Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 6, NO. 9 / JANUARY 1988

Education Game Contenders

Perfect Match and ST Alpha Bytes

Reviewed by SOL GUBER

Perfect Match and ST Alpha Bytes are a pair of educational games for the ST. Perfect Match uses uses a "match the card" theme to teach facts to older children; ST Alpha Bytes teaches younger children alphabet recognition and reading skills.

The Perfect Match screen consists of 24 cards-12 questions and 12 answers. When you pick a card, it's flipped over. Then you pick a second card, which is also flipped. You then have to decide if the question and answer are a match. You get points for answering correctly and if the cards are a match. You can play Perfect Match with another person or solitaire.

Topics include the Bible, Animals, Presidents, Sports, the World Wars, and there is even a special category that randomly selects questions from all of the categories. You can also generate your own question sets. There's an adjustable difficulty level, and a help feature will give out answers if you're stumped.

Unfortunately, the game is somewhat disappointing. Each category contains only a small number of questions, and it's very easy to learn all of the questions in any category. There are not nearly enough questions here for a trivia-type program, even with Perfect Match's ability to generate more question sets. (And the question-generator program uses a very cumbersome interface. It takes some effort to remember which keys you need to use for moving from one question to another, and there is no editing capability except for the backspace key.)

Perfect Match also lacks any real pizazz. The game does use several sound effects as the cards shuffled and flipped, and a fanfare when you answer a question correctly. The scanty four-page manual is mostly concerned with the question-generator program. Basically, Perfect Match is just so-so.

ST Alpha Bytes is designed for children 2 to 6 years old, and it uses colors, action and sound to make the program enjoyable and to keep the child's attention. Unfortunately, I think the program has been targeted to the wrong age group and misses the mark.

The basic premise here is simple: At the bottom of your ST screen is a keyboard with a Rube Goldberg machine and a robot just above it. A letter appears on left side of the screen a picture appears on the right, and in the middle is a box with three words. (For example, the letter C has the words church, camera, and clock shown with it.) The object is to click on or type the correct choice. If you're right, the machine runs and beeps several times and the robot smiles. You can vary the amount of time for the choice, choose a demo mode, or even remove the machine and robot.

There are several flaws in Alpha Bytes. It's in medium resolution, so there are only four colors, and the thin font the program uses to make up the letters is difficult for a small child to read. The screen is also very cluttered; between the keyboard, the machine, the robot, the words, the graphics and everything else going on, it is difficult for a 2-to-six-year-old child to focus on what is being taught. There are only three pictures for each letter. The time element is also not appropriate-there are few children at age 6 who will be able to read three words and choose the correct one within five seconds. It is even difficult for some adults.

The 20-page guide covers theories of reading for children and shows what to expect from various age groups. The package also comes with a poster to be colored and two packets of stickers. There's also a score sheet that can be printed to show which words have been learned.

All in all, this is a program that has missed its target. For a young child, the words are too difficult and the screen is too cluttered. For an older child, the program isn't interesting enough-it needs more colors, and songs rather than sounds. There are many nice touches in ST Alpha Bytes, but for young children to learn alphabet skills, a program with more colors, more words and less difficulty is needed.

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