Many young children have a set of the Lego Duplo play line in their toy chests, and some will own the mini-figures as well. Now they have come to life on the computer screen, and though kids won't be trying to fit these oversized Lego bricks together to create masterpieces, the colorful world of Lego My Style Kindergarten will be a familiar one.
Lego Media started off with an extraordinary concept with this new line of My Style programs. Recognizing, as most experts do, the fact that children have a number of different learning styles, Lego Media produced these titles with the "whole child" in mind. There are 4 activity areas in this unique product one each for language, music, math, and art. Outside of each building that leads to an activity area, a parade of 5 mini-figures greet children. Rolling the mouse over them will reveal their particular learning style, corresponding to five recognized styles visual, kinesthetic, linguistic, musical, and analytical. Jimmy Nasium, for example, is a bundle of energy, and he loves to learn through experience and active involvement. You'll find him with barbells in hand, and many activities associated with him involve catching balls with the mouse. Wordy Wanda is, well, ...wordy! She talks a lot, and has a penchant for language. Activities with her, whether they are mathematical or creative, will involve lots of letters and words. Matty Matics is a logical sort, and he likes to learn art, music, and language with numbers! Mike Griphone is a musical little fellow in fact, activities with Mike as the host always involve using sounds.
If you've done your math (and you can bet Matty Matics has!), you've figured out that there are a total of 20 activities available. Not only that, kids earn Magic Bricks as they succeed, and these lead to very interesting play areas where Duplo ghosts float across the screen, Duplo bricks fall from the sky, and a whole lot more. Another innovative and exciting feature allows children the opportunity to "teach" onscreen characters Bricky and Clicky. These mini-figures-come-to-life are a little on the clueless side, and players need to help them out by displaying their own skills. This presents a novel way of instilling confidence in young children and reinforcing facts at the same time.
While we appreciate the many options and the very promising objectives of the program, ultimately we were disappointed with the activities themselves. Many of them tended to be no more than dressed-up drill. Instead of quizzing kids on what is 5+3, we would have liked to see activities that really help kids understand the concepts behind the equation. As well, educational feedback was lacking. While encouragement and praise were plentiful, the hosts of each activity didn't help reinforce each question by repeating it in a new way. To illustrate with an example, in one activity when kids needed to help Matty Matics with his mathematical dilemma, "I have 2 fireflies; I want 5 fireflies. How many fireflies do I need?", it would have been nice to let kids experiment by adding fireflies one at a time and seeing the results instead of simply clicking on the numeral 3. Also, when players do provide the correct answer, it would be more educational if Matty were to say "Yes, 2+3 fireflies make 5".
Other gripes: There were some activities whose rules baffled kid testers, the mini-figures are a bit on the hyper side (my observation, not the kids'!), some activities were too difficult or too confusing for testers, and screen transitions are quite slow.
There were some mildly redeeming features of the game, including vibrant graphics and a handful of clever activities such as one that requires kids to trace letters of the alphabet in the proper formation sequence with the help of bumble bees. All in all, while the whole concept of the game is exciting and original, the delivery falls short of expectations. Still, gripes aside, children will find some fun in this land of colorful bricks, and they might benefit from practicing their knowledge of facts and displaying their mastery by "teaching" animated friends. Just don't expect this game to do a whole lot of teaching.
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 200 processor, 100% DirectX 7.0a or higher compatible, 32 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM. Mac users require a Power PC 200 MHz or higher, System 8.1 or higher, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD ROM, Sound Manager 3.0 or higher. It requires minimum 15 MB of hard drive space (an additional 7 MB for DirectX if not already installed).
addition & subtraction, shapes, colors, creativity, letters of the alphabet, sight words, stories, imagination, music
This title is based on some very promising educational objectives -- learning styles are incorporated into play, and children have the opportunity to display mastery of skills by teaching onscreen characters -- but misses some opportunities to teach kids the important concepts behind the skills presented.
Screens are bright and colorful, the plastic incarnations of mini-figures from the Lego Duplo series are well-developed, and some activities are quite enjoyable. Children should have some fun playing in the land of Duplo.
Some aspects of the game are designed well. A free-play, pressure-free environment is created with a rather intuitive interface. We would have liked more feedback and help from the characters in addition to their adequate praise and encouragement, however. As well, instructions couldn't be "clicked through", which became annoying to testers.
There isn't a shortage of things to do in this title! Children play activities in 4 different play areas, each in 5 different ways. Rewards in the form of Magic Bricks are fun and unique. While some activities hold promise, many are not innovative enough to have much long-term value.
This title carries a suggested retail price of $19.95 US.
Reviewed: October 2000