This new program based on the Blue's Clues television series features the show's latest characters, including the new live-action host, Joe. The target audience is preschool-age children, and the featured activities are very age-appropriate.
This title doesn't send children on a hunt for pawprint-stamped clues, nor does it have Joe mulling over clues in his "thinking chair". Instead, Blue and Joe make their way to the schoolhouse, just in time for "circle time" with Miss Marigold. The teacher wants to send the polka-dot pup, Blue herself, to five different locations around the neighborhood. After helping out characters like Periwinkle and Cash Register, players earn special items. Once all items have been earned, Miss Marigold uses them to create a special mural.
The five activities, each with three difficulty levels to choose from, are found at the Bakery, Grocery Store, Present Shop, Library, and Music Store. At the bakery, Blue must wait for her number to be called. In the meantime, Periwinkle hosts a game that involves finding specific treats, defined by color and shape. In the grocery store, players choose items like fruits and vegetables for Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper. Kids "practice listening" as Purple Kangaroo plays musical instruments in the Music Store, and then repeat the same pattern. In the Library, children help organize books according to letters of the alphabet. The Present Store activity grows tiresome simply because the characters do a lot of talking. However, children learn to count and estimate as they help customers, like Gingerbread Boy, find presents with their Blue Dollars.
While the detective-style problem solving that characterizes the television show is not quite here, Blue's Clues Preschool does feel organized. Players refer to their checklist, for example, and learn about patience in the bakery. Favorite animated characters star in the games, and although Joe doesn't play a role in the activities, he makes appearances when children are navigating the paths of the neighborhood.
A charming feature of the game starts at sign-in. Children not only enter their names, but also select their favorite food, color, song, animal, and sport (multiple-choice style). If players select orange as a preferred color, characters will talk about it. For example, Periwinkle says, "I see an orange square; I know how much you like orange!". The child's name initial decorates the cake at the bakery, and the favored song selection, such as Mary Had a Little Lamb, plays from time to time throughout the game. These personalized touches are friendly and smart.
The program is fairly chatty at times, and it especially drags in the Present Shop. Although the activities are pleasant, most are not especially original. However, the program's strengths include the personal touches mentioned above, polite and thoughtful characters, and the freedom to play activities in any order while working towards a clearly-defined goal.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/Me/XP, Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM (64 MB RAM for Win XP), 8X CD-ROM, and 60 MB free hard disk space. Mac users require a G3 processor, 233 MHz or faster, OS 8.6 or higher, 32 MB RAM, 24X CD-ROM, and 60 MB hard drive space.
auditory perception, memory, color recognition, number recognition (1-20), shape recognition, letter recognition and matching, counting, addition, spatial and size relationships, following directions, listening skills, and patience.
The program's featured activities are gentle, encouraging, and age-appropriate. Most of the academic basics that we expect in a preschool program are covered, although not in much depth. The format of the game (free-play with a defined goal) is ideal for the target age group.
Although the pace of the program is slowed by the inability to skip through character chatter, the overall experience of the game is pleasant. The program boasts some charming features in addition to polite and cheerful characters.
The program is designed in such a way that preschoolers should be able to play independently, for the most part. Three difficulty levels are featured, although these do not automatically adjust to a child's performance. Parents may want to be on hand to adjust the levels appropriately.
We expect an average replay value for the game. Some children will attempt the game again once the objectives of the game are fulfilled, perhaps attempting them on different difficulty levels.
This CD-ROM retails for approximately $20 US.
Reviewed: September 2002