DUCKS, SEAHORSES AND MUPPETS
New educational softwareReviewed by Anita Malnig
In Big Bird's Funhouse (CBS) the Sesame Street Muppets Bert and
Ernie, Cookie Monster, Grover, Oscar, etc. are all hiding in a funhouse.
The child must guess who's hiding where. Big Bird lets you know if you've
guessed correctly. You must use a soft plastic overlay on the keys to indicate
special squares for the child to push. This doesn't fit very well and tends
to slide around.
At each of the five levels, the play is essentially the same. You hit some keys. A window in the funhouse will pop up and you see a Muppet character. Then you hit the hide key, the character disappears and you try to remember which characters are still around. Each character has his own musical theme which the child will come to recognize along with the character himself. (All the Muppets here are male.)
At the first two levels the empty open windows will be clues as to how many Muppets are missing. Later on all the windows are open and empty. Later still, you guess the order in which the characters appear. The animation and music when the Muppets are hiding is funny and lively but the graphics seemed a little fuzzy. So many educational programs are achieving superb quality in their graphics that one can't help but be somewhat disappointed by the slightly off-register resolution here.
But the graphics are less of a disappointment than the fact that this is essentially a skimpy, one-theme program. I think that even pre-school children would get tired of the repetitive gameplay rather quickly.
However, right on the money is Ducks Ahoy! published by CBS Software and developed by Joyce Hakansson Associates in Berkeley, California.
You're in Venice and in your gondola you must pick up ducks who want to go to the beach. You maneuver your boat through the canals and pick up ducks at the doorways of the various buildings. Then you take them up to the beach. But, you've got to avoid the hippo who upsets boats and get to the door of each building before the comically waddling ducks plop themselves into the water. The ducks don't quite know how to stop. You've got to have the boat waiting for them.
The graphics are crisp, the waddling ducks are very amusing and the music charmingly duplicates an Italian song, such as a gondolier might play!
The ducks do move in a pattern (after you play a while you begin to pick it up). You must determine how long it will take you to steer the boat to pick them up in time. You can pick up two in a row and take them both to the beach, but you must be sure you'll avoid the hippo. Ten ducks on the beach wins a game.
This simple, clever game can help young children with their fine motor coordination and counting skills. Older children can work on planning the most efficient routes and predicting the outcome of the game.
I've seen kids thoroughly involved with this game-and believe me, it can capture the parents' attention too! While this is also a one-theme program, it becomes an engaging adventure. Short, clear documentation accompanies the software, as well as a story book with duck jokes and activities such as making duck feet and duck lips! Lots of fun!
Also from Joyce Hakansson Associates for CBS is Sea Horse Hide 'n' Seek. Here you must maneuver your seahorse through a coral reef as it encounters old wrecks and seaweed. You also must guide it away from the lagoon fish who let out a special sound so you know they're coming.
This program teaches about some of the real properties of sea horses. They use camouflage to hide. You steer your sea horse to a large piece of coral and it will assume the color of the coral.
Your goal is to get the sea horse home by crossing the reef. And it's quite an adventure to do so. A child playing this will have fun avoiding the lagoon fish, changing colors and hiding, and in the bargain learn something about underwater life.
Both Ducks Ahoy and Sea Horse Hide 'n' Seek are 16K cartridges, so they can be used on any Atari without a disk drive or cassette.
Muppet Learning Keys was produced by Jim Henson Assocates and Koala Technologies. This Keyboard is designed for use by young children who have difficulty mastering the standard computer keys.
On the Muppet Keys, letters are set out in a five-row square in their regular A-B-C- sequence. The numbers are arranged to look like a ruler. There are other keys- Stop, Go, Erase and Zap!-which all have funny cartoon markings and perform special functions.
With the use of an adapter disk you can run your other software for your child to play with via the Muppet Keys. But the special games for the keyboard now available on Apple and Commodore are not out for the Atari.
And when I tried to run other popular software on an 800XL with the Muppet Keyboard in place, the programs all crashed. I've spoken with people at Koala who assure me this is not supposed to happen. Be sure and try your child's favorite games with this keyboard at the store before you make a purchase.
BIG BIRD'S FUNHOUSE
$34.95, 48K disk, ages 3-6
$12.95, 16K cartridge, ages 3-6
SEA HORSE HIDE 'N' SEEK
$12.95, 16K cartridge, ages 3-6
1 Fawcett Place
Greenwich, CT 06836
MUPPET LEARNING KEYS
$79.95, 64K disk, ages 3-6
Koala Technologies Corp.
3100 Patrick Henry Drive
Santa Clara, CA 95052