One parent's view of the educational
programs JUGGLES HOUSE and JUGGLES RAINBOW from Atari and the PROTO
series from Educational Software.
The grass needs cutting, the house
needs painting, but there are more important things to do. Your
foot is tapping uncontrollably to a jazzy version of Bach's Tocatta
and Fugue in D Minor GYRUSS. You're on your last life and only one
warp from Earth SCORE 210,000 when suddenly the door bursts open
and a voice shouts "Daddy, can I have a go on the computer?" ZAP!
Game Over. Familiar scene?
My daughter is four and a half
years old and all she wants to do is press the letters on the keyboard
and get that little beeping sound. So I thought I would get Juggles
House and Juggles Rainbow to enable her to play on the computer
while I was out at work or on the golf course. Then I could try
for Earth again in peace.
Juggles House and Juggles Rainbow
are supposed to 'introduce spatial concepts' to 3 to 6 year olds.
In other words it shows them the differences between inside and
outside, left and right and above and below. They are simple and
colourful and use 'masks' to relate areas on the keyboard to areas
on the screen. The accompanying documentation is excellent. My daughter
loved them. Both games are similar and take the form of a very junior
quiz. You start by placing your masks on the keyboard to match the
screen. A message appears on screen asking you to 'Press Right'
- she presses right. There then follows a series of similar questions
like 'Press Above' etc. If the child does not make more than two
mistakes in a row, there is a pretty picture at the end. Great,
so why do I not now have a single figure handicap at golf?
Firstly, my daughter got nearly
all the questions correct first time! More importantly she is unable
to read (age range 3 years?) which means that I have to be present
because she has no idea what to do until she is shown for the first
time. Having to stay with her means I have to listen to the sound
track which I find intensely annoying but which she loves (!) and
I have a nasty feeling that by the time she can read and be left
alone, she will not be interested in something so simple.
The games are around £19 each and
are so simple you wonder why you did not write them yourself. Remember
kids will love things that you might consider too simple.
At that price I was very disappointed.
My daughter was entertained but I had to be present all the time
which defeated the original purpose.
So I tried the 'PROTO' series from
Maplin Electronics consisting of three cassettes, or disks, containing
in total 10 semi-educational games. They were available at a special
price of £9 for the lot! The cassettes were individually boxed and
each with their own 16-page booklet which is written so clearly
that I could trust my wife to load the games.
Games is just what they are. Not
scaled down versions of popular adult games but 'arcade' type games
specially written for children. They range from extremely easy to
almost adult level each with several levels of difficulty. The series
has therefore a wide age appeal from 4 to 10 years. Whilst Juggles
is a question and answer session with no movement on the screen,
all the games in the PROTO series are joystick controlled with movement,
better sound, nice colours and, more importantly, a 'goal', usually
a score. One minor drawback is that you load the cassette versions
with RUN "C:" and therefore have to wait some time for them to load.
Verdict - outrageously inexpensive
but excellent quality. My daughter loves them and will sit by herself
quite happily for a long time. So maybe now I can get out onto the
golf course. First though I must try to get to that last warp.
The foot starts tapping... ZAP!...
one more life... SCORE 213,000... nearly there. Suddenly, "Daddy...".
You see she only gets the urge to play on the computer when I'm
using it! Oh well, fifteen handicap is not too bad. Anyone want
to buy a copy of Gyruss?