When Walt Disney Studios does anything, it's news. The name meant quality entertainment for so long to so many of us, we're tempted to buy any product they put their name on.
Fight the urge! They just sent us three new educational games in a Mickey Mouse series for preschoolers. (The boxes say they're for ages 2 to 5.) One is great, the second so-so and the third not worth buying! Let's take the good news first. Mickey's ABC's: A Day at the Fair is a joy. Just load the program, sit your tyke at the keyboard and instruct her to hit any key she likes.We hit a J: Mickey woke up, stretched, got out of his onscreen bed and jumped up and down several times. Meanwhile, the word JUMPED appeared onscreen. We typed W: WINDOW appeared and Mickey's window shade went up and down. D made Mickey slide DOWN a fireman's pole into the kitchen and so on.
If your tyke hits a random F, the letter takes Mickey out of the house and over to a country FAIR. There, each letter again makes a different action occur. We're not sure any three-year-old really needs to learn how to read ZUCCHINI, but watching Mickey and Minnie till soil and Goofy plant seed makes us easily forgive the programmers' educational stretch.
In short, the program's easy enough for two-year-olds and actionpacked to please five-year-olds. We recommend it highly.
Mickey's 123's: The Big Surprise Party is slower, soberer and not nearly as inventive as other counting games we've reviewed (such as The Learning Company's excellent Math Rabbit.) The story line is cute: Mickey plans a surprise party. He sends invitations, buys food, and gets toys right from a toy factory. (How much of each? The player decides by hitting a number from one to nine.) When all that's done, Mickey gives the party.
The animation is as fine as you'd expect. The game does teach counting, no doubt about that. But too much that happens onscreen can't be player-controlled, such as toy-making in the factory. The kid has to sit and wait while the assembly-line action takes place.
We suspect most kiddies will get bored fast.
The third program, Mickey's Colors and Shapes: The Dazzling Magic Show, presents a four-act magic show starring Mickey Mouse. It's as pretty onscreen as the other two. But it's badly programmed and poorly packaged.
Screen changes are very slow. Floppy-disk computer owners must make between two and six disk swaps for every scene change. (That means most parents have to hang around while the kid plays.) And the program isn't intuitive. Parents will need to tell children how to make it work.
Here's the worst boo-boo: The package comes with a keyboard overlay for selecting colors and COMPUTEContinued from DX
shapes. While the box plainly says the game is for `ages 2 to 5,' the manual wisely cautions, `Keep the overlay away from children under three years old.' And on picking up the Quick Start card, what leapt out at us first? The fact that this educational package's preparers don't know a who's from a whose. It makes us wonder what teaching goofs we didn't find in our short review.
The moral: Don't grab an `educational software' box just because you like other things from the same maker. Even among programs in the same series, performance can differ widely. These list at $49.95 each and, so far, are out only for IBM compatibles. We haven't had a look yet at the other programs in the Mickey series.