This all-new Kindergarten title is snazzy, inviting, and educational. JumpStart Advanced Kindergarten features familiar JumpStart characters in a brand new set-up.
Through a series of thoughtfully designed activities, children prepare for a big race in JumpStartville. The goal of the game is clear, and very motivating: as children play the educational activities, they earn carrots. Every time they earn 5 carrots, they get to trade them in for a power-up--some kind of gizmo or gadget (such as stilt wheels) that will help soup up their race car. For every ten carrots earned, a new race arena is unlocked.
The featured activities can be found in and around the schoolhouse, and each is hosted by a JumpStart character, now called an All-Star. Each All-Star has a special interest, such as reading or art, and these areas of expertise are consistent through the other titles in the series.
Eleanor, who loves to read, hosts an activity in which children listen to stories and then arrange the sentences and pictures into logical sequence. On higher levels, children work with rebus words and sentences. The music activity introduces children to musical styles and instruments. JumpStart characters play different instruments on-stage, and children can turn each player on or off at will. Frankie hosts a spelling game in which players progress from spelling words by laying letters onto their outlines to supplying missing letters in simple words. The number and math activity, hosted by the "math whiz" Hopsalot, can be played in addition or subtraction mode. Kids solve mathematical equations by counting color-coded soda pop bottles, an effective way to reinforce math facts.
One of the things that sets this title apart from others in the genre is its "tailored learning styles" feature. Before children begin the game, they can choose a "learning style" that is associated with a JumpStart All-Star character. Alternatively, one or a few All-Star guides are suggested after kids answer a series of questions about their personal preferences. For example, kids can choose Eleanor "the reader", C. J. "the explorer", Hopsalot "the math whiz", and so forth. This selection determines the default style of help given throughout the program. If, for example, children are struggling with an addition equation, their default tutor pops up on the screen with a little lesson in engaging 3D. C. J. the Explorer uses objects from nature to demonstrate addition; Eleanor the Reader turns a math problem into a word problem; Frankie, whose learning style is interpersonal, tutors with a social slant; and Pierre the Musician actually counts and adds musical instruments he hears in a little tune! Once a tutoring session begins, children can change the All-star character at any time.
The program cleverly adjusts the skill levels according to a child's performance, keeping children at a comfortable level of gentle challenge. Plus, the tutoring sessions are in attractive 3D, and are very helpful for children struggling with a concept.
Our copy came with a bonus JumpStart Animal Adventures Karaoke CD-ROM. This CD features the excellent music videos from the JumpStart Animal Adventures software title.
The overall difficulty level of the activities is quite manageable. Unlike the 1st Grade title in this new series, JumpStart Advanced Kindergarten's goals are clear. Children quickly caught on to what they were supposed to accomplish. The activities are surprisingly enjoyable; the audio is improved, with appealing and clear voiceovers; and the program contains a number of fun, educational hotspots.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium (or equivalent) 233 MHz or higher, 64 MB of RAM, and 12X CD-ROM drive. Mac users require a PowerMac G3 233 MHz or higher, System 8.6, 9.2.1, 10.1.2, 64 MB RAM, and 16X CD-ROM drive. The program requires 50 MB of hard drive space.
Children learn and develop skills in pre-reading, rhyming words, reading comprehension, vocabulary, letter recognition, word recognition, simple spelling, word families, phonics, pattern extension, visual discrimination, comparisons, natural science, counting, sets, math equations and notation, addition, subtraction, colors, creativity, musical styles, musical instruments, listening skills, and following directions.
Keeping in mind that emphasis is placed more on skills practice than experimentation, this program does a nice job of reinforcing Kindergarten skills. The content is especially age-appropriate. The built-in tutoring sessions are engaging and rather helpful.
The program's reward system is very well done. It's never intrusive, and especially effective at motivating children to work through the educational activities. The activities are actually entertaining enough to stand alone, without rewards. The arcade-style racing reward plays much like bumper cars, and can be enjoyed by one or two players.
An optional assessment test can be taken before beginning the program's activities. After answering a series of multiple choice questions, the program "places" children at different skill levels for various activities. Whether or not children take this test, the program automatically adjusts difficulty levels according to their performance. Progress reports are available.
Besides adequate content, this game has all the right "ingredients" to hold children's interest over time. Especially engaging activities, combined with irresistible rewards, add up to a program with high replay potential.
This package carries a retail price of approximately $30 US.
Reviewed: June 2002