This title is a perfect fit for preschoolers--especially, but not limited to, fans of the PBS Caillou television show. Video snippets from the show are a feature, but the games and activities are the highlight of this easy-to-play educational offering.
After sign-in, children choose a season and then dress Caillou accordingly--boots and a warm coat in winter, a visor and sandals in summer, and so forth. After dress-up, kids are all set to explore Caillou's neighborhood, uncovering both activities and collectible items for their nature book along the way. Some of the activities vary slightly depending on the selected season of the year, and all of them feature three difficulty levels that are easy to adjust.
In Picture Perfect, children are presented with a picture in which some objects are out of place--or rather, out of season. A snowman on the front lawn in summer, green leaves in the fall, a sandcastle in winter, and so forth, must be identified. In another activity, children help Caillou race along a path (he may be skating or skateboarding, depending on the season) by selecting whether he should move over, under, or around obstacles. On level one, Caillou pauses at an obstacle and suggests a way to get past it. As levels increase, the pauses and suggestions drop off. Another activity involves deciding where Caillou should bounce his ball on the word-labeled wall. Kids need to identify rhyming words, and the words on the wall become lengthier and more difficult at higher levels. Spelling Playground requires raking a path for Caillou by clicking on requested letters or on letters that spell a particular word. Kids try to make a snowman that is identical to Daddy's in another activity; and they work at balancing a see-saw by adding and removing characters who are associated with numbers (weights). Finally, children sort pictures in such a way that they tell a coherent story, such as one in which a cocoon grows into a butterfly.
Four Seasons of Fun is mostly narrated by Caillou and his Daddy, while Caillou's Mommy offers words of congratulations now and again. The objects for the nature book are "hidden" right out in the open, and they include such season-themed objects as a sled in winter and Indian corn in autumn. The objects can be earned by completing an activity or by simply finding and clicking upon them. If children play the program through each season of the year, they have the chance to completely fill their nature books.
We found the difficulty levels quite appropriate and distinct. Only one of the activities was a little confusing at first: children need to find objects that don't belong in a picture, and our little tester thought (quite logically) that a sandcastle on the front lawn didn't fit. However, the frame of reference for the activity is the season, which in this case was summer. As such, the sandcastle was an appropriate object for the summer. Once she understood what the program wanted, the confusion ended.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium 266 MHz or equivalent, 64 MB RAM, 16-bit DirectX compatible video card with 2 MB memory, and 8X CD-ROM (16X recommended). Mac users require a G3-266 MHz, OS 8.6-9.x, OS X in Classic Mode, 32 MB free RAM, and 8X CD-ROM. The program requires 35 MB of hard drive space.
Children develop skills in letter recognition, simple spelling, rhyming, sequencing, sorting, measurement and balancing, decision making, early reading, number identification, and nature/season understanding.
Educational content is diverse and solid. Children practice skills in matching, discerning differences, letters and simple words, balancing, and more, in a pleasant and encouraging environment. They also learn to associate objects with the different seasons of the year.
Children love picking a season for Caillou's adventure, and they can always play variations of the program's activities by selecting a new season. Short video clips from the show are available for viewing, although the activities are thoroughly enjoyable on their own.
The goals of the program are clear to young players. Three distinct difficulty levels are available for each activity. We found some of the steps required to navigate and play the games were somewhat unnecessary, although this didn't detract from enjoyment of the program.
The program contains a satisfying number of activities. Children will enjoy the variations of these games when they play the program with different seasons of the year.
This CD-ROM carries a suggested retail price of approximately $20 US.
Reviewed: November 2002