Whimsical, imaginative, and gentle are adjectives we can safely attach to Wizmo's Workshop: Dragons of Frozzbokk, a program designed for children ages 3 to 6. Players are greeted by Wizmo, a friendly wizard who invites them to explore his magical workshop. Kids tag along with colorful and sociable little dragons who become guides to the program's activities.
The object of the game is to find machine parts (such as exhaust pipes and wings) for Wizmo's invention through exploration and participation in a number of multilevel learning games. Apart from the painting activity, which is freeplay, children take part in "rounds" of gameplay that earn them fun rewards and, eventually, machine parts. Whenever a machine part is earned, kids are transported back to the workshop to deliver the part to Wizmo, who then attaches the part to his latest contraption.
We've seen some of the activities before, but not quite the same way as they are presented here. Pattern extension, for example, takes place in a mouse hole. Mice stand in a row and hold up signs featuring colorful shapes, and children must complete the patterns. The game's sound effects and pauses clearly organize the line of objects into sets, and the patterns increase in difficulty level as children progress through the rounds. The memory game is rather chatty, but the chatter is so friendly and humorous that it is hard to dislike. The dinosaur guide offers remarks on the matches children make. For example, after children have found two sun cards, he might say, "Two sunsthat would be hot!" Even the painting activity is unique. Children are offered three paintbrush sizes, a nice range of colors, whimsical paintbrush styles, and fun stamps in this freeplay activity. A Critter Safari activity involves helping JJ the dragon catch "critters" with her net taking into account up to three variables - color, quantity, and type of critter. In a Scrolls activity, children complete missing words in order to build sensible sentences. Finally, a bow and arrow game at the meadow involves finding and aiming at specific targets, such as an orange balloon or a red can.
The rewards are fun and unusualkids earn, for example, a disguise, a flipping pig (!), a burping cactus (who says "excuse me"), and a spatula. All of the game environments feature gorgeous animation, rich in whimsy and imaginative details. The pace is gentle and the feedback is always encouraging. Mouse-ini, for example, informs players that they are "too smart" before offering a set of slightly more challenging patterns. Difficulty levels increase gradually. For example, the bow and arrow game features a slightly busier screen of targets as levels increase.
This program is a highly original and fresh offering, sure to please both children and their parents.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/ME/XP, Pentium 233 MHz or equivalent, 32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended), sound card and 2 MB video card - both DirectX compatible, and 4X CD-ROM. The program requires 550 MB of hard drive space.
Children develop skills in reasoning, creativity, sharing/teamwork, reading, context, pattern extension and recognition, color and shape recognition, counting, number recognition, and memory.
Engaging games that gently but effectively exercise children's thinking skills are featured.
The vibrant world of Frozzbokk is delightfully presented through imaginative and rich graphics, sound effects, and attention to detail. The program's original characters are a breath of fresh air, and the games are all very enjoyable.
Although children cannot bypass the chatter, they are unlikely to feel the need to do so. The pace of this program is gentle and smooth; and the goals are clear.
Children ages 4-5 are likely to enjoy the most replay value from this game. The challenges are gentle, the games are engaging, and the goal of the program is both clearly defined and motivating.
This CD-ROM carries a suggested retail price of approximately $20 US.
Reviewed: February 2003