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Review CornerSoftware
Wimzie's House - Play Along with Wimzie
Rating: three stars
The Bottom Line
While the concept of introducing children to important social issues is original, this program places an inappropriate emphasis on the emotion of fear for the suggested age group. As well, many of the activities are far too difficult for most preschoolers.
 
Ages: 2-5   Subject: Social Skills  Brand: Simon & Schuster Interactive
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
Wimzie's House: Play Along with Wimzie Product Overview
Based on the popular PBS children's television show, Wimzie's House, which features playful puppet characters, this program allows kids to play games with Wimzie and friends. The 5 activities are designed to develop memory skills, logical thinking, and to help kids understand people's personalities and feelings.

Wimzie's House centers around a home day care environment and helps children to be aware of important socialization issues. This software encourages self-esteem and introduces children to the important issues of friendship, cooperation, sibling rivalry, diversity, loneliness, and generosity.

Each activity has 3 levels of difficulty that must be chosen before playing. The 5 activities are as follows:

  • Rousso's Memory Challenge is a very challenging memory game that is different on each level of difficulty. On each level there are 24 boxes with objects to uncover. Level 1 is an almost-classic memory game in which kids must find matching pairs of objects. They get a few chances to find an object that matches. In levels 2 and 3, kids get a very short time to study the uncovered objects, then must find given objects. Level 3 is ultra challenging, and requires players to find 3 objects.
  • The Bickering Bunch is an arcade-style game in which happy objects and scary objects float around the screen, and players must click on the happy items. Each level is progressively harder.
  • In Wimzie's Family Portrait, children must determine which of the characters each object belongs to by listening to verbal clues such as "this character wears glasses and a hair bow, and is the youngest." As each character is correctly chosen, a family portrait is slowly filled.
  • In The Book of Feelings, players must watch short video clips and then determine what emotion is expressed by the characters in the videos. On level 1, kids choose between 2 possible emotions; level 2 contains 3 choices; and level 3 involves selecting from 5 possible emotions (such as happiness, fear, anger, etc.).
  • Bo's Puzzles features puzzles that take the form of pictures for the wall that need to be put back together again. Depending on the level, there are either 6, 9 or 12 pieces for each of the 3 pictures.
Each activity begins with a graphically-rich video set in Wimzie's House. For example, the Bickering Bunch activity is introduced with a clip that shows Wimzie and the other kids arguing, and players are asked to find happy art objects that will help make the atmosphere in the solarium more pleasant.

We have a few complaints about the program. Most obvious is the suggested age range of 2 to 5. Presuming that the 3 levels would be roughly broken down into ages 2-3, 3-4, and 4-5, most of the activities are far too challenging. In particular, the memory game with 24 objects is difficult for a 4-5 year old on the easiest level, and the hardest level challenged a 9 year-old tester. The arcade-style activity requires a fair amount of fine motor control, something that can be very frustrating for most preschoolers.

While the whole concept of teaching children to identify emotions is important, we found an inappropriate concentration on the emotion of fear. In fact, young testers found the Bickering Bunch activity quite scary. The scary faces and images are frightening-looking, and accompanied by eerie music that could, quite frankly, give young children nightmares. It would have been much better if the scary faces were simply unhappy faces.

The graphics are excellent, and the program features some nice options, including the ability to "click through" long introductions and chatter.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 90, 16 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM drive. Mac users require a Power PC, 16 Mb RAM, System 7.5 and a 4X CD ROM drive.

Skills Covered
memory, identifying emotions, fine motor skills, identifying personality traits, observation, visual discrimination, logic, shapes

Educational Value
Some of the activities have a unique focus on observation and memory, but are far too challenging for the suggested age range.

Entertainment Value
Wimzie's House fans will enjoy watching and interacting with their favorite characters, but might find some activities somewhat difficult.

Design
Difficulty levels must be chosen before entering each activity — an option to adjust the levels within the activities would make it easier.

Replayability
There is a fair amount of content to the game — 5 activities each with 3 levels.

Dollar Value
Suggested retail price is $19.95 US.

Released: 1999