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Review CornerSoftware
Ollo in the Sunny Valley Fair
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This outstanding program for preschoolers will simultaneously delight children and challenge them to think. It features story-telling with an interactive twist, an enjoyable system of "chapters", and charming graphics. We highly recommend this program and expect it to quickly become many preschoolers' favorite.
 Award of Excellence
Ages: 3-6   Subject: Early Learning  Brand: Plaid Banana
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
 
 
Ollo Sunny Valley Fair Product Overview
From the creators of Putt-Putt and Freddi Fish comes this delightful program for preschoolers. Ollo, a blue ball of clay, stars in a story-based adventure that is replete with fresh and educational "clickables", fun problem-solving challenges, and mini-games.

The adventure is cleverly broken down into short episodes, with six chapters in all. This feature makes the program especially preschooler-friendly because players not only feel like they are part of a real story, they gain a strong sense of control. A narrator introduces story lines and goals, and provides feedback about what players have done, such as picking up a key from Ollo's dresser.

The first chapter begins with Ollo waking up on a fine, sunny morning. On his way to meet with Rose the Raccoon, Ollo bumps into a bunny friend who is having some trouble delivering balloons. This is the first of a number of little dilemmas that Ollo, who always wants to help out, will face. Children return Ollo to his home, exploring his room and backyard to find something that will prevent the bunny's balloons from floating away.

As kids move into Chapter 2, the story unfolds further. Rose wants to grow a large tomato to enter in the County Fair, and Ollo helps out by finding items (such as a rake and a specific type of tomato seed) on her list. Once found and delivered to Rose, the "experimental" tomato seed yields a fast-growing and enormous tomato that rolls off the vine, running amok through Sunny Valley and causing problems wherever it goes! Ollo wants to help set things right, and the journey continues.

Besides enjoying hotspots and playing mini-games, children solve all sorts of problems as they attempt to restore the order that the huge, runaway tomato has compromised. They will need to perform a number of tasks, like returning a clown's funny wig and finding sticks to help rebuild a bird's nest. More involving activities are uncovered as children explore the program's attractive screens, including one in which kids extend patterns in Rose's flower garden.

The educational value of the program is enhanced by "clickables" that do a nice job of teaching and reinforcing early learning concepts. In Ollo's backyard, for example, simple clicks prompt lessons and games that reinforce color recognition and matching skills. A memory/matching game is found in the apple tree, and a shrub holds a mini-game in which children attempt to make a group of flowers all the same color. In another area, rain drops are counted with multiple clicks on a cloud in the sky. At the farm, items are counted by 2's, 3's. and 5's.

This program is very impressive. It is smart, charming, and original. The activities gradually become more challenging as children play them, and the program is filled with lessons on kindness, tidiness, and responsible behavior. Patience is also valued in the story line, and simple restrictions in the game help players actively cultivate patience. Not all areas and paths are accessible immediately, for example. Players cannot cross over a drawbridge until the swans have passed, and will have to wait until Muriel the Moose finishes her sculpture before they can travel down a path. The system of "chapters" means children are less concerned with "beating" the game, leaving more room to simply enjoy the adventure.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/Me/2000Pro/XP, Pentium-class 233 MHz, 32 MB of RAM, CD-ROM drive, 16-bit DirectX-compatible sound card, and 150 MB of hard drive space. Mac owners require a PowerMac, iMac, or G3 processor, 233 MHz; 64 MB RAM, CD-ROM drive, and 150 MB of hard drive space.

Skills Covered
number, color, letter, and word recognition; sequencing; opposites; patterns; memory; problem-solving; and creative thinking skills.

Educational Value
Educational opportunities are weaved cleverly into the program so that learning comes naturally and automatically. Besides problem-solving and logical thinking, children develop skills with a number of early learning concepts, including color and number recognition, measurement, skip counting, and more.

Entertainment Value
A narrator follows children on their journey through Sunny Valley, reminding players that they are playing an integral role in the story. Solving mini-challenges and ultimately "saving the day" are gratifying, and the graphics are intriguing. This is an exceptionally likable and fun program that is sure to become a favorite game!

Design
Most design elements of the program are exceptional--instructions are clear, challenges can be accomplished with minimal frustrations, and navigation is intuitive. Thoughtful and entertaining recaps are given as players return to different chapters in the game. An option for closed captioning is included. Our only complaint is the save/load feature--we wish that game saves were automatic for this young target age group.

Replayability
With the adventure broken down into shorter episodes, children won't feel the need to rush through the program. Some children will accomplish the program's goals rather quickly, but this CD-ROM is so likable that it is bound to get plenty of repeat plays.

Dollar Value
The suggested retail price for this program is approximately $20 US.

Released: 2002
Reviewed: April 2002