This preschool edition of the new JumpStart Advanced series features brand-new content. In JumpStart Advanced Preschool, the familiar JumpStart character, Frankie the dog, has rounded up some homeless animals. Players must ready the pets for adoption and find a new home for each.
First things first, preschoolers need to choose a pet. Once selected, players begin earning pet prizes by playing any of ten activities found in the classroom. Kids can play with their pet by offering them pet prizes, and when four prizes have been collected, they can ride high in a hot-air balloon and find their pet a nice home.
The activities cover basic skills like alphabet recognition, shape and color recognition, sorting skills, music appreciation, and more. Children identify rhyming words with Eleanor, create and paint animal masks with Kisha, and select sets of balloons that match the quantity shown on flags with Casey. In the playground, children must "tag" runaway shapes according to instructions.
This program, like the others in the new Advanced series, features a tutoring system that caters to recognized "learning styles". 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.
The tutorial system is quite engaging and effective. If, for example, children are struggling with identifying the lowercase letter "b", their default tutor pops up on the screen with a little lesson in gorgeous 3D. Pierre, the musician, sings a song about the letter; Kisha, the artist, gives a visual lesson on the differences between the letters "b" and "d"; Casey, the athlete, forms the letter with his hands and encourages children to do same; and C. J., the explorer, relates the letter to an animal--in this case, a bird. Once a tutoring session begins, children can change the All-star character at any time.
Our copy of the software 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 program's graphics are exceptionally appealing and bright, and the music is catchy. In the playroom, children get a chance to watch some adorable music videos, previously seen in an older Fisher Price title. Some cute touches include an animal mask that a player has painted appearing "as is" on the wall in the playroom.
The major weakness of the program lies in its reward system. Though it's a fun concept, rewards are given far too frequently, often bumping children out of an activity in order to play with their pet. We prefer software games that encourage preschoolers to increase their already short attention spans.
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 100 MB of hard drive space.
Children learn and develop skills in uppercase and lowercase letter recognition, color recognition, shape recognition, number recognition, counting, identifying quantities, sorting, patterning, listening skills, following directions, spatial awareness, visual discrimination, musical styles and appreciation, and rhyming words.
The educational content of this program is rather standard, with emphasis on basic preschool skills. A weakness of the program is too frequent rewards, which distract children as they learn. However, the program's 3D tutorials, with different styles of lessons to match seven recognized "learning styles", are very well done.
The pet theme is a winner with preschoolers, and the music videos are especially fun.
This program is easy to use and the instructions for each activity are clear. 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. Difficulty levels can also be adjusted manually--there are three in all. Progress reports are available.
Preschoolers will enjoy helping each pet find a home, and it's unlikely they will give up on the program until that task is accomplished. However, rewards are earned too easily, and many children will accomplish the goals of the program quickly.
This package carries a retail price of approximately $30 US.
Reviewed: July 2002