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Review CornerSoftware
Bears
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This utterly charming CD-ROM presents a world of discovery, music, art, and exploration that young children (especially ages 2-4) will find engaging. Bears is a delightful "click fest" filled with surprises and mini-games, rife with humor and clever content.
Award
Ages: 3-8  Subject: Music  Brand: PixelPark
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
Looking for a wonderful software title that will charm both you and your preschooler? Look no further than Bears, a delightful game that stars teddy bears so endearing you'll want to hug them. Bears is a unique CD-ROM from New Zealand that emphasizes exploration and discovery, and is downright perfect for curious children ages 2-4.

Focus is on exploration and music. Free play is the key and is entirely encouraged. In fact, though Ted and Floppy are always available to give kids little tips and hints, this title is deliberately mysterious — you won't find your standard navigational icons, a cursor that changes when it hovers over hotspots, or any real direction in this CD-ROM. That would spoil the surprises and the fun of discovery!

Music is an important theme in Bears. Throughout the game, bears have instruments in hand, ready to play. The authentic high-quality music tracks are delightful with samplings from all sorts of styles including classical, blues, and jazz. In the Lounge, a musical activity can be found. Here there are 6 different instruments to choose from, sheet music of popular nursery rhymes can be printed, and kids can use the keyboard or their mouse to create their own tunes. Kids learn to differentiate between a saxophone, trumpet, and tuba, for example, and learn about many more instruments as they explore the house and garden.

The interactive storybook is not to be missed (though your child might not discover it the first few times s/he plays Bears!). Entitled Allison's Birthday, this book features highlighted words when the story is read, individual words that are clickable, and loads of hotspots and mini-games (for example, a little brown bear invites players to play tag).

Other activities include hide-and-seek, in which Ted will hide and children listen to Floppy's simple clues to locate him; 3 different mazes; and a word matching game that involves matching up written words with corresponding pictures.

The software's website offers extra tools and resources to extend the program beyond the computer. Here you will find lesson plans and ideas as well as online games.

The engaging and charming world of Bears will tickle preschoolers with truly fun and humorous hotspots. When kids discover that they can change the seasons and re-enter the garden in winter time, a snowman doing a jig will make them laugh. This title is brimming with clever content. For example, when children turn on the element on the stove and forget to turn it off again, they are warned about its dangers. In fact, they cannot click on more hotspots until they shut it off. A golfing bear talks about whether he gets eagles or birdies; a painter bear shows his paintings and comments on their different styles (Impressionist, surrealist, abstract, etc.); in the kitchen, a bear samples and compares the tastes of salt, sugar, and flour; numbered balloons float up to the ceiling and if the player pops them, a corresponding number of bears will cheer; in the bedroom, a row of bears demonstrate how primary colors mix to create secondary colors; and kids can change the time on the grandfather clock then have the crier relay the time.

The New Zealand accent didn't seem to distract kid testers at all — in fact, the accent may have only added to the charm of the CD. In the word-matching game pictured at right, testers were unfamiliar with a few words like autogiro and quoits, but again, the language should not be a deterrent.

It should be noted that this program has been deliberately designed to immerse children in the teddy bears' world and to contain surprises that will continue to delight over time. As such, kids won't find everything the program has to offer at once. It is interesting to note that a 3 year-old tester took to the game immediately and has since claimed that it is her favorite game. An 8 year-old wondered what the point of the program was at the outset, but watching the 3 year-old play was still appealing. Bears suits the natural curiosity of preschoolers, yet parents and older siblings will still be drawn to the program.

In a market dominated by children's software giants, Bears stands out with graphics and activities that rival and better many kids' software titles currently available. The concept behind the game is simple and sincere — most parents will find this title a refreshing change.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 3.1/95/98, a 486-DX2/66, 8 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM. Mac users require at least a 68040 processor, system 7.1 or later, and 2X CD-ROM.

Skills Covered
music appreciation, musical instruments, musical notes, exploration, discovery, primary & secondary colors, reading skills, word matching, vocabulary, seasons, counting, transportation, general knowledge.

Educational Value
Kids will learn through discovery. Appreciation and awareness of musical styles and instruments is a focus of the disc. As well, kids will pick up a lot of vocabulary and general knowledge tidbits.

Entertainment Value
This title is brimming with humor, entertaining music, and appealing graphics. The bears themselves are endearing.

Design
Plenty of options are available for parents to customize the program. Read the FAQ on the Bears website for little tips and shortcut keys. Kids can shorten long animations and music tracks by pressing on the spacebar. Traditional navigational icons are deliberately missing from the program in an attempt to immerse children in the title's little world. Young children naturally discovered what to do on their own.

The thought and care that went into this warm and sincere CD-ROM is evident throughout. Nice little touches will be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Replayability
Kids won't discover everything this game has to offer in the first few sittings. Though older children in the suggested age group may not find enough to do, preschoolers will be asking to play this game over and over again.

Dollar Value
This CD-ROM costs $19.95 US (pp $5US), and $39.95 NZ.

Released: 1998
Reviewed: July 2000