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Review CornerSoftware
I Spy School Days
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
A clever game that truly exercises the brain, I Spy School Days is one of those rare treasures that will please kids, parents, and educators alike.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 5-9 yrs   Subject: Thinking Skills  Brand: Scholastic
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
I Spy School Days Product Overview
With kids settling into the school year, there's no better time to start sharpening those young minds with this delightful set of intriguing pictures, riddles, and rhymes. The much-loved I Spy book series in digital format is back, and it is better than ever. I Spy School Days presents a hunt for cleverly hidden objects, and it’s an exciting challenge for children ages 5-9! Filled with classic I Spy rhyming riddles, fascinating photo-realistic objects to find, and exciting games, this program is a must-have title for any family software library.

Parents who think they'd prefer that their kids search for the objects by staring at a book rather than the computer monitor, consider this: The digital version of the popular I Spy books offers a whole lot more. Often objects need to be moved in order to find the sought-after item, or a dot-to-dot activity needs to be completed to reveal a hidden object. Not only that, there are a handful of games that create a technologically-unique opportunity for learning. The program "remembers" incomplete treasure hunts so kids can always return to them later with a fresh outlook. The only thing that compares unfavorably to playing I Spy hunts with the book version is that some kids might discover that merely clicking around randomly will eventually bring up many of the hidden objects. Still, that would quickly become boring, and most children will enjoy the challenge of the hunt itself.

There are 4 "classic" I Spy find-me game areas, each with multiple pages and riddles. These include such richly illustrated locales as Chalkboard, Craft Projects, Nature, and Wood Block City. Most have a distinct "school days" theme. Riddles are exciting and incorporate wordplay, rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration. For example, with the riddle "I spy two boys in hats, three girls in a line, a heart made of metal, and a heart that is mine", the last object to find is a heart-shaped cookie bearing the child’s name in icing! Some objects are "hidden" right under your nose (and are, not always easy to find), and others require a couple of steps to uncover. Treasure objects are earned as players complete the riddle pages to use in the very creative "Make Your Own I Spy" activity. This latter activity allows children to create their very own I Spy pages that can be composed, narrated (with the use of a microphone), and sent to the printer for enjoyment away from the computer. Many children will take pleasure in creating I Spy games to challenge their friends and family.

Sorting practice is in store for players in "Oops Hoops" where kids need to use logic to place objects in Venn diagrams disguised as hula-hoops. In a thoughtful touch, the timer in this activity is counting up rather than down, so kids compete against themselves without any pressure to complete the activity in a given amount of time. "Balloon Popper" is an exciting contraption made up of toys (see screenshot at left). Players kick a marble with a boot, and then watch it set off a series of chain reactions that eventually cause a balloon to pop. However, an important item is missing in order for the contraption to work properly, and kids need to locate it by interpreting a riddle – and sometimes they’ll have to travel to different activities in the program to find it!

Testers ages 6 and 9 were captivated by I Spy School Days for hours, and parents agreed that it was time well spent.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98/2000/NT 4.0, a Pentium 133 processor, 16 Mb RAM for Win 95/98, 32 Mb RAM for Win NT/2000, and 4X CD ROM. It requires 15 MB of hard drive space.

Skills Covered
reading, vocabulary, rhyming, visual discrimination, word-object association, classifying and sorting, visual memory, creativity, problem solving, associative thinking, cause and effect

Educational Value
The importance of logical and problem-solving exercises should never be underestimated, as these skills are essential for success in math, language arts, and science. Here, children are exposed to rhymes, rhythms and written words as they build their vocabulary, spelling, and visual memory skills; they boost math skills while sorting and classifying objects with shared characteristics; they explore cause and effect and are exposed to a myriad of school-relevant objects. The learning in I Spy School Days is cleverly disguised as fun.

Entertainment Value
Screens come alive with the click of a mouse. This title is packed with material to please the eyes, ears, and mind.

Design
This program was thoughtfully designed with the suggested age group in mind. Its interface is intuitive and navigation is straightforward.

Replayability
With 1600+ object-word searches, and screen-after-screen filled with games, children will be learning as they play for hours.

Dollar Value
This title carries a suggested retail price of $29.95 US. Its content is unique and most families will consider this title a valuable addition to their software library.

Released: 2000
Reviewed: October 2000