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Review CornerSoftware
Curious George Reading and Phonics
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
Children reinforce early phonics and spelling skills along with Curious George in this program that features an interesting story line and outstanding graphics. Note that success in the game requires some mastery of the arrow keys on the keyboard.
Ages: 4-7  Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling  Publisher: Knowledge Adventure
Review Sections:  Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
image Product Overview
This all-new title, not to be confused with reading programs starring Curious George released in previous years, stars the ever-popular curious little monkey and aims to reinforce basic phonics and early reading concepts.

There are three difficulty levels in the game, and each is dedicated to a specific reading level. After choosing a level, kids are treated to a short story introduction, which effectively sets up the plot of the game. The Man with the Yellow Hat writes George a letter, explaining where the monkey should go to meet him for a surprise present. Before George has a chance to read the letter, a fan blows it away, and the letter breaks into five pieces.

Children must help George out of five predicaments in order to retrieve the five pieces of the letter. The program progresses in a linear format, and a narrator reminds players that they are part of a story. In between activities, kids play a short arcade-style activity that requires use of the keyboard to help George collect bananas and avoid obstacles. There are no penalties for poor arcade skills, but kids earn either a bronze, silver, or gold medal based on how many bananas they collect.

First up, players attempt to get George to the top of a building by identifying letters and their sounds. Depending on the level, children need to match pairs of letters, play without visual (only audio) clues, and so forth. When they reach the top of the building, they collect their first piece of the letter. Another arcade break leads children to the museum where they must reconstruct dinosaurs (after George has knocked them over, of course!) by matching sounds with letters. At the candy factory, a slightly tricky game requires children to determine whether they should "trash" or keep boxes labeled with words based on whether they rhyme with a given word. This is the only activity that can frustrate children who are not quick with keyboarding skills. Next up is a game of cards with George, slightly reminiscent of Go Fish. Finally, George arrives at the circus--at a fortune teller's table, in fact. Kids need to help George spell words of images that appear in the crystal ball.

Once children earn all five pieces of the letter, they find out where George has to go to meet the Man with the Yellow Hat. While George gets his surprise present, children receive a printable certificate for their efforts. The certificate takes the form of the front page of the Morning Star newspaper. Their name appears in the headline--the player has helped Curious George! At this point, all of the activities of the game have been "opened up" to children.

The program is pleasant, with soft piano music in the background and graphics that are cheerful and appealing. The program's leveling is well-defined, although we found it a little odd that long vowels were featured in level one and short vowels in level two, instead of vice versa.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/Me/2000/XP, Pentium 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 12X CD-ROM, and 100 MB free hard disk space. Mac users require a G3 processor, 233 MHz or faster, OS 8.6, 9.2.1, 10.1.2, 64 MB RAM, 16X CD-ROM, and 100 MB hard drive space.

Skills Covered
letter recognition, sound recognition, phonics, short and long vowels, consonant sounds, consonant blends, rhymes, word building, spelling, word recognition, alphabetic order, listening skills, and eye-hand coordination.

Educational Value
Although the educational activities are not especially original, they are quite solid and appropriate for reinforcing basic early reading and spelling skills. The help feature is excellent--struggling attempts are met with specific and relevant help, such as, "the next letter in the word you are spelling makes the 'mmm' sound".

Entertainment Value
The first time through the game, the program progresses in a linear fashion. Children have a well-defined goal and enjoy the fact that they are an integral part of a story line. Arcade-style breaks bookend the activities, helping to add variety to gameplay.

The design of this title is nicely conceived. Help is always available, and it is context-sensitive. The only issue we have about the design is that kids need to use the computer keyboard to navigate some of the activities, and this is not always intuitive for young children.

The program plays in story format. This encourages children to follow through to the end--and ensures that they'll play each activity for a certain amount of time if they do.

Dollar Value
This 2 CD-ROM set retails for approximately $20 US.

Released: 2002 
Reviewed: September 2002