Elmo’s Number Journey is another video game from New Kid Co., and it is designed for preschoolers! Be sure to see our review of Elmo's Letter Adventure by the same company to see which title may be more appropriate for your kids.
Very similar to Elmo's Letter Adventure in design, this new PlayStation game does a great job helping young kids get familiar with the PlayStation controller. My previously intimidated 5 year old daughter quickly became an enthusiastic "gamer" after her first few attempts at playing Elmo's Letter Adventure. Now, 3 weeks after that introduction, she is already an old hand at this whole thing. My 2 year old daughter also plays the game easily.
Note also that there are absolutely no "bad guys" in this game, something that my daughter was delighted and relieved to know. There are no intimidating races against the clock either, which makes for a very quiet and relaxing experience -- especially appealing for kids who like it that way.
The whole idea of the game is to maneuver Elmo through 3 different worlds, collecting numbers along the way. Kids start out on Sesame Street and make the 3D Elmo walk along the street. They choose between 3 difficulty levels, and can enter Elmo's Playroom to get a tutorial in the form of a simple walkthrough if need be. Along Sesame Street Elmo meets up with 5 familiar characters, 3 of whom lead to the activities:
- No surprise, but The Count is the host of one of the worlds. The first leg of the journey is a garden path that leads up to The Count's Castle (the setting for the second environment). Kids lead Elmo along the path, collecting the numbers they are asked to find. In the Castle, bats fly by, and kids pass suits of armor and big old clocks to add to the atmosphere.
- Ernie hosts a carnival world. The first environment has Elmo walking through a carnival to fun music, and collecting the correct numbers leads to applause. Later in Ernie's world, Elmo rides in a bumper car.
- In Cookie Monster's world, Elmo drives a speedboat, and later traverses Sugar Mountain on a snowboard. This second environment is especially appealing to the eye, as Elmo passes by regular trees and lollipop trees, and "snow"men made out of sugar.
In all worlds, the host will specify the number he wants Elmo to collect. On the easy level, kids need to collect 12 numbers altogether and they have 6 "lives" to go through. On the hard level, they must collect 20 numbers or sets of items, and have only 2 lives. (Incorrect number choices result in a loss of a "life").
On the hard level, kids not only collect numerals but also sets of items that correspond to the number. For example, if the number that needs to be collected is "9", they need to select the numeral "9" as well as the sets of 9 balls. Remember to count the balls carefully, because sets of 8 look very similar to sets of 9!
Successful completion of a level or task leads to a bonus round in which Elmo needs to throw balls into a large carnival game prop. The trick here is that kids must count how many times he needs to do this in order to make the requested number. On the easy level, a simple number is given. When kids reach that number, they ring the bell, or if they realize they have exceeded the required number, they honk a horn. On the hard level, kids are faced with a simple addition equation such as 5 + 3 = ?, and they need to count the right amount of balls -- they have 3 "chances" (or possibly, guesses).
Everything is rendered in 3D, and the graphics are bold and well done. As in Elmo's Letter Adventure, background music is peaceful, and some of it will be familiar tunes from the show. Even when the game is left on for some time it is not annoying for parents to hear. Each world has its own corresponding soundtrack.
The controls are designed to be very easy to use. Kids need only to push the forward arrow quite consistently with little need to fine-tune their motions, although collecting bonus gems often requires a bit more skill. The action buttons are defined as all 4 of the buttons on the right hand side of the controller, and any one will work! Kids get a visual explanation of which buttons to press in order to do different things (and there really are not a lot of functions to learn).
If a wrong number is chosen, it simply falls on its side and kids continue their adventure (provided they still have "lives" left). All the Sesame Street hosts are encouraging and extremely positive. For example, The Count says "I know there are 5's in my garden".
The lack of pressure is one of the best qualities of the game -- game play is rather relaxing and fun.