Huggly, the friendly "monster under the bed", is back in an all-new adventure! A storm has swept his Monster Camp into disarray and has even scattered his turtle friends all over the camp grounds. What a mess! Luckily, your child is here to help. After a short introduction, the mission of the game is neatly laid out for players: they need to guide Huggly around the colorful grounds, meeting up with characters, looking for turtles to rescue, and preparing for the turtle reunion party.
With evidence of the storm everywhere, children set out to make things right. Exploration is very much in players' hands. They can either move from screen to screen the traditional way, or use the map feature to get to places quickly. Kids will meet up with simply adorable characters on their quest. They'll help Zibble and Quibble, the bickering and rhyming monster twins, learn to share their toys by matching up rhyming objects. In order to reach a turtle in the bird's nest, kids will need to fix the rungs of a ladder using different size bars that resemble Cuisenaire rod math manipulatives (see screenshot at right). Very clever! But even when the ladder is fixed, children will have to find Mrs. Bird's blue egg in order to rescue the turtle.
When kids meet up with Al Lee Gator, they will help him "fix" his simple (printable) storybooks by filling in missing letters to complete sentences. Another wonderful activity is found at Lookout Point. Here, flowers have been uprooted and must be replanted in the flower bed by arranging them just so, paying close attention to patterns, shapes, and colors. Other activities require kids to sort objects into train cars labeled with the letters they begin with, arrange notes in numerical sequence (numbers 1-30), reunite oysters with their pearls by matching numerals with number words, and more.
Once all of the turtles have been saved and the preparations are complete, kids earn a Blue Ribbon, and a Turtle Reunion Celebration ensues. Best yet, a special reward game opens up. The Adventure Camp's Turtle Works game is an adorable pinball-style activity that has characters from the game as bumpers and targets!
All of the activities are very well done! Even the creative poster-making activity is original, with stamps that automatically resize when a child moves them to the foreground or background of their scene. The program is always encouraging and helpful. All of these elements combine to create a positive and upbeat experience.
This adventure is very "do-able". Even a 4 year-old tester enjoyed the game without frustration. As excellent as Humongous Junior Adventures such as Putt-Putt and Freddi Fish are, many kids frequently find themselves "stuck" and frustrated, needing help from adults (or older siblings). This title is easy without being simplistic, and will require minimal (if any) parental intervention.
Note that Huggly's first appearance on CD-ROM in 1997 I'm Ready for Kindergarten: Huggly's Sleepover is now updated for 2000, and is called Huggly's Sleepover: Thinking Adventures.
Minimum requirements are Win 95/98/2000, Pentium 90, 4X CD-ROM, 16 MB RAM. Mac users require a Power PC 90, 16 MB RAM, System 7.5.5, 4X CD-ROM. Requires 20 MB hard drive space. Color printer optional.
early math: counting, number ordering, size recognition, number recognition; early reading: rhyming, letter identification, upper- and lowercase letters, letter sounds; following directions, critical thinking, problem solving, shapes, colors, patterns; social skills: helping, sharing, environmental awareness, teamwork
The activities offered in Huggly Saves the Turtles are clever and span a wide range of early learning skills, including beginning reading and math concepts. The addition of adjustable difficulty levels could have extended the program's reach to include preschoolers, but children ages 5-6 will most likely find this program "just right".
The colorful, cartoon world of Huggly and friends is very inviting. Few kindergarten-age children will resist the charm of the wide-eyed, endearing monsters and animals in the program. Besides the initial draw, hotspots are plentiful and fun, and the activities are varied ranging from simple sorting to arcade-style. The program combines an adventure format with free-play activities.
Children can interrupt chatter with a press of the spacebar or Escape key on the keyboard. Navigation is entirely intuitive, and a map feature is included that allows kids to go to a different area of the campground quickly. "Smart features" mean that the program "remembers" that a child has already explored an area, and characters will say things like "Oh Huggly, you are back".
A mission to save the turtles and prepare for the camp's celebration provides plenty of motivation. The activities themselves are great fun and will keep children coming back.
This title is reasonably priced at a suggested retail price of $19.95 US.
Reviewed: November 2000