Andy has taken Woody to summer camp, and Buzz Lightyear and toy pals from Disney/Pixar's Toy Story franchise have the run of his bedroom. With toys running the show, it's time to play -- and learn, but nobody really has to know! A host of first grade skills are incorporated into the 9 educational play areas of this curriculum-based software program.
Andy's bedroom is the main screen (see screenshot above), and first-graders need only click on one of the toys in the room to go to an activity. In Looking with Lenny, kids play a "search and memory" game. They pan around Andy's room looking through Lenny the binoculars, searching out objects that conform to Buzz Lightyear's clue. This can be as easy as "something blue and green", and on higher levels, "coins adding up to 15 cents".
Our hands-down favorite activity helps kids learn their numbers 1 through 100 backwards and forwards -- literally! It involves steering Jessie around a race track in RC car collecting numbers in sequence. Kids will love this exciting game, though their heads get a little dizzy after too much time on the track.
While Sarge's Math Maneuvers is a sound exercise in basic addition and subtraction, it is slow-moving for many kids. Sarge barks out orders to the Army Men, and they march to position while kids work out a simple equation on the calculator.
Kids synchronize Andy's digital alarm clock with his analog wall clock, and when they succeed, Buzz helps teach them the contextual meaning of time by saying things like "7:00 is bath time". Spelling is covered in a cute game with Mr. Spell. Kids use Buzz Lightyear's flashlight to hunt for letters in the dark in order to complete simple words.
A globe puzzle activity requires kids to place bodies of water and continents onto Andy's globe. As long as kids place a puzzle piece in the correct hemisphere, the program will suck it into proper position. This means the game is practically errorless so that kids have only to learn from it!
A fun reading comprehension activity involves sorting out Andy's trading cards with Bo-Peep, determining which cards go first, middle, and last according to the simple story they tell.
The music activity allows kids to play with Andy's keyboard. It closely mirrors some of the features you would find on a real cassette recorder/keyboard with icons for play/stop/rewind, the ability to adjust tempo, and a choice of instruments to play. Selecting different cartridges changes the background music, and children can play along on the keyboard to add their own notes. A special cartridge allows players to listen to computer-generated notes, watch the keys light up, then try to imitate them.
Printable activity sheets are available from Andy's desk. The beautiful assortment of sheets are divided into mazes, coloring pages, colorful cut-outs, and puzzles.
Note that until Dec. 31/2000 this title comes packaged with a free CD-ROM, Disney's Toy Story Animated Storybook. This program is a 15-page interactive storybook featuring text that is highlighted as it is read as well as a number of fun, moderately educational activities.
Strengths & Weaknesses:
Disney uses its Active Leveling Advantage in this program, and it is well done. Though levels cannot be adjusted manually, the program moves children automatically back and forward based on their individual performance. While some programs don't always succeed at this task in a smooth manner, this title does a good job of determining levels that are appropriate for the skills of its players, avoiding frustrations, but at the same time, gently challenging a child. However, there is no sign-in process, so the program won't "remember" where different children left off.
With Disney and Pixar behind the scenes, we can expect some outstanding computer-animated graphics and entertaining activities. The attention to detail is impressive to say the least.
The activities are cute and solid on an educational level, but some are marred by the inability to bypass relatively long sequences. This won't be a problem for patient, watchful children, but may prevent more active children from returning to these activities and, ultimately, the program. Consider the nature of your child before deciding to buy this rather mellow program.
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 166 processor, 32 Mb RAM, and 8X CD ROM. Mac users require a G3 233 or better, with 32 Mb RAM (64 Mb for OS 9.0), System 8.1-9.0, and at least 8X CD ROM. This title requires 60 Mb of free hard disk space. A color printer is recommended.
addition & subtraction using concrete materials, counting, spelling, first, last, and middle letter identification, word building, word recognition using verbal and graphic cues, blends and digraphs, prediction, counting by 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s to 100 and back, number patterns, motor skills, attribute discernment, 3D shapes, fractions, money, memory, sounds/listening, world geography, spatial and mapping skills, vocabulary, story comprehension, sequencing, ordering, sight reading, observation, telling time to 1/4 hour, matching digital to analog clocks, contextual meaning of time, music creativity, tempo, pitch, creativity
The automatically adjusting learning activities cover a whole lot of first grade ground and are, for the most part, solid. Especially notable is the activity that reinforces number sequences. All activities allow kids to make errors without punishment, leaving lots of room to learn from them. This creates a wonderfully supportive learning environment!
Kids will have an easy-going, fun time playing with favorite Toy Story characters.
With the ultimate in no-fuss automatic leveling that works efficiently, this title helps to gently challenge children without frustrating them. We wished we could "click through" some of the scenes, however.
With the exception of the racing activity, many children who demand a lot of action from their software programs will burn out on the games in this program. However, kids who respond best to exploring a title at their own pace will return to this game often.
This CD-ROM sells for $30 Cdn/$20 US. This lower price represents good value, especially with the bonus CD-ROM included in the package (until the end of the year).
Reviewed: August 2000