Creativity Kit: Little People Farm; Creativity Kit: Little People Main St. (computer games for children) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Eddie Huffman
What is it with Fisher-Price's Little People? They have no apparent appendages, Day-Glo clothes, and molded plastic hair that would make even Wayne Newton cringe. Yet they're perennially popular, their peg bodies never failing to fit perfectly into the wells of the cars, tractors, and jumbo jets they pilot around the floors of America's living rooms.
My five-year-old son has liked Little People since he was old enough not to choke on them, playing with the wee ones' Farm at home and Main St. at day care. It seemed natural that animated versions in a computer program would go over big, and the little studs didn't let me down.
These Fisher-Price Creativity Kits combine limited animation with print capabilities, and a few sheets of heavy paper and drawing tools are also thrown in. As a printing and coloring program, the Creativity Kits work about as well as the ubiquitous print kits available for everything from Beauty and the Beast to "The Itchy and Scratchy Show."
As character animation programs, they're pretty much what you'd expect from the big F-P: A little slow and elementary for grownups, just right for kids.
The programs are recommended for ages 3-8. Both work on the same basic principles. Each provides a tour of its respective setting, allowing you to zoom in on different features of Main St. or the Farm. On Main St. you can see what's shakin' inside the pet shop or the grocery store. Down on the Farm, you can view various animals in action or examine the nooks and crannies on different sides of the barn. Even on a 486, the Creativity Kits plod along at the kind of methodical pace five-year-olds appreciate, offering slow, smooth zooms in and out of different scenes.
As with Fisher-Price's molded plastic toys, you get plenty of bright colors and crisp, well-designed scenes. The various shops on Main St. offer a more interesting set of views, though on the Farm you get more details for each scene, with four separate screens appearing at once representing the animal or object in each of the four seasons. Both games display a gentle sense of humor: The Farm's summer cow is a scuba cow decked out in snorkel and face mask; inside Main St.'s barber shop, you can open a cabinet to find a little barber mouse cutting the hair of a little mouse customer.
If your child can maneuver a computer mouse, he or she will be able to use these programs immediately. They'll work with a keyboard, though a mouse is recommended for good reason. It helps if your child can read a few words, including animal names and such directions as "go back," though even that's not essential. Once you've pointed out the "go back" button, your child should be able to find it easily whether or not literacy has been achieved.
Even if you're new to computers or you're just introducing their capabilities to your child, the Creativity Kits are almost as easy to use as the toys they serve as tie-ins. Running the programs from a floppy or installing them to a hard drive is equally painless and swift. After answering a few basic questions about your system's capabilities, you'll be ready to enter the world of the Little People.
It's a nice place to be, even if nobody there can open a door for you. If your child falls within the suggested age range of the Creativity Kits, either the Farm or Main St. would be a good way for a child to direct his or her attention to the computer screen without having to leave the comfortable surroundings of familiar toys.