Part of the JumpStart Learning Games line, this program is advertised as a "big-size game play, small-size price". At only $10 US, this title packs in a lot of learning at a comparatively low price.
There is a mystery presented at the outset of this game who has spilled juice in the back of the JumpStart train? Eleanor Elephant is the host, as kids play 3 games designed to reinforce alphabet recognition:
Players can also visit Frankie's Bandstand to watch the musical videos and sing-alongs. There are 5 catchy songs that have a learning theme. There are fun songs like "Who Left the Juice in the Caboose" and songs that reinforce letters sounds, like "The Alphabet Song" and "The Letter P Song". Kids pick up clues as they play the activities, and once they have all the clues, the mystery can be solved! Kids are also rewarded with fun printable goodies based on the clues they found and the characters they encountered in the program.
- In JumpStart Train Station (pictured at right), kids must clear a path for engineer Frankie's JumpStart train by clicking on the letters in sequence.
- In Tuna Mountain Pierre is getting set for a sled ride. Players steer him down the mountain finding letters or objects, and avoiding obstacles like rocks and igloos. This game is great fun, and when kids are struggling, it slows down for them.
- It's a game of hide-and-seek with the letters of the alphabet in Pizza Palace (pictured below). Kids must find the letter that matches the one on the easel, then drag it to the sign.
A Preferences screen gives players a few options from this screen, they can change the difficulty level and volume, for example. The program uses JumpStart's Adaptive Learning Technology which means the program adapts automatically to a child's performance. When kids are displaying mastery of skills, the program will move on to a higher level, and will not advance if a child is struggling. The Preferences screen allows a parent or child to adjust the levels manually if so desired.
Children enjoyed solving the mystery at hand, and were generally pleased with the activities, although testers agreed that it took too long to complete their least favorite activity (JumpStart Train Station). Kids loved the idea of crossing off names on the passenger list as they narrowed down the suspects one by one. The video sing-alongs were also a big hit.
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 90, 16 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM. Mac users require a Power PC 120 MHz with 16 Mb with 15 Mb RAM available, System 7.5.3 or higher, and at least 4X CD ROM.
deductive reasoning, letter recognition, upper- and lower-case letters, letter sounds, letter sequencing, music appreciation
The educational content is age-appropriate and covers a relatively small range of pre-reading skills.
The characters are charming and encouraging, and the mystery theme goes over well with preschoolers.
The activities have 3 levels of difficulty that adjust automatically based on a child's performance, but can also be adjusted manually. Navigation is easy.
Keep in mind that this program is not a full JumpStart program, so it contains less content as a reflection of its small price tag.
The suggested retail price is only $10 US. Considering parents will spend at least that much on a children's video, this program is well worth the price.