a defective disk free of charge within 90 days of purchase. After that, there is a nominal charge for a new disk, generally between $ 5 and $10. All companies below are covered by a 90-day warranty unless noted otherwise. Consumers may contact the manufacturers for more detailed information.
American Educational Computer
2450 Embarcadero Way
Palo Alto, CA 94303
1265 Borregas Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Carousel Software, Inc.
877 Beacon St.
Boston, MA 02215
Warranty policy: 30-day warranty will replace defective disk free of charge; after that will replace for $5.
1 Fawcett Place
Greenwich, CT 06836
Walt Disney Productions
500 S. Buena Vista St.
Burbank, CA 91521
(except CA and Hawaii)
(call collect from CA and Hawaii)
Dorsett Educational Systems, Inc.
P.O. Box 1226
Norman, OK 73070
Warranty policy: Return product for exchange within 10 days of purchase if not totally satisfied, even if product works. Defective disks replaced at any time.
445 E. Charleston Road
Palo Alto, CA 94306
Warranty policy: 30-day policy; will replace damaged disks free of charge. Edupro encourages making back-ups of their disks.
2755 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94403
The Learning Company
545 Middlefield Road, Suite 170
Menlo Park, CA 94025
McLean Office Bldg. Suite 406
6723 Whittier Ave.
McLean, VA 22101
3444 Dundee Road
Northbrook, IL 60062
95 East Putnam Ave.
Greenwich, CT 06830
P.O. Box 819
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632
New York, NY 10003
Warranty policy: 60-day warranty; will replace defective disk free of charge. For 10 months after that period will replace defective disks for $5.
Screenplay Computer Software
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
P.O. Box 485
Coarsegold, CA 93644
Warranty policy: 30-day warranty; will replace free of charge; after that period will replace disks for $5.
Spinnaker Software Corp.
1 Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA 02139
Warranty policy: 30-day warranty; will replace free of charge disks that do not boot. After that mail damaged disk and $5 for replacement.
Sunburst Communications, Inc.
39 Washington Ave.
Pleasantville, NY 10570
Warranty policy: teachers' versions have a lifetime guarantee.
1775 E. Tropicana Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 798-2727, or 5990
Warranty policy: 30-day warranty; free disk replacement during that time; after that period send $5 for a replacement.
245 Long Hill Road
Middletown, CT 06457