Juggles vs Proto

Reviewed by C. Laing


Issue 16

Jul/Aug 1985

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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?