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Review CornerSoftware
Ariel's Story Studio
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
A fun and creative software title that will appeal to most children aged 3 to 8.
 
Ages: 5-10  Subject: Reading/Pre-Reading/Spelling  Brand: Disney Interactive
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
More than just an interactive storybook, Ariel's Story Studio is packed full of games, music, fish facts, and sticker fun. It even has a Make Your Own Storybook feature and a virtual aquarium activity!

As an e-book, the program is wonderful. One of the Little Mermaid characters reads the delightful story as phrases are highlighted. There is a Learn New Words feature that helps teach vocabulary words — some words are highlighted in red and, when clicked on, a definition poem appears. Words that appear in boxes will transform into different words that have the same meaning when clicked upon. Kids have the handy option to scroll to a preferred page or activity, so they are not stuck in the story at any point.

There are plenty of surprises in each screen waiting to be activated — hotspots abound: and clicking on the bandshells will bring up the sing-alongs and clicking on the starfish will bring up the activities. Some of the games are as follows:

  • Stickers in a Bottle: A message in a bottle can be found on every story screen, and each contains one of 5 special little stickers that can be used later in the Make Your Own Storybook activity. Kids are encouraged to collect them all.
  • Rolling Plates: Roll Ariel's china plates down the ramps to their boxes and use the sea anemone and sea kelp to help maneuver them down safely.
  • Scuttle's Spyglass: Use a spyglass to "spy" on Eric's ship.
  • Dig for Little Treasures: After finding a little sand crab that is hiding in the sand, you can use it as a tool to dig for treasures!
  • Ariel's Shelf: Help sort all of Ariel's treasures that have been knocked off their shelves by an angry (and perhaps overprotective) Triton. They can be organized according to either size, color, or type — depending on when you enter the activity.
  • Statue Puzzle: Eric's statue is broken into jagged pieces, and Ariel needs your help reassembling them.
  • Spell Making: Follow directions to mix the correct amounts of colorful magic potions in Ursula's cauldron.
  • Sing-alongs: Listen to your favorite Little Mermaid songs and watch as the lyrics appear on the screen. You can choose between vocal or instrumental/karaoke versions of each song.
Additionally there are the following activities:
  • In Make Your Own Music, click on different combinations of instruments found in the seashells to play any of the 4 songs (the delightful Under the Sea, Kiss the Girl, Part of Your World, and Poor Unfortunate Souls), then add sound effects, play a melody, and record/save your composition! If you match the color of Sebastian's sheet music with the selected musicians' outfits, you will get the original combination. You can direct the choral reef by clicking on the 8 little fish, or by using the numbers 1-8 on the computer keyboard. Another cute addition is the ability to pan instruments' music from your left computer speaker to the right, and back again.
  • Make Your Own Storybook allows you to create wonderful personal stories by choosing backgrounds, characters, and various undersea "stickers". Redesign your pages by altering some of the colors, and add text to your page by either typing in your own words or choosing from a nice selection of pre-made text. The Print option allows you to print your storybook pages in color/greyscale, or in coloring book format in unshaded black and white. Each sign-in name can store up to 9 storybook pages, but my daughter solved the problem by using her nickname and simply signing in again. This leaves her with 18 altogether.
  • In the Make Your Own Grotto activity, you get to create and design your own underwater scenes or "virtual aquariums" while learning lots of fish facts. Choose the plants and coral you want and watch them grow. Print out fish fact cards. Our program came with some printing materials including cardstock, as well as a sheet of preprinted Little Mermaid stickers. An instruction sheet shows how to print and assemble a storybook onto cardstock and suggests punching holes and lacing it up to make a pretty little book.
The suggested age range may be a little off. Because reading skills are not required, kids younger than 5 will enjoy this program. My 2 and 5 year old girls dove right into this program and it was some time before they resurfaced for air!

Technically Speaking
Minimum reqs for PC users are a 486/66, 16 mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM. Mac users need at least a 68040 processor, System 7.1 (largest unused block is 8500K), 16 mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM. Both systems require 30 mb of hard drive space. For Windows 95/98 users, Ariel's Story Studio works with the AutoPlay feature. The graphics in the program are beautiful — the scenes and characters are rendered seamlessly.

Skills Covered
vocabulary words, synonyms, creativity, imagination, sorting by size and color, puzzles, following directions, musical composition and appreciation, fish facts

Educational Value
Although this program is meant to be more "play" than anything, it does succeed at teaching kids a few things as well. The suggested age range may be a little off — 3 and 4 year olds will have a great time with the software, and kids aged 9-10 may not be challenged by it.

Entertainment Value
The story-telling is charming, the music is delightful, and the games are fun in a relaxed way. Children with a love for The Little Mermaid will be particularly attracted to this program, but it is not a prerequisite.

Design
Navigation takes a bit of getting used to and can be done by exclusively using the mouse, but there also exist keyboard commands that can help take kids where they want to go fast. For example, pressing on the spacebar will take them directly to the Pick-a-Page option. Kids need to be encouraged to click around on each story screen in order to discover all the activities and options.

Replayability
Ariel's Story Studio ranks high in the replay category because of its huge content, fun characters, and pleasing activities. The title will appeal to a relatively broad age range — probably 3-8 is more realistic then the 5-10 suggested on the box.

Dollar Value
When Disney Interactive software is first released, the price tag can be quite high. However, this title has been out for awhile now, and you may be able to find it at a more respectable price. Even if you don't, I would say the amount of content justifies a higher price tag.

Released: 1997