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Review CornerSoftware
Disney/Pixar's Buzz Lightyear 2nd Grade
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
Basic skill-building in a playful atmosphere is featured in this graphically rich program. If you are looking for a comprehensive software title that covers a broad range of 2nd grade curriculum skills, this title will disappoint. However, this supportive and visually appealing program would make a friendly addition to a family's software collection.
 
Ages: 6-8  Subject: Curriculum  Brand: Disney Interactive
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
Andy is off to school, and Buzz Lightyear and his toy pals have free reign over his bedroom. It's time for fun...with a bit of learning slipped in.

Andy's bedroom is bright and inviting with 6 hotspots that lead kids to the program's learning activities. As can be expected with Disney behind the scenes, curriculum-based activities are playful and the atmosphere is nurturing and supportive.

A favorite activity is presented on a magic slate doodle pad (pictured above). Kids listen to clues and try to guess a word letter-by-letter in this activity that is faintly reminiscent of Hangman, without the pressure of losing. In fact, an image that represents the mystery word is slowly revealed as kids choose the correct letters. This game is fun, and teaches kids to use deduction skills while reinforcing basic spelling.

Rex is at the helm of an intergalactic space vessel, but he needs some help clearing a path for his rockets to launch. Players blast asteroids while paying attention to fraction facts. Though a little confusing at first, this game was fun for most testers. Math on the Rolling Range with Jessie involves creating tracks for a fun marble run. Kids strategically add tracks, solve math equations, and watch as their marble makes its way all the way to the barn, with a Western-style musical backdrop. Simple multiplication is illustrated in a visual manner in Mini Rocket Math — players solve equations by working with groups of rockets on launch pads. The 3-eyed green aliens along with Buzz himself are here to help out.

Activities found in Disney's Buzz Lightyear's 1st Grade are revived in 2nd Grade with more advanced learning content. Children read the time on Andy's analog wall clock and set his digital alarm to the corresponding time (in 5-minute increments). Clicking on the globe prompts a puzzle game in which players place different regions of the world on the globe, then explore to hear trivia about different regions of the world — ranging from silly facts like "Drinking straws were invented in the United States" to "The large island of Madagascar is where vanilla comes from — that's what makes ice cream so good."

Bo-Peep guides children through Andy's Story Scrapbook. Before leaving for school, Andy hadn't put the last touches on his stories, leaving an opportunity for players to decide which nouns, verbs, and adjectives would best complete the sometimes silly scenarios.

Andy's Keyboard, the Sonic Arranger, is home to a rather inventive music activity in which kids can freely explore sound-making toggling between different instruments, adjusting reverb and tempo, and plugging in different cartridges that set the background music. 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 Book of Brain Teasers. 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.

The problem is that there is no sign-in process, so the program won't "remember" where different children left off. As such, returning to the program means kids have to work through some lower levels before the program recognizes they can advance to a higher one. Repetition is especially apparent in the Doodle Pad word activity — guessing mystery words loses all of its challenge the second, or third time around.

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. Background music is exceptional, providing suspenseful tunes as kids are determining the correct number of rockets to place on the launch pad, a fun Western-style tune as marbles roll down the track, and more.

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 form returning to these activities and, ultimately, the program. Consider the nature of your child before deciding to buy this rather mellow program.

An important note: Sometimes parents will buy a series of curriculum-based titles for their kids so that they can graduate from one grade level to the next. This title is far too similar to the 1st Grade title in the series to warrant this kind of purchase. Though similar activities contain different learning content, kids will not appreciate the lack of variety in gameplay.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 133 processor, 32 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM. Mac users require an iMac G3 or better, with 32 Mb RAM, System 8.1-9.0, and at least 4X CD ROM. This title requires 30 Mb of free hard disk space. A color printer is optional.

Skills Covered
double digit addition, double digit subtraction, prediction, inductive discovery, spelling, word building using verbal and graphical cues, rhyming words, synonyms, vocabulary, deductive reasoning, fractions, geometric shapes, critical thinking, world geography, spatial and mapping skills, multiplication using concrete materials, counting, story comprehension, reading comprehension, word recognition, creativity, telling time, music, tempo, pitch, memory.

Educational Value
The automatically adjusting learning activities cover much of the basics in a quiet and playful manner. Printable activity sheets provide extra learning away from the computer. Though many of the featured activities are creative, this title is not hugely comprehensive overall, but will provide some basic skills practice.

Entertainment Value
Familiar characters and humor boost the entertainment value of this program, especially for little space ranger wannabes. Beautiful graphics and sound abound.

Design
Though difficulty levels adjust automatically according to individual performance, this title would have been much better if there was a sign-in feature that remembers different children's performance from one sitting to the next. Navigation is simple and based on exploration — children discover the free play activities naturally as they explore the main screen. The inability to "click through" chatter is frustrating at times.

Replayability
There's a free play atmosphere without any reward system, so replay value will depend on an individual player's reaction to quiet, goal-free activities. Children who demand a lot of action from their software programs will likely tire easily. However, kids who respond best to exploring a title at their own pace will return to this game often.

Dollar Value
This CD-ROM sells for $30 Cdn/$20 US.

Released: 2000
Reviewed: September 2000