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Review CornerSoftware
Zoboomafoo Animal Alphabet
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
Animal-loving kids will learn a myriad of animal facts with this fun program, as they reinforce alphabet and letter sound skills along with their favorite PBS characters.
Award
Ages: 3 to 7   Subject: Early Learning   Brand: The Learning Company/Riverdeep
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
Kids will love this romp through the "animal alphabet" hosted by the Kratts brothers and their lemur friend, Zoboo. Fans of the popular PBS television show will especially enjoy the CD-ROM's colorful characters from Zobooland and live-action video clips.

After signing in and choosing a difficulty level, players are treated to a live-action video introduction from the top-rated show. In this, kids discover that Zoboo wants to learn the alphabet, and their mission is to find 26 animals, one for each and every letter of the alphabet. This gives an excuse to bring some interesting creatures to the computer monitor--such as the quokka (a small kind of wallaby), xenops (a small bird found in South America) and the uakari (a rare, bald-faced and bald-headed monkey)--in addition to more commonly known animals like the dog, fox, and gorilla.

Clicking on many of the animals leads directly to fact pages that become part of a Creature Adventure Book. At a fact page screen, kids learn about the featured animal either through an audio description or a short video clip. Statistics on things like where the animal is found, its body length, and the food it eats are given in text-only format, which is a shame considering the target age group of the product. However, the audio descriptions of the creatures are enthusiastically presented, and the videos are adorable and playful.

Eight of the animals lead to the program's activities. After playing a game, kids then earn their scrapbook page. Two of the activities have been done many times before and, though fairly enjoyable, are less inspired than the others: C is for chameleon and a coloring activity in which kids get to mix colors and fill animal pages with color (the pages are also printable for coloring off the computer), and a "creature concert" activity involves repeating animal sound sequences.

The other six activities are especially fun. In the W is for Wolf game, kids identify letters given their name or sound, depending on the difficulty setting for the game. On the first level, Wiggy asks kids to find specific letters. On level 2, children look for letters given their letter sounds. Level 3 requires kids to identify 2-letter combinations (like ch and fr) by the sounds they make. Each level features a nice hint option. And, when kids are successful, Wiggy "wigs out" and dances about.

Another game involves mixing up animal parts in order to create funny "new" creatures--for example, kids are asked to make a "leokeyos" with the head of a leopard, body of a donkey, and the tail of a rhinoceros. A guessing game requires kids to determine which animal is hiding behind the leaves based only on the sound the creature makes.

Guessing the spelling of animal names is required in a hilarious game in which the goal is to make either Martin or Chris fall into a puddle of mud. If kids make three wrong guesses, the brothers won't get to fall in the mud (and that wouldn't be any fun)! Kids again work with the spelling of animal names in a board game-style activity that involves unscrambling words like "lion" and "fox". Finally, the P is for Penguin game plays like a game of Pong with ice cubes. Kids are asked an animal question, and must uncover the answer (displayed as both a photo and word) that is hiding under the cubes of ice.

Animal lovers will enjoy the program's assorted animal facts that range from simple things like the name of baby horses to the armadillo's ability to float in water by filling its intestines with air. The videos, taken from an episode of the show, are short and interesting. For example, one video clip shows a group of baby bears that, startled by a noise, climb up a tree, only to discover that the noise was the sound of their mother approaching the thicket.

Once kids have collected all animal pages and built a Creature Adventure Book, they earn a special "prize"--a set of printable "animal alphabet" flashcards.

This title is more educationally valuable and user-friendly than the first software release starring Zoboomafoo, Zoboomafoo Animal Friends. The addition of language arts skill-building activities is wonderful. Although these activities are not designed to teach kids to read, they are valuable for building skills in letter and letter sound recognition and early spelling. They are particularly useful for building awareness of the printed word for younger learners, and for reinforcing basic phonics and spelling skills for children in Kindergarten to second grade.

Considering the fact that the animal learning portion of the game can appeal to children anywhere from ages 3-8, it is terrific that the software offers three distinct difficulty levels for the alphabet games, helping to make the title appropriate for children of varying ages and skill levels. Level 1 activities are appropriate for children who have recently been introduced to the letters of the alphabet. In the Zobooland Jumble activity, for example, kids need to unscramble the letters of an animal's name. On level 1, players are given the spelling and need only drag letters onto the given ones. Most spellings are manageable (featuring words like "dog" and "lion"), but llama is likely to be a real stumper!

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP, Pentium II 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 20 MB hard drive space, and 4X CD-ROM. Mac users require a PowerPC 200 MHz, System 8.1-9.1, 32 MB RAM, 20 MB hard drive space, and 4X CD-ROM. A printer is optional.

Skills Covered
Kids learn diverse facts about 26 different animals, and build letter recognition, awareness of print, early spelling, and phonics skills.

Educational Value
Diverse animal facts are presented through video and sound clips. Additionally, the program offers informal but useful skill-building activities that range from simple letter recognition to phonics and early spelling.

Entertainment Value
The Kratts Brothers' sincere enthusiasm for nature comes shining through on this CD-ROM, which is very much like an interactive extension of an episode of the show. Plenty of gorgeous photos and videos of animals are here, as well as appearances from Zobooland characters and spirited voiceovers from the show.

Design
If only the instructions could be skipped, this program would be even better than it already is. Thankfully, most of the instructions are not too long-winded. Three skill levels are available to choose from, and, if they prefer, kids have the opportunity to go directly to the games.

Replayability
A decent variety of games are presented, with the ability to access them independently of the alphabet adventure. Additionally, many kids will be motivated to build up their scrapbook by finding all 26 animals. These factors contribute to a product with an expected replay value that is fair to good.

Dollar Value
This CD-ROM carries a suggested retail price of $19.99 US.

Released: 2001
Reviewed: January 2002