The Educational Guide to Software, Electronic Toys, Video Games &... August 2008

The Educational Guide to Software, Electronic Toys, Video Games & Web Sites
August 2008
Volume 16, No. 8, Issue 101
2Go PC
Active Life Outdoor Challenge
Adaptive Curriculum
All Star Cheer Squad
Animal Crossing: City Folk
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
Ben 10: Alien Force
Ben 10: Protector of the Earth
Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo
Claymation Studio 2.0
Clear Creativity In the Classroom
Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force
Command & Conquer: Kane’s Wrath
Crazy Machines 2
Disney Create-A-Story
DrawPlus X2: Graphics Studio
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
EnVision Math
Giggles: Computer Funtime for Baby - Nursery Rhymes
Goosebumps Horrorland
I SPY Treasure Hunt (Leapster)
Imagine: Master Chef
Imagine: Rock Star
Kid-Tough Portable DVD Player
Kidi Art Studio
Know Your USA 1.5
miJam Pro Air Drummer
miJam Studio Mike
Monster Lab
My SAT Coach
MySims Kingdom
Nancy Drew: The Mystery of the Clue Bender Society
Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress
NCAA Football 09
Net Nanny 5.5
PagePlus X3: Publisher Professional
Paws & Claws
Petz Crazy Monkeyz
Petz Dogz Fashion
PhotoPlus X2: Digital Studio
PixelJunk Eden
Professor Garfield (
Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party
Rock Band Track Pack: Volume 1
Samba De Amigo
Secret Agent Clank
Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Colonization
Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution
Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution (DS)
Star Wars Force Unleashed
Teachermate Computer
The Tuttles: Madcap Misadventures
Ultimate Band
Ultimate I Spy (Wii)
Ultimate Wall-E
UltiMotion Swing Zone Sports
V.Smile Cyber Pocket
V.Smile: V-Motion Active Learning System
Venture Arctic
Viva Pinata Pocket Paradise
We Love Golf!
WebPlus X2: Website Maker
Wii MotionPlus
Wii Sports Resort
Wonder World Amusement Park
Zoo Hospital
Zoo Tycoon 2 DS
What’s Next...
A first look at the products coming this fall.
What’s Next....
It’s amazing how the future sometimes snaps into
focus. Like tea leaves, a glance at the 76 products in this
issue provide an image of how our children’s futures
will be affected by technology. I describe this with more
detail on page 5, but here’s a preview.
This fall, a high schooler can fill in the dots on a virtual SAT test on a Nintendo DS, with FutureU (in our next
issue) or MySAT Coach on page 19. Or they’ll be able to
relax with a game of Spore on their iPhone. Once the
Warren Buckleitner
bus arrives at school, they’ll pull out their wireless tablet
computer and sign into Pearson’s Envision Math (page 16) or their science
lesson on ASU’s Adaptive Curriculum (page 12), both new types of webdelivered textbooks. Parents at home are finding an increasing number of
sites, like Professor Garfield (, page 10) that can
playfully extend the school curriculum.
After school, kids can play a chess-like game of history on their high-definition 1080p screen with Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution (page 24); a
title that has migrated from the complexity of Windows to the simplicity of a
game console. Or, they can take on their parents in Hasbro’s Family Game
Night (Wii and PS2), a title that brings traditional board games like BattleShip
to life. Little brothers and sisters can playfully explore school readiness concepts with more sophisticated TV toys, go sledding on their Wii Balance
Board or take on mom in a wood chopping contest, with an axe that precicely
mirrors your hand motions, thanks to the Wii MotionPlus.
After many years of software watching, it’s fun to see the future start to
Enjoy the issue.
Warren Buckleitner
PS. You can see photos from this year’s E3 at my new FaceBook page:
TERMS TO KNOW (To stay smarter than a 5th grader)
1080p— The resolution, indicating the number of scan lines, in the category of TV screens commonly called “high definition.”
Blended Basels—Textbooks that are designed from the ground up with
digital media in mind. So students can access a lesson either from a
computer screen or a printed page.
XBLA—Short for Xbox Live Arcade.
XBLM—Short for Xbox Live Marketplace.
Wall, The—where you type messages, leave videos or make sketches on
your friend’s facebook page. See
Wii MotionPlus—An attachment that makes the Wii Remote more sensitive to motion. It plugs into the end. Coming next Spring.
Your Key to 8587 Reviews
Your paid $64 or $108 subscription to CTR includes exclusive
password access to the Children’s Software Finder (TM)
database—a collection of reviews going back to 1985. If you’ve
lost or forgotten your password, please call 800-993-9499
between 9-3 PM EST.
August 2008
Volume 16, No. 8, Issue 101
EDITOR Warren Buckleitner, Ph.D.,
([email protected]) [WB]
([email protected]) [BN]
REVIEWERS Andy Barnett [AB]
Fave ([email protected]) [LD]
MaryBeth Griffith
([email protected], 800993-9499)
electronic issues only, $64 for electronic issues
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PRODUCT SUBMISSIONS. Send two products,
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Flemington, NJ 08822 (Phone: 908-284-0404)
EDITORIAL GUIDELINES. We want our readers
to know that there are no ulterior motives behind
our reviews. CTR follows a set of editorial
guidelines found at
html). Highlights include:
• We don’t sell software or profit from products
that we review. Review copies of software are
donated to Mediatech, a non-profit public
technology center.
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Technology Review™ (ISSN 1555-242X) is published monthly for year by Active Learning Associates, Inc. Send address
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Use of this publication for any commercial
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Readers are subject to the TERMS OF USE found at
Entire contents © 2008 by Active Learning
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Babies and Toddlers
Giggles: Computer Funtime for Baby - Nursery
Rhymes,, p 16
iTeddy,, p 17
Preschool & Kindergarten
Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo,, p 7
Disney Create-A-Story,, p 15
Kid-Tough Portable DVD Player,, p 9
Kidi Art Studio,, p 18
V.Smile Cyber Pocket,, p 26
V.Smile: V-Motion Active Learning System,, p. 11
Early Elementary
Animal Crossing: City Folk,, p
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?,, p 13
Ben 10: Alien Force,, p. 13,, p. 14
Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force,, p 15
I SPY Treasure Hunt (Leapster),, p 17
LittleBigPlanet,, p 18
MatchMaster,, p 9
miJam Studio Mike,, p 19
MySims Kingdom,, p 19
Outwit!,, p 10
Petz Crazy Monkeyz,, p 22
Ultimate WALL-E,, p 26
Viva Pinata Pocket Paradise,, p 26
Upper Elementary
Active Life Outdoor Challenge,, p 12
Ben 10: Protector of the Earth,,
p 14
Dizzywood,, p 15
Imagine: Master Chef,, p 17
Imagine: Rock Star,, p 17
Know Your USA 1.5,, p 18
miJam Pro Air Drummer,, p 19
Monster Lab,, p 19
Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2,, p 20
Nancy Drew: The Mystery of the Clue Bender
Society,, p 20
NCAA Football 09,, p 20
Paws & Claws,, p 21
Petz Dogz Fashion,, p 22
Professor Garfield (,, p 10
Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party,, p 23
Samba De Amigo,, p 23
Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution (DS),, p 24
Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution,, p 24
Ultimate Band,, p 25
Both full reviews and future releases are grouped by age.
Ultimate I Spy (Wii),, p 25
We Love Golf!,, p 27
Wii Sports Resort,, p 27
Wonder World Amusement Park,, p 28
UltiMotion Swing Zone Sports,, p 26
Zoo Hospital,, p
Zoo Tycoon 2 DS,, p 28
Middle School
All Star Cheer Squad,, p 13
Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, p 7
Crazy Machines 2,, p 8
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars,,
Goosebumps Horrorland,, p
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom
Fortress,, p 20
PixelJunk Eden,, p 22
Rock Band Track Pack: Volume 1,, p 23
Secret Agent Clank,, p 10
Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Colonization,, p 23
Star Wars Force Unleashed,, p
Tuttles, The: Madcap Misadventures,, p 25
High School
Command & Conquer: Kane's Wrath,,
p 15
My SAT Coach,, p 19
All Ages
Net Nanny 5.5,, p 21
Wii MotionPlus,, p 27
2Go PC,, p 12
Adaptive Curriculum,, p 12
Claymation Studio 2.0,, p 14
Clear Creativity In the Classroom,,
p 14
DrawPlus X2: Graphics Studio,, p
EnVision Math,, p 16,, p 17
PagePlus X3: Publisher Professional,, p 21
PhotoPlus X2: Digital Studio,, p 22
Teachermate Computer,, p 25
Venture Arctic,, p
WebPlus X2: Website Maker,, p 27
An inside view of the Mediatech Foundation, where we test and archive our software.
Visit for more information.
CTR Editor’s Choice
August 2008
Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo,
I SPY Treasure Hunt (Leapster)
Professor Garfield (
Secret Agent Clank
As we go to press, we’re testing the titles below
for next month. Have you used them?
We welcome feedback:
[email protected]
Animal Rescue
Carnival Games
ConceptDraw 7
ConceptDraw MINDMAP 5
ConceptDraw Project 4
Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow
Drawn to Life: SpongeBob
Squarepants Edition
EyeClops BioniCam
GamingKrib (
Geometry Wars:Retro
Evolved 2
GoPets: Vacation Island
Guinness World Records:
The Video Game
Guitar Hero World Tour
Imagination Station, The
Line Rider 2: Unbound
MLB Power Pros 2008
Mystery Dungeon: Shiren
the Wanderer
Naruto: Ninja Destiny
Ninja Town
Puzzle Quest Galactrix
Rock Revolution
Saving Planet Earth
Shaun The Sheep
Shonen Jump: Onepiece
Unlimited Adventure
Sims 2 Apartment Pets,
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The Price is Right Video
The Sims 2 Apartment Life
Expansion Pack
TimeLiner XE
Top Spin 3
Thanks to the following individuals,
including the members of the Mediatech
Foundation, who contributed their valuable feedback during the testing process.
Lorele Bennet, 15; Jenna Buckleitner, 13; Sarah
Buckleitner, 16; Jared C., 2; Tyler C., 4; David Carr 12;
Daniel Della Fave, 8; Nick Della Fave, 12; Kelly H., 11;
Thomas H., 14; Mohamed (Mo) Farid, 13; Caleb, H. 9;
Ethan H., 11; Tyler Griffith, 15; Troy Griffith, 12; Brett
Griffith, 7; Jon Gick, 18; Michael Harrington, 14;
Laura Henry, 14; Ellie Hilgen, 6; Erin Hilgen, 12;
Matthew Kursa, 10; Frank Mondella, 13; Matthew
Mondella, 10; Alyssa Mondella, 15; Keith Paternoster,
15; Greg Shriener, 25; Matt Ivans, 22; Austin Lyons,
15; Connor Lyons, 13; Owen Lyons, 8; Colleen Nester,
13; Ross Rackin, 12; Jose Rincon, 13; Steven Rofrano,
13; Tim Wolock, 16.
Products are tested and stored for public access and
research at the Mediatech Foundation (, 118 Main Street, Flemington NJ.
Up, up and away in
Would you like to ride in a hot air balloon? Ever wonder how
they fly? Do stray balloons really travel up to space? In this
issue of LittleClickers, we soared around the Internet in search
of answers.
1) How do Hot Air Balloons work?
At you learn that hot air balloons
are based on a very basic scientific principle: warmer air rises in cooler air. This site has a
lot of general information about the sport of hot air ballooning.
2) If you held a few hundred helium balloons, could you take off?
If they were big enough, they could, but don’t try it. At you can learn about the world record holder for what is
known as “cluster ballooning.” Another site, has even more information on the extreme sport of cluster ballooning. It is very dangerous, and you have to be a
licensed pilot in order to do this.
3) How old do you have to be to fly a balloon?
According to, you must be 16 years old to obtain a Private
Pilot Certificate in the USA .
4) Can you fly around the world in a hot air balloon?
At, you can read about Steve
Fossett, the first person to fly around the world alone, nonstop, in a balloon from June 19, 2002
to July 2, 2002.
5) What is the largest hot air balloon?
At, you learn that the
Energizer Bunny Hot Hare Balloon, that is 166 feet tall,
making it world’s biggest hot air balloon. Designed to
promote batteries, the balloon’s 6 story hight is 15-feet taller than the Statue
of Liberty.
6) What happens to a hot air balloon when it lands?
Watch this home video on YouTube, and take a ride with a
family as they follow a balloon until it lands. (this page and the associated site) is sponsored by
Computer Explorers ( You can
find html versions of this page, with links, at
Neither CTR or Computer Explorers has any vested interest in the sites listed on
this page. Librarians and teachers are permitted to copy this page for non-profit
use. To report a bad link, please contact [email protected], or call 908-284-0404 (9 - 3 PM, EST). Links
were selected by Bobbie Nester.
What’s Next...
by Warren Buckleitner
n my line of work, I don’t meet too many rock stars. So when the legendary band “The
Who” showed up as the surprise guests for a Rock Band press event at this year’s E3,
I took the opportunity to find out if they had ever played Rock Band themselves.
The answer came in their performance between songs, when guitarist Pete Townshend
turned to singer Roger Daltrey and confessed, “My son was playing Rock Band last
Christmas. I had a go at it, but just couldn’t do it. I need different colors!”
An increase in Rhythm-base Play Along Music Games
One can assume that in order to hire The Who, Rock Band must’ve sold pretty well
last year. That also explains the wave of similar products. These include Rock Band 2
which will feature a drum kit with two extra cymbals and Activision’s Guitar Hero
World Tour ( which will come with a
new generation of wireless instruments made by Logitech.
The guitar will have a touch-sensitive fretbar, so you’ll do more than just press buttons, and the drum
kit will also have two additional pads to represent cymbals, plus thicker, velocity-sensitive surfaces.
For the Wii, Disney’s Ultimate Band and Wii Music ( both will use Wii controllers to simulate the instruments. Wii Music will also work with the balance board for the base
CTR game tester Andy Barnett tries the Rock
drum. Finally, Konami’s Rock Revolution will include a six pad drum set that will plug into a Wii, Revolution
drum kit. Below, a screen from
Xbox 360 or PS3.
MY SAT Coach (UbiSoft).
SAT Test Prep Comes to the Nintendo DS
The “curriculum in your pocket” trend continues thanks to multimedia cell phones like the iPhone
(Apple), and new handheld devices like Leapfrog’s Didj (CTR, March ‘08) or V.Tech’s V.Smile
Cyber Pocket (page xx). We were excited to preview not one, but two pocket-sized SAT test prep
titles for the Nintendo DS; both well designed. Future U (Aspyr/Kaplan) and My SAT Coach
(Ubisoft/The Princeton Review) will give high school students a fun way to practice on the bus ride
into school.
Game Shows Go Interactive
Your new high definition TV is ideal for an emerging category of software we like to call “after dinner
games.” These are multiplayer Wii, Xbox 360 or PS3 titles that give everyone something to do. This
fall, Hasbro Family Game Night (Wii and PS2) is the result of the EA/Hasbro alliance, featuring
Mr. Potato Head as the host in Connect Four, Battleship, Yahtzee, Boggle and Sorry. Ubisoft’s The
Price is Right Video Game for Wii, Nintendo DS, Windows, Mac OSX is another
example of a famous game show going interactive. So now you can bid on the products yourself ( Another gameshow coming to the
game console is Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Published by for the Wii, PS2 and DS, this game will test your trivia knowledge with
6,000 questions in 23 subjects, as you try to win the virtual $1 million jackpot, and
get on the honor role. Finally, Sony’s Buzz! Quiz TV games are expanding to the PS3
and the PlayStation Network. New features include wireless buzzers and the ability to
either make up or download custom question sets (
A Migration Toward Simplicty, from the PC to the Living Room Screen
If you think about it, those 37” and 42” LCD TVs are nothing more than giant computer monitors. When combined with
the next generation, Wi-Fi game consoles with hard drives, there’s no reason
to install software on your desktop
computer. After all, a couch is more
comfortable than a desk chair. It’s only
a matter of time before traditional PC
games start to migrate to the living
room. One example is Sid Meier's
Civilization Revolution, for the PS3
and XBox 360. You can command 16
civilizations inspired from history, and
try to lead them to victory over the others.
Above, a game of Connect 4 in Hasbro Family Game Night (EA). Below,
a screen from Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution, running the XBox
What’s Next (Continued)
New Ways to Be Creative, In School and At Home
Many side-scrolling games come with some type of level editor but Media
Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet for the PS3, is the reverse. You are the game
designer, with tools that let you create exotic worlds — not unlike an easy-touse level editor. Since we first saw the game last year, it has continued to
evolve with more features and controls; plus an online component where you
can share your creative ideas with others, or download their levels. Sony, the
publisher, clearly hopes that this experience will turn into a sort of "endless
game,” like Spore. For schools, new creativity tools include Animation-Ish
(FableVision, now available) for the creation of moving images and flip
books and Timeliner XE (, coming in
August), the long-awaited, Web 2.0 friendly edition of an essential utility.
We’re also looking forward to reviewing HyperStudio 5 (Software
MacKiev, promised this fall) with a Macintosh version that will be integrated
with iTunes, iMovie and iPhoto.
Above, a screen from the newest version of LittleBigPlanet (Media Molecule).
Below, a screen from Adaptive Curriculum.
Blended Basals
I know, basals (or textbooks) are about as exciting as tax forms. But they’re
still used everyday in just about every classroom, so it’s important to watch
their evolvution. The digital counterpart to the printed Envision Math textbook series, EnVision Math (, for K-6)
is being called a "blended" curriculum — meaning the designers started from
scratch, designing for both print and interactive media at the same time. So
if a child opens a book to page five and sees a set of animals to measure,
she'll see the same animals on her computer screen. Adaptive
Curriculum is another web-based approach. Made in Flash it contains two
years worth of middle school math and science lessons, designed by ASU's
Technology Based Learning and Research (TBLR) department.
Do you design interactive media for
children? Review the year with the
best minds in the business, at the
eight annual Dust or Magic institute.
What: A first-person critique of children's
interactive media products.
When: November 2-4, 2008
Where: Lambertville, NJ, The Inn at
Lambertville Station.
Everybody’s Moving
Finally, this year’s E3 was full of motion as product managers demonstrated games like
Outdoor Challenge (, designed to engage your whole
body in river rafting, mine-cart racing or log jumping, and two cheerleader games, We
Cheer (Namco) and All Star Cheerleading Squad (THQ, pictured above) both
games that could not exist without the Wii controls. Another game that made quite an
impression was Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party (UbiSoft) which was described
as 65 short games of skill, for 1-4 players. Your object is to win in a TV game show, by
getting a better score than your friends. There’s a sledding game that uses the Wii
Balance board as a type of sled (you ride on a cow, if that makes sense). As you careen
down the hill, you steer by shifting your weight while seated on the balance board. The
other players try to knock you off balance by hurling snowballs at you with their Wii
Remotes. Ubisoft is calling this the "the first video game you control with your butt."
And that’s as good a place to end as any.
Remember: These are future releases and details can change. Check the Children’s
Software Finder for the latest information.
Who: Chris Byrne, The Toy Guy; Claire
Green, Parents' Choice Foundation; Mark
William Hansen, The LEGO Group;
Kathleen Kremer, Ph.D., Fisher-Price;
Debra Lieberman, UC Santa Barbara and
Health Games Research; Robin Raskin,
Author & Blogger and creator, Kids at Play,
Scott Traylor, 360KID; and the CTR staff.
Register Online:
Feature Reviews
AUGUST 1, 2008
Here's an alphabetical listing of new products, along with a full review, ratings and tester
feedback. The "Entry Date" refers to the date we first learned of the product.
Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
Ease of Use 7
Ever dreamed of being in the Olympics Games? Modeled after 35 of the actual events
held this summer in Beijing, this simulation lets you pretend to try on the shoes of athletes
like Amanda Beard or Tyson Gay.
There are both one or two-player games, and younger children will need help with
Design Features
some of the events. Also, testers found some of the game mechanics — such as with a few
Good Value
of the running games that require fast "machine-gun" key presses — to be too repetitive.
Online play will allow you to compete against players from around the world.
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Content includes 30 official events and national teams in 10 authentic-looking
stadiums, including track and field, aquatics, gymnastics, cycling, judo, table tennis and
canoe-kayak. In the Olympic Games mode, players will organize their daily schedule and
customize their national teams with agility, power, stamina and speed for competition.
There are a variety of controls across all events, including a time-based system where
timing, power, and angle are essential, a rhythm-based method that requires increasing
and sustaining speed, and a targeting system to aid players in accurately hitting targets.
The bottom line? Borrow it. The game was created for Sega by Eurocom Entertainment
Software PC version is $30.
Details: Sega of America, Price: $50. Ages: 10-up. Platform: Xbox 360,
PlayStation 3, Windows. Teaches/Purpose: sports, the Olympics. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.1
stars. Entry date: 7/8/2008. [WB]
Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo
Ease of Use 9
Available either as a download or via CD-ROM, this collection of seven activities for
Educational 9
one player is easy to play, and serves up a nice dose of matching, sorting and building
Entertaining 10
with virtual blocks by way of some clever design. The narration can be a bit chatty for our
taste, and the content seems limited. These are minor problems, however, especially if
Design Features 9
you live with a young Bob The Builder fan.
Good Value 9
In the story mode, children are told the story of a train that has delivered animals for
the Bobland Bay Zoo. Since there is no zoo yet, monkeys have taken over the school
ESRB Rating: Everyone
playground and alligators are in the swimming pool. Your job is to help Bob and his CanDo Crew build the zoo and make homes for all the animals.
The game features seven simple activities that involve noticing patterns, shapes and
colors. For every game that is played, you earn a sticker for your open-ended sticker book.
The game can be played in both English and Spanish. Note that the game is available now
as a download or as a CD (coming September). Created by Game Lab for Brighter Minds
Media. If you have a preschooler, this is a safe choice.
Details: Brighter Minds Media, Inc., Price: $20. Ages:
3-6. Platform: Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: numbers, shapes, colors,
classification, problem solving . Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.6 stars. Entry date: 7/15/2008.
Crazy Machines 2
Ease of Use 6
This third Crazy Machines game offers great graphics, a set of new challenges, and a
collection of 200 types of pulleys, ramps and exploding balls that must be dragged and
dropped into place. The goal is to set the objects in motion in order to meet the
requirements of the puzzle (for example, to land a blimp in a landing zone or to get a
Design Features
bowling ball to break a vase).
Good Value
New tools include wrecking balls, lasers, and lightning rods on puzzles set in Egypt,
the Caribbean, and outer space. You can create your own challenges and post them
ESRB Rating: Everyone
online, where you can compete for trophies and high ratings. Content includes 200
Unfortunately, like the last edition, the design is less than elegant. In the easy levels,
the instructions are too long, and the screens are cluttered with complexity. Still, the
concept is a good one, and the puzzles do a good job of presenting a challenge. Created by
Novitas/FAKT for Viva Media, LLC.
Details: Viva Media, Price: $20. Ages: 10-up. Platform:
Windows. Teaches/Purpose: logic, cause and effect . Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4 stars. Entry
date: 7/8/2008. [WB]
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
This multiplayer team shooter is a fun, well-polished game that doesn't really offer
anything new. In the story, there are two teams, the GDF (humans) and the Strogg. The
Strogg are invading Earth to repossess all the life on it and feed their expansion. This is
pretty much all of the story line that the game has, and is explained by a short and
entirely skippable introduction movie.
Each team has access to five classes. Although they have different names, they are
otherwise identical: The Soldier/Aggressor, Medic/Technician, Engineer/Constructor,
Field Ops/Oppressor, and Covert Ops/Infiltrator. The best is the Field Ops/Oppressor
class, which specializes in deploying artillery pieces, and then calling in strikes on select
Other than that, it's a pretty standard-fare game. There are slight variations in
weaponry between the two sides, and while the guns don't need to be reloaded, they can
overheat — which plays into the problem solving. The maps are useful because they
clearly spell out the challenge.
Overall, the game delivers a very solid, enjoyable performance, but delivers nothing
new. Teenage gamers who are looking for a shooter should buy it; but those happily
playing another shouldn't bother. Produced by id software for Activision. Price is $60 for
PS3 and Xbox 360 and $35 for PC.
Details: Activision, Inc., Price: $60. Ages: 14-up. Platform:
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows. Teaches/Purpose: logic, collaboration. Rating (1 to 5
stars): 4.3 stars. Entry date: 6/10/2008. [AB]
Ease of Use 9
Educational N
Entertaining 10
Design Features 7
Good Value 8
ESRB Rating: Teen
Kid-Tough Portable DVD Player
This portable DVD/CD player may be indestructible, but the small screen, weak
batteries and clumsy form should be taken into consideration. Let's start with the obvious.
This device is designed to survive in a battlefield, or a home daycare — whichever is
worse. Its large rubbery edges cushion a fall, and the kick-stand style legs are designed to
snap off (and back on) repeatedly. The built-in handle makes it easy for a child to lug it
around the room, and the recessed screen makes it harder to smudge or scratch. In
addition, the dual-rail DVD drive has an anti-skip buffer, and the navigation controls are
on the front of the console, so there's no remote control to worry about, or to lose. The
buttons look as if they can survive a dosing in juice, although we didn't test this. We're
not convinced that the clamshell design is the best for use with preschoolers, because the
lever that opens the lid can be bumped — which could prematurely end a movie.
Compared to similarly priced portable DVD players ($150), the 3.2" color TFT screen
seems very small, making it hard to read printed menus or share with another child. The
stereo speakers sound great in a quiet room, but are hard to hear in a moving car or noisy
classroom — even at the highest setting. Plus, there's just one headphone jack; again a
detriment to movie-sharing. In addition, the rechargeable batteries only last two hours,
and run out with no warning — not good if you're in the middle of a movie and are four
years old. The good news is that you can plug the DVD player into a TV using the videoout jack, making it possible to transfer a movie from a TV to the car, and vice versa. The
player comes in pink or blue.
There's no doubt that this DVD player can survive a drop, and it could be useful when
plugged into a TV or classroom projector. But 'kid-tough' is only so good if it means the
movies are hard to see or hear.
Details: Fisher-Price, Inc., Price: $150. Ages: 3-up. Platform:
DVD player. Teaches/Purpose: P, K, 1, 2. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 3.6 stars. Entry date:
2/7/2008. [WB]
What's the size of an egg, runs on batteries, comes in pairs, and annoys nearby adults?
MatchMaster, an LCD game that uses an infrared connection to transfer content between
the two units. The idea is good, but the implementation is horrible.
The game lets you manage a soccer player's health, fitness and nutrition, to help
children better understand how these elements can affect how a player does. Players can
then test their skills by playing seven crude LCD games such as The Wall (kick the ball
against the wall to destroy bricks); Shuttles (run left and right before time runs out);
Sprints (run as quickly as possible); Dribble (avoid the cones and head the balls); Passing
(pass the ball into your teammate's path to knock it into the net); Penalty (place-kick the
ball into the goal), and Free Kick (kick the ball over the wall of defenders to score).
By getting the best score in each game, you increase your lifeline points. To play with
a friend, you point the infrared sensor at your opponent to play four additional games. If
your player gets injured, you cannot play any of the games until you visit the "physio",
but you must still carry out your daily routines.
Since both Nick (12) and Daniel (8) play soccer, they were eager to play these games.
However, they quickly wanted to "smash them against a wall" because their players kept
getting injured, no matter what they did. Then, because they didn't know what else to do,
they kept resetting the game. Also, one of the games won't shut off, so even though it
hasn't been played for two weeks, it still beeps — for no apparent reason. There are much
better ways to spend $20 (or $40 for two for the multiplayer). Buy a "real" soccer game, or
go outside!
Details: MatchMaster, Price: $20. Ages: 8-up. Platform:
Smart Toy. Teaches/Purpose: soccer, sports. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 1.3 stars. Entry date:
7/15/2008. [LD]
Ease of Use 8
Durability 10
Battery Life 3
Design Features 7
Good Value 8
Ease of Use
Design Features
Good Value
Easy to play and extremely educational, this is a collection of 15 timed sorting and
logic puzzles that take advantage of the Leapster Touch screen. The games are
comparable to Brain Age in some ways, but are much easier and better suited for younger
There are three memory games, such as Melody Maker (touch the keys of a piano to
repeat a song by memory, like Simon Says), that deliver well-designed logic and sorting
practice. Visualization games ask children to race to identify a letter that is gradually
revealed, or to combine puzzle parts to make a picture (like Tangrams). Comparing
games include Odd Ball (look at four objects to identify which is different) or Size Wise
(tap the items shown on the screen, from smallest to largest). Matching games include Mix
and Match (look at a grid to find two of the same pictures) or Open Sesame (open doors
with the stylus to find pairs of creatures, like Concentration). Finding games include
Pattern Picker (complete a sequence by touching the next item in order) and Snake Snack
(press the arrows to move a snake to her dinner, by counting the number of squares).
As you might expect, some of the games are better designed than others, but there's a
lot of excellent choices, and it is easy to get into a new game. You can play as a guest, or
with one of three player profiles, which bookmarks progress on the cartridge. This
cartridge is also Leapster2 compatible, meaning it can be connected to Leapfrog's
Learning Path. The content looks and plays the same on either system.
Details: Scholastic, Inc., Price: $25. Ages: 5-7. Platform: Leapster.
Teaches/Purpose: logic, memory, number, classification, sorting, math. Rating (1 to 5
stars): 4.8 stars. Entry date: 5/29/2008. [WB]
Professor Garfield (
How does a famous cartoonist approach a national literacy problem? He starts a
website, that's how. A collaboration between Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield (the cat),
and Ball State University's Professor Garfield is a well designed collection of games and
teaching ideas. It is the idea of cartoonist Jim Davis.
Other content comes from Pearson's Knowledge Box curricula, for pre-K through 6th
grade, the Schwab Learning Foundation's site (with resources for children
with learning and attention problems), NIH modules on getting enough sleep, and
Scholarship America web content -- designed to motivate middle and high school
students to get ready for college. Music on the site was prepared by singer Red Grammer.
All in all, this is a nice collection of higher quality content that seems free of any
underlying motives. It is worth a second look.
Details: Paws, Inc., Price: $free. Ages: 4-12. Platform:
Windows, Mac OSX, Internet Site. Teaches/Purpose: math, reading, science, health,
attention deficit syndrome. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.6 stars. Entry date: 7/8/2008. [WB]
Secret Agent Clank
This one-player game for the PSP is the newest game in the Ratchet & Clank series
and features Clank as the Galaxy's greatest undercover agent. In the story, Ratchet is
locked in a maximum security prison for a crime he didn't commit, and you must follow
Clank as a secret agent and prove Ratchet's innocence.
Using stealth, puzzle solving, combat, and a variety of clever weapons, you follow
clues and gather evidence. There's a good deal of problem solving in these games, plus
some fun creativity. You will also play as Ratchet, receiving weapons from Clank to help
you stay alive in prison. Other playable characters include Captain Qwark and Gadgebot.
The game features weapons and gadgets such as the Tanglevine Carnation, Cufflink
Bombs, and the deadly Tie-A-Rang — as well as spy vehicles such as sport cars,
speedboats and snowboards.
Details: Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., Price:
$40. Ages: 10-up. Platform: PSP. Teaches/Purpose: logic, strategy, puzzle solving. Rating
(1 to 5 stars): 4.4 stars. Entry date: 5/13/2008. [WB]
Ease of Use 9
Educational 10
Entertaining 9
Design Features 10
Good Value 10
Ease of Use 8
Educational 10
Entertaining 9
Design Features 9
Good Value 10
Ease of Use 8
Educational N
Entertaining 10
Design Features 9
Good Value 8
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
V.Smile: V-Motion Active Learning System
There's been an increase in motion-sensitive wireless controllers like the one included
with the V.Smile: V-Motion Active Learning System available at The
$70 educational gaming console plugs into the A/V jacks on your TV set and plays past
titles. The responsive 2.4 GHz controller detects motion on an x, y, and z axes, plus there's
a joystick for the traditionalist. Nearly all the games have two player modes, although
you'll need to purchase a second controller, or you can use one from an older V.Smile
This year's V.Smile editions employ a sneaker-network web connectivity by way of a
customized USB drive that you plug into your Windows computer. Once you've logged
in, you see your child's scores, compared with others, in thrillers like Street Race, Bobsled
or Bouncing Ball — games that let you sort, count or spell with a lean to the left or right.
You can also choose to use the joystick if you want, which we found is easier to use in
some games.
One game is included; others are $25. The console is battery powered (4AAs), and a
$10 AC adapter is recommended. The games are tedious but addicting; a reminder that
when learning facts, a spoon full of sugar and perhaps a quick lean to the left can help the
medicine go down.
Details: VTech Electronics North America, Price: $70. Ages: 3-7.
Platform: Smart Toy. Teaches/Purpose: math, reading, science, spelling. Rating (1 to 5
stars): 4.3 stars. Entry date: 7/7/2008. [WB]
Venture Arctic
Ease of Use
Design Features
Good Value
Ease of Use 8
Did you know that a Caribou can migrate up to 1600 miles in a year? That's just one of
the dozens of interesting facts embedded in this clunky, but fun one-player simulation
about the Alaskan Tundra.
Designed for Windows, this game lets you create and maintain the ecosystems of the
Design Features
Alaskan Tundra through four seasons. After you sign in (progress is saved) and learn
Good Value
how to move around the 3D world, you are given a challenge — such as to save a
Caribou. In order to succeed, you must tinker with the environment by adding or melting ESRB Rating: Everyone
snow, helping animals fall in love in the spring, or making them sick in the fall — it's all
about balance, you see. For example, without snow in the Winter, you don't get grass in
the spring, and then animals start to die.
Content includes 22 types of animals such as polar bears, bowhead whales, arctic
wolves, and orcas. If you move your cursor over any animal, you learn facts about it, such
as its age, how much fat is on its body, or how much energy it has. Players can also
experiment with extinction and deforestation while keeping the interests of the wildlife in
There are Normal and Kid challenge levels. Note that a good deal of reading is
required, plus some of the content, such as the discussion about animal spirits, is not
really scientific. This simulation could be useful for classroom use — despite it's clunky
navigation and strange background music — to discuss such concepts as extinction or
climate change. Developed by Pocketwatch Games in the Torque Engine (www. for Brighter Minds Media, Inc.
Details: Brighter Minds Media, Inc., Price: $20. Ages:
8-up. Platform: Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: Science, maintaining life,
ecosystems, reading. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4 stars. Entry date: 7/16/2008. [WB]
New & Future Releases
AUGUST 1, 2008
This section contains a listing, with notes, on products currently being reviewed or being
considered for a review. Some of these may appear in upcoming issues following further testing.
2Go PC
Designed for school/student use, these wireless Windows computers look nearly identical to
Intel's ClassMate PC. Features include a 40 GB hard drive, the Celeron M 900MHz Processor, 512
MB of RAM, 2 USB ports, and batteries rated at 3.5 hours. Contact for more
information. The operating system can be either Windows XP or Linux, depending on school needs.
Note that this computer is designed to be purchased in large numbers at a low price. It is not a
consumer computer.
Details: Computer Technology Link, Price: $400 and up. Ages: 5-up. Platform:
Windows. Teaches/Purpose: a windows-based computer. Entry date: 7/19/2008.
Active Life Outdoor Challenge
Here's a 12-pack of Wii games for one or two players, all based on outdoor themes. In a
unique twist, the games use a special "Active Life Mat" that plugs into one of the game controller
ports, so a player might use her feet to roll a log, along with the Wii Remote, to keep balance.
Activities include river rafting, a mine-cart adventure, log jumping, see-saw, jump rope, water
trampoline and so on. Coming September 9, 2008, from
Details: Namco Bandai Games America Inc., Price: $call.
Ages: 7-up. Platform: Wii. Teaches/Purpose: gross motor coordination, fine motor coordination.
Entry date: 7/31/2008.
Adaptive Curriculum
I had the chance to sit down briefly with Peter Rolero, one of the principle authors of this new
web-based math and science curriculum for middle schoolers. Dr. Rolero is a science professor at
ASU, which is one of the reasons I was interested in this generic-sounding curriculum. He joins
Gary Bitter, another veteran of ISTE and educational technology, as contributor.
The $10 per year per child package is web delivered (from outside the school) and the lessons
are designed in Flash, so students can have access from any web-based browser. My first question
to Peter was, "What sets this curriculum apart from all the others?"
"There are no stick figures in these graphics," he said, showing me a Flash-based science unit
dealing with cooperative organisms, where you apply what you learned by cleaning the teeth of a
Nile crocodile by moving a Plover bird around the screen (those are the little birds with a death
wish, that freely go in and out of a crocodile's mouth, eating bits of old meat). At the end of the
lesson, you get a five-question test, and if you master the content, you move to the next unit.
There's enough content for two lessons per week, and only math or science are covered. At
any time, teachers can log in and manage the content. The curriculum is the work of ASU's
Technology Based Learning and Research (TBLR) department and is distributed and sold by Sebit,
part of a technology incubator called Skysong.
Details: Sebit, LLC, Price: $10/student/year and up. Ages: 11
-15. Platform: Windows, Mac OSX, Internet Site. Teaches/Purpose: science, math. Entry date:
AUGUST 1, 2008
All Star Cheer Squad
The Wii version of this movement simulator is designed for one to four players, as they
participate in the competitive sport of "Cheer" (combining traditional cheerleading with squadbased teamwork). For the Wii version, you take the Nunchuk in one hand, the Wii Remote in the
other, and as an option, step on/off the Balance Board. Note that it helps to have a cordless
Nunchuk, because the wire keeps moving around.
You are represented as one of the members of a four-person squad, and you're scored for your
moves, which are shown — Dance Dance Revolution style — on the bottom of the screen (you
match moving movement icons as they scroll across the bottom of the screen). Doing this takes
coordination. The Wii Balance Board, which is optional, can be used by one player to perform real
routines designed by Tony G. (the choreographer for the "Bring it On" movies). The DS version is
based on an adventure at a competitive cheering camp, where you learn moves to beat a rival.
Details: THQ, Inc., Price: $call. Ages: 6-up. Platform: Wii, Nintendo DS.
Teaches/Purpose: movement, gross motor coordination. Entry date: 7/29/2008.
Animal Crossing: City Folk
The first version of Animal Crossing for the Wii, Animal Crossing: City Folk is being called a
"community simulation" either for 1-4 players in the same room, or 2-4 people playing
simultaneously over the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. During a demonstration at E3, Nintendo used
this title to highlight a new microphone peripheral for the Wii that they're calling WiiSpeak, which
allows you to hear the other players. The microphone sits on top of the sensor bar.
At first glance, "City Folk" looks and plays a lot like the old GameCube versions of Animal
Crossing, with a lot of trading, fishing, and shell collecting, while the days and seasons pass in real
time. You can catch fireflies in the summer or go trick-or-treating on Halloween, for example.
New to this game is the ability to take a bus into a city to design clothes, have dinner or watch
a show at the theater, as long as your Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is working. Animal Crossing is all
about relationships, and we're looking forward to developing some, coming "this holiday."
Details: Nintendo of America, Price: $call. Ages: 6-up. Platform: Wii.
Teaches/Purpose: creativity. Entry date: 7/30/2008.
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
Note that we reviewed the Windows version of this title in 2007 (3.6 stars). The Wii and PS2
versions contain 6,000 questions in 23 subjects. The DS version was created by AWE Games for
THQ and has less content (3000 questions) covering 23 subjects along with a “Fun Facts” pop up
throughout the game.
Modeled after the TV show, the game takes place in a 3D set, where you compete for a virtual
$1 million prize against four virtual players, or against real players in the Academic Academy
Mode. A Flashcards feature lets you see who is the quickest, and there's a spelling bee feature for
words only. The goal is to earn gold stars as you work your way to the Million Dollar Question. If
you answer all the questions correctly, you can put your name on the honor roll.
Details: THQ, Inc., Price: $call. Ages: 9-up. Platform: Wii, Nintendo DS,
PlayStation 2, Windows. Teaches/Purpose: trivia, spelling, all school subjects, factual knowledge.
Entry date: 7/17/2008.
Ben 10: Alien Force
This well-designed fighting game for one or two players includes a drop-in, drop-out
cooperative mode, similar in ways to LEGO Star Wars. Fans of the Cartoon Network's Ben 10 show
will like this interactive adventure. This is the second edition of the game -- the first was released
Fall 2007 and was called Ben 10: Protector of the Earth. We previewed the Wii version in the
Summer of 2008; the game will be released in October of 2008. We were told that the DS version has
three unique puzzles.
In this version, Ben is five years older. As you progress through the levels, you solve puzzles
and defeat enemies in order to unlock new characters, moves and clips from the show. This formula
has been used in hundreds of other games, and is tried-and-true. Because the game was designed
using the Viscious game engine, there is a lot of fighting options. Created for D3Publisher by
Monkey Bar Games using the Viscious Engine. It is easy to play, with minimal reading.
Details: D3Publisher of America, Inc., Price: $30. Ages: 6-14. Platform:
PlayStation 2, Wii, Nintendo DS, PSP. Teaches/Purpose: logic, spatial thinking. Entry date:
AUGUST 1, 2008
Ben 10: Protector of the Earth
Based on Cartoon Network's popular hero Ben 10, players take on the role of Ben and use the
power of the alien Omnitrix device that has attached itself to his wrist to save the world and defeat
the evil Vilgax. Players can play as five aliens, each with their own special super powers, and travel
to 14 different levels across the USA and unlock four special locations. The two-player co-op mode
pits both players against the game, or players can play alone. The game also features 80 combo
Exclusive to the DS version ($30) will be WiFi support for player vs. player challenges,
microphone use, and Touch Screen use for mini challenges. Exclusive to the Wii ($40) are special
combo moves using the Wii remote, and exclusive to the PSP ($30) are challenge locations and
skins. See also Ben 10: Alien Force, releasing Fall 2008.
Details: D3Publisher of America, Inc., Price: $30. Ages: 6-14. Platform:
PlayStation 2*, Wii, Nintendo DS, PSP. Teaches/Purpose: some logic. Entry date: 10/22/2007.
Web-delivered interactive Flash-driven content powers this suite of educational sites, called There are four previous products:,, and You'll need Flash 9 in order to make it work.
Details: Synergy1 Group, Inc., Price: $60/year. Ages: 5-12. Platform:
Internet Site, Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: math, reading, geography facts (states),
spelling and vocabulary. Entry date: 7/3/2008.
Claymation Studio 2.0
Claymation Studio 2.0 lets you create claymation, stop-motion video, animation and cell-based
videos from imported images, photographs, music audio and recorded sound tracks. It features
Chroma Key, which allows users to put an object on a blue/green screen and import background
images from another source; Onionskin, which lets users view the previous frame and the next
frame on a same-screen transparent overlay mode during the creation process; and Rotoscope,
where users can view a still photo on top of a new image. You can also save your videos in
Windows Media File, Audio Video Interleave, MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 formats. Other features include
Audio Recording which allows users to import or record audio and add it to specific frames, and
Simple Frame Editing that lets you display frames in sequence and change the order using dragand-drop. New features of this version include Partial Chroma Key Effects, Chroma Key
Windowing on imported images, Background Music with voice over dubbing, On-screen Text, and
Enhanced Resolution Support. Available in October at retail for $50 for a single user license. Multiuser Academic License Packs are also available.
Details: Honestech, Inc., Price: $50. Ages: 12-up. Platform: Windows.
Teaches/Purpose: creativity, video editing. Entry date: 7/28/2008.
Clear Creativity In the Classroom
This is a teacher resource pack which is included as part of the Serif Design Suite (DrawPlus
X2, PhotoPlus X2, WebPlus X2, MoviePlus 5.0, and PagePlus X3). It includes lesson plans, how-to
guides, handout sheets, project and presentation ideas, instruction on how to create certain effects
and other support materials.
Details: Serif, Inc., Price: $free. Ages: NA. Platform: Windows.
Teaches/Purpose: a utility for teachers. Entry date: 7/28/2008.
AUGUST 1, 2008
Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force
Using characters and themes from the online world ( this DS game
lets you become a member of the Elite Penguin Force, where you are asked to solve specific
missions. So note right away that this is not a mere porting of the online world to the DS, which
some might expect. Instead, this is a mostly single or two player adventure game in which players
take on the role of a covert (secret) agent in the Elite Penguin Force, using gadgets, accessories,
vehicles and locations to investigate mysterious events. Minigames include adaptations of popular
Club Penguin games such as Cart Surfer, Jet Pack Adventure and Ice Fishing, all using the DS stylus
and the unique dual-screen view
A good deal of reading is required. The cartridge comes with Disney’s DGamer connectivity,
so kids can join Disney's online community, either on their DS or on their home computer. Using
the DS wireless web connection, you can unlock new features and upload coins to your online
penguin account. Published by Disney Interactive Studios and developed by 1st Playable
Details: Disney Interactive Studios, Price: $30. Ages: 6-14. Platform:
Nintendo DS. Teaches/Purpose: reading, strategy, problem solving. Entry date: 7/14/2008.
Command & Conquer: Kane's Wrath
The latest edition in the Command & Conquer series, this game returns to the Tiberium
Universe. The game includes all the units, structures, and superpowers from Command & Conquer
3 Tiberium Wars, allowing you to control more than 100 units and structures. You can choose from
three classic C&C factions; The Brotherhood of Nod, the Global Defense Initiative, and the Alien
Scrin, or you can choose from one of six new sub-factions with unique units and abilities. There are
80 matches against nine armies and a story that spans 20 years.
Details: Electronic Arts, Inc., Price: $40. Ages: 13-up. Platform: Xbox 360.
Teaches/Purpose: strategy, logic. Entry date: 7/16/2008.
Disney Create-A-Story
If you blink twice, you'd think you have a bright red LeapPad in this book reading system,
that uses the same touch-and-hear approach. But there's one big difference. This device also plugs
into your TV, giving it the functionality of a story scripting device, specifically targeting early
readers (children aged 3-6 years). Like the LeapPad, you touch the page with the tip of a stylus, to
hear any word read aloud. Two books come in the package, including one where children can select
the sequence of a story and then see it on their TV screen (the word "create" is used quite loosely).
Future titles will be a Disney theme, featuring Tigger and Pooh, Mickey Mouse Club, Cars, Finding
Nemo, and Disney Princess. Each book comes with a ROM cartridge which must be inserted in the
device to work, and each page must first be registered with the reader, requiring the extra step of
touching a uniquely placed marker on each page.
The device doubles as a book reader for use away from the TV. Requires four AA batteries
(not included). There are four additional packages sold separately for $20 each which feature other
Disney characters. Of course, this device is only as good as the software that is played on it, a
question that we'll be assessing in future issues.
Details: VTech Electronics North America, Price: $50. Ages: 3-6.
Platform: TV. Teaches/Purpose: writing, reading, comprehension . Entry date: 7/8/2008.
Dizzywood is a virtual world and online game for children ages eight through 12. The site is
free to join and use with a registration, and premium content will be offered in the future. You can
dress your avatar, play Flash-based games, explore, and add friends to your buddy list.
The PR materials cite two studies of elementary school students at UC Davis showing that
children find ways to transform their experiences with technology into "fun, highly organized,
group activities and that technology-based activities can be explicitly designed to foster social
reflection and advanced planning among young children."
Scott Arpajian, co-founder of Dizzywood states, “We believe there is limitless potential for
virtual worlds to provide students opportunities to learn positive behavior, values and leadership
skills, and to prepare them for a workforce that now demands digital creativity.”
Details: Rocket Paper Scissors LLC, Price: $free. Ages: 8-12. Platform:
Internet Site. Teaches/Purpose: caring, fairness, citizenship, responsibility, respect and
trustworthiness. Entry date: 6/18/2008.
AUGUST 1, 2008
DrawPlus X2: Graphics Studio
This is a vector drawing software that lets students create painted artwork and vector-drawn
art. Features include pressure sensitive brushes that simulate charcoal, an airbrush or watercolors.
The Flash animation module permits stop frame and keyframe animation as well as Flash export.
Work is compatible with either PhotoShop and AutoCAD.
Details: Serif, Inc., Price: $100. Ages: 5-up. Platform: Windows, desktop
publishing. Teaches/Purpose: creativity. Entry date: 7/9/2008.
EnVision Math
The digital counterpart to the Envision Math textbook series, EnVision Math (for K-6) is
Pearson's second "blended" curriculum — meaning the designers started from scratch with
interactive media in mind. So if a child opens a book to page five and sees a set of animals to
measure, she'll see the very same animals when the lesson is presented on the computer screen.
Other features include links and a password for every parent, so children with web access can work
from home. The curriculum uses Pearson's existing SuccessNet and Success Tracker services, so
teachers can track each child's progress.
All of the 1200 lessons are Flash-based, feature clear audio, and are tied to state standards.
Also interesting is that the Internet lessons are designed to be interactive white-board friendly, with
large icons that are easy to touch — from the top or the bottom of the screen. According to Marc
Nelson, the Director of User Experience for the project, "The main innovation is the seamless
integration between the web and the book." If you can run a browser, you can get connected.
The curriculum is designed to be used either in large groups (through a projector or
interactive White Board) or a small group (through individual web stations or tablet computers).
The programming was done in Chandler, AZ, and is available in English or Spanish. Each lesson
consists of a visual learning animation, a teaching section, guided practice, individual practice and
assessment by way of a five question quiz. Any doubt that the the form of future textbooks is
changing will start to fade, with products like this one. See
for a demo, in Flash naturally.
Details: Pearson Learning Group, Price: $call. Ages: 5-12.
Platform: Windows, Mac OSX, Internet Site. Teaches/Purpose: math. Entry date: 4/21/2008.
Giggles: Computer Funtime for Baby - Nursery Rhymes
This edition of the Giggles: Computer Funtime for Baby series includes 14 easy-to-play
activities, each modeled after a nursery rhyme such as Jack and Jill, Hey Diddle Diddle, and Mary
Had A Little Lamb. Each activity is an animated visual representation of the nursery rhyme so that
your child can interact with it by pressing keys. In addition, the words for each rhyme can be
viewed on-screen. The program contains 50 songs, as well as the songs for each nursery rhyme. It
also features two modes: Baby Mode for ages six to 24 months and the new Toddler Mode for ages
24 to 36 months.
Details: Leveractive, LLC, Price: $20. Ages: 0-3. Platform: Windows, Mac
OSX. Teaches/Purpose: causality, early learning. Entry date: 7/16/2008.
Goosebumps Horrorland
We had a short demonstration of the Wii version of this game in our office (July 2008) and can
vouch for the fact that THIS GAME IS SCARY. Horrorland is an abandoned theme park full of
strange stuff, like Bumper Carnage and roller coasters that malfunction. Content includes 30 games,
some for two players. Features vary, depending on the platform. This is one to look forward to; a
Halloween release date is planned.
Details: Scholastic Interactive, . Price: $50, $30 DS, PS2, $20 PC. Ages: 8-12. Platform: Wii,
Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, Windows, Mac OSX. Teaches/Purpose: logic, spatial relations. Entry
date: 7/10/2008.
AUGUST 1, 2008
HotChalk ( bills itself as "the first free Web 2.0 community for K-12
teachers, students and parents that promotes the sharing of resources and information." The idea is
to combine quality editorial with clever advertising, and attract the lucrative eyes of educators.
In terms of the content collection, HotChalk is worth a second look. For example, they've hired
the former editor of Technology & Learning Magazine, Susan McLester, to oversee the editorial
content. There's a collection of educational blogs, a library of teacher-contributed lesson plans, as
well as professional development courses from McGraw-Hill, and premium digital video content
from NBC News. HotChalk has partnered with National Geographic and PBS for additional
Details: HotChalk, Inc., Price: $free. Ages: NA. Platform: Internet Site.
Teaches/Purpose: a portal and information source for educators. Entry date: 6/17/2008.
I SPY Treasure Hunt (Leapster)
Twenty-seven I SPY puzzles have been nicely adapted for the Leapster's touch screen that
include three games with multiple challenge levels. There are three treasure hunts, and as with
previous I SPY Titles, your goal is to complete a treasure map. This is an excellent literacy activity,
providing exposure to new vocabulary words, and letting children enjoy language, in the context of
hundreds of well designed puzzles. Up to three game profiles can be saved. If you have a Leapster,
this is well worth the $25.
Details: Scholastic, Inc., Price: $25. Ages: 6-8. Platform: Leapster.
Teaches/Purpose: classification, visual relationships, language, rhythms, poetry. Entry date:
Imagine: Master Chef
Are you master chef material? In this one-player game for the Nintendo DS, you first design
your own professional chef's kitchen and then start cooking, using the stylus to stir in ingredients,
chop, slice, and cook appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts, and test their techniques with
quizzes and contests. Testers did not like this game, finding it hard to use and understand.
Details: Ubisoft, Inc., Price: $30. Ages: 8-up. Platform: Nintendo DS.
Teaches/Purpose: reading, cooking, following directions. Entry date: 11/26/2007.
Imagine: Rock Star
Form your own band and play songs using drums, guitar, bass, and piano by tapping the
Nintendo DS touch screen. You will practice, book gigs, and work your way to the top of the music
industry. You can also play with friends in multiplayer mode, customize your characters' hair
styles, outfits and accessories. Not yet reviewed; coming this fall.
Details: Ubisoft, Inc., Price: $30. Ages: 6-up. Platform: Nintendo DS.
Teaches/Purpose: music, timing, fine motor coordination. Entry date: 6/24/2008.
Picture frames and music players come in many forms, these days. In this case, its a plush
teddy bear. The round media player snaps into his belly and displays photos in slideshow fashion,
and plays music or movies. Two crude games are provided and can be played with the direction
keys on the front of the player. The interface takes some time to figure out.
The media player can be removed from the bear and clipped on a belt, or a carseat for that
matter. To transfer pictures, videos or MP3 audio files, you can either use the included USB cable
(to access the 512 MB of internal RAM) or plug in a standard SD card. Plugging the USB cable into
your computer also charges the battery. Visit for more information.
Details: Vivid Imaginations Ltd., Price: $90. Ages: 3-up.
Platform: media player. Teaches/Purpose: a plush digital photograph display system. Entry date:
AUGUST 1, 2008
Kidi Art Studio
About the size of a TV table, this digital design center for preschoolers features a digital
camera mounted about a foot above the drawing surface, so that as a child colors, their work is
displayed on the TV screen. The software, stored on a plug in ROM cartridge, includes ideas for arts
and crafts, or stop-motion animation, by combining the camera's captured images with the onscreen graphics. So it is easy to add creative elements, such as frames and effects, to their pictures.
They can also create pictures from scratch in the free play mode. Using the thumb drive, children
can save work to their PC and print anything they've made. Watch for a review in September.
Details: VTech Electronics North America, Price: $80. Ages: 4-up.
Platform: Smart Toy. Teaches/Purpose: creativity, drawing, photo editing. Entry date: 6/24/2008.
Know Your USA 1.5
According to press materials, this new version of Know Your USA features an improved
interface making it easier to use and navigate. It features sixty photos from across the United States,
and maps of each state are now included, detailing state capitals, major cities, and physical features.
In addition to the topics on the previous version, it now also includes oceanography and national
parks. The puzzle of the United States has been improved, with two styles - flip and spread available and a timer to keep track of your speed. In the Quiz section, incorrect answers are better
highlighted as well as the questions in the Exam section. Another feature that has been added is
About the USA, a quick way to find facts about the USA. Links now include Wikipedia and Google
Earth. You can download a 30-day trial version, or purchase as a download for $25, from www. You can also now purchase the CD-ROM from or
for $25. There is also a School Edition which allows teachers to print worksheets, monitor users'
progress, and create custom quizzes. The cost, $300, includes a site license on an unlimited number
of computers.
Details: EdWare Interactive Learning, Price: $25. Ages: 6-14.
Platform: Windows. Teaches/Purpose: US Geography, states, capitals, land features. Entry date:
Many side-scrolling games come with some type of level editor. LittleBigPlanet is the reverse
— a sophisticated, easy-to-use level editor that comes with some game-like levels attached.
Designed to push the creative capacity of the PlayStation 3, LittleBigPlanet combines an openended creativity tool with 50 mission-based challenges, for one to four players (either locally or
remotely, via the PlayStation Network) who can drop in or drop out at any time. Imagine the
Incredible Machine set in an endless side-scrolling world that can be shared, and you get the idea of
this experience.
You start by moving a rag-doll-like character through the first level of the game, learning
about each character’s powers to interact with the environment. There are obstacles to explore, bits
and pieces to collect and puzzles to solve — requiring problem solving and, at times, collaborative
teamwork. As your creative skills grow, you can start modifying the environments. With
LittleBigPlanet, just about anything you see is fair game for painting, dragging, dropping or
deleting. For example, if you have a PlayStation Eye, you could put your own face on a billboard.
During the demonstration at E3, Sony used LittleBigPlanet as a type of side scrolling PowerPoint to
illustrate sales projections. Your levels can be saved, and posted online for others to try — landing a
nice shared community aspect to the game. (It's a lot more fun to create something if you know that
there are others to share it with.)
Other content includes 60 tutorials, and a shared community that Sony hopes will create an
"endless game" (somewhat similar to the Spore concept). Online and offline multiplayer modes let
you play alone or work as a team with up to four friends who can share comments and rankings.
Coming September 2008.
Details: Media Molecule Ltd., Price: $call. Ages: 5-up. Platform:
PlayStation 3. Teaches/Purpose: creativity, logic, physics. Entry date: 9/13/2007.
AUGUST 1, 2008
miJam Pro Air Drummer
This wireless drummer simulates a full drum set and includes two drumsticks, a bass foot
pedal, and a speaker you can connect to your iPod or MP3 player using the headphone jack so you
can play along to your favorite music. You can also choose from six built-in rhythms including
Snare, Hi Hat, Tom Tom, Crash Cymbal, Floor Tom, and Ride Cymbal. In addition, the Follow key
allows the same drum or cymbal to be played by both sticks allowing you to perform drum rolls.
And since they are air drums, they require no tapping. Requires 2 AAA batteries for each
drumstick, 2 AA batteries for the foot pedal, and 4 AA batteries for the speaker (not included). In
stores "Fall 2008."
Details: Blue Box Toys, Inc., Price: $40. Ages: 8-up. Platform: wireless
drums. Teaches/Purpose: rhythm, drums. Entry date: 6/4/2008.
miJam Studio Mike
This microphone has a speaker in the bottom and can be connected to an iPod or MP3 player
using the headphone jack, so you can sing along to your favorite music. The microphone suppresses
the voices in the music so you can sing Karaoke style. It also features five built-in sound effects
including audience sounds of cheers and applause. The included batteries are for the Try Me
function, and it's recommended you replace these with 4 AAA alkaline batteries.
Details: Blue Box Toys, Inc., Price: $20. Ages: 8-up. Platform: smart toy.
Teaches/Purpose: a prop for singing, music. Entry date: 6/3/2008.
Monster Lab
Off-beat, zany and a bit creepy feeling, this game is part simulation and part action game, with
a good deal of fighting in the mix. The off-kilter art style presents a world where nothing is
symmetrical. In the game, you first create your monster, mixing-and-matching 156 monster parts.
You then start hunting for other monsters to compete against in different challenges. The ultimate
goal is to vanquish the evil Baron Mharti and liberate the villagers, moving up in rank, in six levels.
The Wii edition uses a gesture combat game mechanic, where you fight head-to-head against bad
guys with movements. Coming Halloween, 2008. Created by Backbone Vancouver for Eidos. Visit
Details: Eidos Interactive, . Price: $call. Ages: 7-up. Platform: Wii, Nintendo DS.
Teaches/Purpose: logic, creativity, strategy. Entry date: 7/31/2008.
My SAT Coach
Get out your #2 stylus, kids, because your Nintendo DS is now a test prep experience. Based
on content from The Princeton Review's test prep program, My SAT Coach contains two complete
SAT tests, along with timed drills and mini-games. The drills are useful, because a student can
practice vocabulary words on long car trips, or work on just the Math section of the test. Progress
can be saved on the cartridge, and the touch screen is used to make things fun. For example, when
you fill in the dots with the stylus, it looks and feels like real #2 pencil lead. Content includes 2,000
practice questions. Developed in Montreal for Ubisoft. Coming Fall 2008.
Details: Ubisoft, Inc., Price: $call. Ages: 14-up. Platform: Nintendo DS.
Teaches/Purpose: test prep, SAT. Entry date: 7/19/2008.
MySims Kingdom
This second MySims title — coming this Fall — now offers the ability to share your virtual
world with up to six other players, by invitation only. Also, the art and building items follow an old
Europe castle building theme.
For those not familiar with the My Sims concept, it is best described as a cross between LEGO
Creator, Animal Crossing and The Sims. You start by creating your own Mii-like Sim by mixing and
matching hair styles, clothing and body types, with additional items that can be unlocked. You then
enter a town, where you meet others who need your help in order to rebuild the kingdom — one
house at a time. There's a wonderful level of detail to the creating — you can even go inside the
homes and decorate. In the last version, testers found this process to be both easy to do, and very
fun; this edition looks like the same. It is easy to save projects. Note that interacting with others and
getting to the next mission requires reading text bubbles.
As players explore, they meet and help new characters who explain the next challenge. All in
all, this looks like it will be an another easy-to-play, powerful addition to the Sims line, with no
worrisome content.
Details: Electronic Arts, Inc., Price: $call. Ages: 6-up. Platform: Nintendo DS,
Windows, Wii. Teaches/Purpose: creativity, reading, spatial relations (using maps), money. Entry
date: 7/31/2008.
AUGUST 1, 2008
Nancy Drew: The Mystery of the Clue Bender Society
This game for the Nintendo DS is a follow-up to "The Deadly Secret of Olde World Park." In
the story, Nancy Drew is trying to get into The Clue Bender Society, a group of the world's best
detectives. In the case, one of history's most important books is missing, and you must help Nancy
locate it before it falls into the wrong hands. Using the DS touch screen, you retrieve and identify
fingerprints, master mazes, follow and interrogate suspects through printed dialog, and ride
snowmobiles and boats. There are nine chapters on one cartridge, and games can be saved using a
login screen.
Details: Majesco Entertainment, Price: $20. Ages: 10-up.
Platform: Nintendo DS. Teaches/Purpose: reading, deductive reasoning, problem solving. Entry
date: 9/26/2007.
Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2
Ready for a brawl? The second "Clash of Ninja" title (the first was released last year) features
plenty of action-based fighting for one to four players. The battles are embedded in a storyline that
is inspired from the animated TV show.
Content consists of 30 characters, each with different abilities, plus 15 stages that get more
challenging. Some of the moves let you shake or spin your Wii Remote to power up your punches.
You can either play against three other players, or in teams, or by yourself against the computer.
Made for D3Publisher by 8ing. Coming Fall 2008. See also Path of the Ninja for the Nintendo DS.
Details: D3Publisher of America, Inc., Price: $call. Ages: 10-up.
Platform: Wii. Teaches/Purpose: fighting, social play, timing. Entry date: 7/30/2008.
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress
This Naruto fighting game for the PSP features a new story mode and six types of two-player
battles in different combinations (1 vs 1, 1 vs 2, 1 vs 3, 2 vs 2, 2 vs 3, and 3 vs 3) that you can play
wirelessly via an ad hoc connection. You start by choosing one of 20 characters to fight as, each with
special techniques. As you play, you power up your character with more abilities. Content includes
100 floors of the Phantom Castle to explore, with some mini-games. If you're looking for a fast, fun
fight, this title won't disappoint. Just note that like the show, there's plenty of cartoon violence and
mild suggestive themes (review the ESRB descriptors).
Details: Namco Bandai Games America Inc., Price: $40. Ages:
10-up. Platform: PSP. Teaches/Purpose: fighting, social play, timing. Entry date: 6/26/2008.
NCAA Football 09
This latest edition in the NCAA Football series has 70 new features such as a directional fake,
to fake out the defense. An Online Dynasty Mode lets you recruit new players, keep stats or create
custom schedules. New to this version are psychological factors, such as a home field advantage,
and tracking of your player's overall composure. If a player gets confused, question marks replace
the button icons for receivers, and squiggly lines appear instead of the field routes. If your pass is
picked off, a “Quarterback Quiz” mini-game will appear, asking you to recall the defense you just
faced. If you remember, you can regain some of your composure. You can also call a time-out
before your opponent kicks a field goal, just to increase the pressure he or she feels.
Crowds are decorated in school colors, including mascots and cheerleaders, plus there's an
arcade style game that you can play against mascots. You can also upload your personal music and
sounds from your hard drive in more than 20 user-defined situations to create your own custom ingame atmosphere authentic to your favorite school. Prices are $60 for PS3 and Xbox 360, $50 for
Wii, and $40 for PS2 and PSP.
Details: EA Sports (Electronic Arts, Inc.), Price: $60. Ages: 8-up. Platform:
PlayStation 3*, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 2, PSP. Teaches/Purpose: football. Entry date:
AUGUST 1, 2008
Net Nanny 5.5
Looking for an Internet filtering solution for Windows computers? As of Summer 2008, one of
the established and most evolved is Net Nanny — although it is limited to Windows computers,
and your subscription must be renewed each year. Now part of ContentWatch (www.contentwatch.
com), Net Nanny Home Suite costs $50/12 months for one computer.
Here's how it works. First, you install the software on your computer's hard disk, either from a
downloaded file or from a purchased CD-ROM. Next, you must register the software online with
ContentWatch--which entails coming up with a password to keep hidden from users of the
computer. This password is also required to uninstall the software. So, if you loose it, your only
option is to call ContentWatch or reformat your hard drive. From this point in, every user must
login to the computer with a password, which can be integrated with the regular Windows login.
Net Nanny uses word and URL lists along with an ongoing filter to screen incoming and
outgoing web content. As Web pages are requested, a "dynamic analyzing engine" either allows or
blocks their display. It is possible to create a custom "white list" to override the filter if you like. You
can manage settings from any Internet connection, as long as you have your computer's IP address
and your NetNanny password. Other features include chat and instant messaging filtering, multilanguage (English or Chinese) support, Email notification, the ability to set up individual accounts
for different people, and time management tools for online games. Additional installations are $25
per computer.
Of course, the drawback to any filtering solution is that it can gum up computer and Internet
performance because a login is required, and every incoming or outgoing URL request or message
must pass through the filter. Yet according to press materials, this edition of Net Nanny is
"approximately 400% faster at dynamic contextual filtering than previous versions" — a claim we
did not test. Also, keep in mind that nearly every mainstream search engine, such as Google, Yahoo,
or MSN, has a "safe search" option already, which filters results for free. Of course, this can be
disabled by any child with the ability to adjust your preferences. You've probably already figured
out that the Internet filtering business can be costly and complex, and it can slow performance and
erode trust. If you need a filter, Net Nanny is a viable choice.
Details: ContentWatch, Inc., Price: $50/year. Ages: NA. Platform:
Windows. Teaches/Purpose: an Internet filter and management utility . Entry date: 9/6/2005.
PagePlus X3: Publisher Professional
This desktop publishing system for Windows allows you to create publications such as
brochures or newsletters. According to the PR materials, it features "an intuitive interface, layout
assistants and tutorials and interactive help to guide you regardless of your level of experience."
You can import files from PDFs or PhotoShop. A Logo Studio includes 2,500 logo templates and clip
art images.
Details: Serif, Inc., Price: $100. Ages: 10-up. Platform: Windows.
Teaches/Purpose: desktop publishing. Entry date: 7/9/2008.
Paws & Claws
This latest version of Pet Vet lets you open your veterinarian practice in Australia. You start
by creating and customizing your character with different outfits. You will travel the Outback in
your SUV and encounter animals including dingos, koala bears, and kangaroos. You can use your
virtual PDA to track animal records and treatments for the different animals. You will develop and
run your own clinic, earning money to expand and grow by building guest houses and arranging
safaris. The game also features a daily gamekeeper who will help you learn your job, report where
sick animals have been sighted, and help stay you on task.
Details: Valusoft, Price: $15. Ages: 8-up. Platform: Windows.
Teaches/Purpose: health, logic, mathematics, planning, problem solving, economics, money. Entry
date: 7/17/2008.
AUGUST 1, 2008
Petz Crazy Monkeyz
Coming October 2008, this is another pet simulation program for the Wii; one of nearly a
dozen new children's titles from Ubisoft for the Wii or DS. It is interesting to note that the PC
platform was avoided this year.
The controls are similar to the other Petz programs. In order to keep your monkeys happy,
you need to give them food, attention and toys. You can have up to 10 monkeys on the screen at
once, and it is possible to unlock additional toys or clothing items. The monkeys never die, but they
do have babies (a window pops up that says "you have a baby monkey"). See also Petz Monkeyz
House for the Nintendo DS.
Other children's titles to be released this fall include Imagine Dream Weddings, Imagine
Movie Star, Imagine Babysitter, Imagine Teacher, Imagine Wedding Designer, Ener-G Horse Riders,
Ener-G Gym Rockets, Energ-G Dance Squad, Party Babyz Wii, My SAT Coach, My Secret World,
My Stop Smoking Coach with Allen Carr, Petz Catz Clan, Petz Dogz Pack, Petz Horseshoe Ranch,
Petz Monkeyz House and Petz Sports.
Details: Ubisoft, Inc., Price: $call. Ages: 4-8. Platform: Wii.
Teaches/Purpose: a life simulation, some creativity. Entry date: 7/30/2008.
Petz Dogz Fashion
Further defining the Nintendog's concept (but not as high in quality), this Nintendo DS game
lets you choose your favorite breed of puppy including Labrador Retrievers, Chihuahuas, Mini
Dachshunds, Toy Poodles, Boston Terriers, Shibas, and Corgis. You can then dress them up with
400 fashion accessories, including hats, shirts, pants, and shoes, and enter them in a show. There are
16 mini-games in both single and multiplayer modes — including soccer, catch, and jump rope.
Details: Ubisoft, Inc., Price: $30. Ages: 6-up. Platform: Nintendo DS.
Teaches/Purpose: creativity, a life simulation. Entry date: 6/24/2008.
PhotoPlus X2: Digital Studio
Can't afford PhotoShop? This Windows-based package is designed for digital photographers
in search of basic photo effects, Web graphics, textile patterns. The program features a makeover
studio which allows you to remove common imperfections. Tools let you adjust lighting, distortion,
sharpening and texture, all done with layers so you can apply effects to photos without affecting the
underlying image. Work is compatible with Adobe Photoshop PSD, and works with Photoshop
Details: Serif, Inc., Price: $80. Ages: 12-up. Platform: Windows.
Teaches/Purpose: digital image editing. Entry date: 7/9/2008.
PixelJunk Eden
If you could step inside a lava lamp, you sort of get the idea of this exotic title full of
constantly growing plant-like art, designed exclusively for the PlayStation 3's clear, 1080 pixel
format. You steer a small creature called a “Grimp” (from “grip” and “jump”) to a world full of
color and sound. By smashing into things, you release batches of pollen that can help the more alien
plants change and grow. As they develop, players can leap, swing and soar between the swaying
branches to gather bundles of energy and light before the time available runs out.
This is the third game in Q-Games’ PixelJunk series, which blends simple, addictive gameplay
with crisp and attractive graphics. There's a bit of a learning curve, so if children are involved be
prepared to lend a helping hand. There are 10 stages of content, with Japanese music composed by
Baiyon. Game features include organic growth animations for each plant and both six-axis and
rumble support, depending on the type of controller you have. Remote play is supported with the
PSP system. Note that full HD 1080p requires an HDMI cable and a 1080p native display with an
HDMI input supporting HDCP. Created by Q-Games for Sony Computer Entertainment America
Details: Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., Price: $call.
Ages: 6-up. Platform: PlayStation 3. Teaches/Purpose: creativity, timing, strategy. Entry date:
AUGUST 1, 2008
Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party
The zany antics for Rayman (Ubisoft's rabbit) continue, with this competitive party game for 1
-4 players, coming Fall 2008 for the Wii. In order to win a TV game show, you are asked to test
your skill in about 65 short minigames. Some of these are very innovative, such as a sledding game
in which you sit on the Wii Balance Board, steering by shifting your weight. Ubisoft PR proudly is
calling this "the first video game that you control with your butt." While only one player can do
this at a time, the others can use their Wii controllers to throw snowballs at the sledder, keeping
everyone involved. Another game lets you dance, cheer leading style, using the Wii Remote and
Nunchuk (required) to match the music on the screen. This title looks like it will be a lot of fun.
Details: Ubisoft, Inc., Price: $call. Ages: 6-up. Platform: Wii.
Teaches/Purpose: movement, gross motor coordination. Entry date: 7/16/2007.
Rock Band Track Pack: Volume 1
This new edition of Rock Band allows users of Rock Band to expand their musical library with
20 new songs including: Move Along - All American Rejects; Truckin' - Grateful Dead; Gimme
Three Steps - Lynyrd Skynrd; and Siva - Smashing Pumpkins. All songs utilize the original master
recordings. It features the same modes as the original, including Solo and Band Tour Modes,
Quickplay, Tug of War, Score Dual and song unlock progression.
Details: Harmonix Music Systems, Inc., Price: $30. Ages: 10-up.
Platform: Wii, PlayStation 2. Teaches/Purpose: cooperative learning, timing, rock music, timing,
temporal relations, fine motor skills, pitch, rhythm. Entry date: 7/29/2008.
Samba De Amigo
Video game historians, take note. One of the first rhythm games is back. Originally designed
for the Sega Dreamcast game system, Samba De Amigo is described as "a party in a box" for one to
two players. The original shakers have been replaced with the Wii controls. In other words, you
hold the Wii Remote in one hand, and the Nunchuk in the other to try to match the beat to 40 songs,
set in zany sets.
There are two-player competitive and co-op multiplayer modes — using the Wii’s online
capabilities — which can also be used to download new songs. You can use either a Wii Remote
and a Nunchuk, or two Wii Remotes for untethered freedom (the cord can become annoying). There
are multiple game modes including Career, Single-Player, Multiplayer, Training, and Records. High
scores can be saved online. Created by Gearbox for Sega, coming September 23, 2008.
Details: Sega of America, Price: $call. Ages: 7-up. Platform: Wii.
Teaches/Purpose: music, beat, gross motor coordination, rhythm. Entry date: 7/30/2008.
Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Colonization
Utilizing the Civilization IV engine, Colonization is a new edition of the original 1994 turnbased game of the same name. In this edition, players guide one of four European nations in
conquering the New World and lead that new nation toward eventual freedom and independence.
This version will not require Civilization IV to play; this is not an expansion pack. Note that the
history in these games is fictionalized, but the core ideas of imperialism are valid. There's a lot of
logic and problem solving required to play this game.
Features include a “just one more turn” gameplay, new graphics and a new interface,
improved diplomacy options, and the ability to modify levels. Visit
Details: 2K Games, Price: $call. Ages: 10-up. Platform: Windows.
Teaches/Purpose: strategy, history. Entry date: 6/9/2008.
AUGUST 1, 2008
Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution
This is the first edition of the Sid Meier's Civilization series (started in 1991) to run on game
consoles (PS3 and XBox 360). Note that you'll want to have a large 16:9 screen in order to play this
game, which has a new look and feel from the original Windows-based version. Also, don't confuse
this edition with a similarly-timed Windows remake of the Civilization game, called Sid Meier’s
Civilization IV: Colonization.
In this edition, you choose from 16 civilizations inspired from real history, and try to lead
them to victory over the others. Leaders include fictionalized versions of Abraham Lincoln, Otto
von Bismarck and Mao Tse-Tung. Keep in mind that the history depicted in these games is largely
pretend, and time periods are blurred, although many of the key ideas of colonization are valid and
can get children thinking and talking about key ideas like "who was Abraham Lincoln?". Also,
winning the game requires an application of higher level thinking abilities, including negotiation
and strategic thinking (like chess).
Each time you defeat a rival civilization you can add an exhibit to your Hall of Achievements.
You can combine up to three units into one army. As your units win battles, they become veterans
and can win upgrades for more strength. With Xbox Live and PSN (PlayStation Network), up to
four players can battle as teams, head to head, or in a free-for-all online. Developed by Firaxis
Games for 2K Games. Visit ( for more information. See also
Microsoft's Age of Empires.
Details: 2K Games, Price: $60. Ages: 10-up. Platform: Xbox 360,
PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS. Teaches/Purpose: history, logic, planning, creativity. Entry date:
Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution (DS)
This Nintendo DS version of Sid Meier's famous fictional history strategy game (www. allows players to take their game on road. The game is designed for one
to four players, using either local wireless mode or Wi-Fi. Content includes 16 civilizations — much
like the console version of the game — and units can be upgraded with victories. The touch-screen
controls allow you to move squads, delegate tasks with a tap, and build civilizations using a
combination of the stylus and the buttons. There are guided tutorials.
Details: 2K Games, Price: $30. Ages: 10-up. Platform: Nintendo DS.
Teaches/Purpose: history, logic, planning, creativity. Entry date: 7/18/2008.
Star Wars Force Unleashed
Featuring new levels of graphic detail and plenty of battle opportunities, this
action/adventure game lets players become Darth Vader's secret apprentice, in a story that falls
between Episode III and IV.
Every year, LucasArts talks up the new techniques they use when they design games, and this
year ('08) was no different. According to PR materials, the game has "digital molecular matter,"
"euphoria" and "havok physics" to "bring a new level of realism to the latest game consoles." So
wood breaks like wood, glass shatters like glass and so on. If you like Star Wars, is it likely that this
Teen rated fighting game will put you in the middle of the battle. More information is at www.
Details: LucasArts, Price: $50. Ages: 10-up. Platform: PlayStation 2,
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, PSP. Teaches/Purpose: fighting, timing, logic. Entry date:
AUGUST 1, 2008
Teachermate Computer
About the size of a deck of cards, the Teachermate is a (4 x 3 inch) handheld computer with an
SD card slot, 512 MB internal memory, and rechargable batteries — with a lifespan of 3.5 hours. The
controls consist of a D-pad (with direction keys) and an input button, plus three color-coded answer
input keys for multiple choice inputs.
We were less-than-impressed by the pre-installed reading and math curriculum, but did not
spend enough time with any given lesson to assign a rating. According to the publisher, content is
aligned with major reading and math programs, and includes a library of leveled readers.
By attaching the device to a regular computer using the USB cord, teachers can assign a level
for each student, and then the student can choose a book within his/her level. You can also upgrade
the software or change options, such as setting the time for how long a student can do a reading
These are all great ideas, although we're not sure how well they are implemented in this case.
An extra synch and storage case enables a teacher to quickly charge all of the computers at the same
time and synch all the student score data to a single computer. All activities are offered in Spanish
and English. While the idea is good, be careful before you commit large sums of money in this
Details: Innovations for Learning, Price: $50. Ages: 5-7.
Platform: Smart Toy. Teaches/Purpose: math, reading. Entry date: 4/1/2008.
Tuttles, The: Madcap Misadventures
This is an arcade-style game about a family trying to bond on a roadtrip to the Alamo. Players
must use logic and quick reactions to negotiate the obstacles along the way. It features 40 levels of
side-scrolling action, as well as comic book style cut scenes featuring the voices of actors including
Bob Saget, Jamie Lee Curtis, and William Shatner. Each character in the Tuttles family has unique
skills. Developed by Legacy Interactive, Divo Games and Animax. See http://www.
Details: Legacy Interactive, Price: $20. Ages: 12-up. Platform:
Windows. Teaches/Purpose: logic. Entry date: 4/2/2008.
Ultimate Band
Think "Rock Band" or "Guitar Hero" without the instruments, and you have the idea of this
band sim, designed to work with the Wii's motion-based controls instead of plug in instruments. A
version for the DS is also available with different features.
As the music plays, you move the controller to match the elements the song, desplayed in
scrolling fashion on the screen. You can play guitar, drums, bass. The music list is more diverse
than the typical Guitar Hero title titles reflecting "music for everyone" including, of course, Disney
In the Wii version, you live the life of a rock star by advancing your careers and popularity
from playing in a neighborhood garage to performing in front of an international audience,
unlocking new songs and equipment along the way. The DS version includes a recording studio,
where players can play along with the current songs using the drums, lead guitar, bass guitar, or
rhythm guitar, or create their own original songs using the DS touchscreen and stylus. The DS
version includes game sharing features, through DGamer (Disney's new game sharing system). The
title is being produced by Disney's Fall Line Studio and by Radial Music, a London-based studio.
Details: Disney Interactive, Inc., Price: $call. Ages: 8-up. Platform: Wii,
Nintendo DS. Teaches/Purpose: Music, rhythm. Entry date: 2/27/2008.
Ultimate I Spy (Wii)
According to press materials, this new twist on I Spy puzzles will include "3D puzzle screens,
paddleball, and 40 riddles." You'll be able to look under or around objects for clues. A playroom
contains 10 mini-games, with darts, drums or tops to spin. Coming late October 2008.
Details: Scholastic, Inc., Price: $40. Ages: 7-10. Platform: Wii.
Teaches/Purpose: classification, visual relationships, language, rhythms, poetry. Entry date:
AUGUST 1, 2008
Ultimate Wall-E
Coming this fall from Thinkway Toys, this movie-inspired Robot has 10 motors and a remote
control, so you can drive around the room. A touch-pad lets you program movements in advance.
There's voice activation and a follow-me mode (so the robot can follow a voice), and there are
several emotional states that can be set in advance. Sensors include sound, motion (infrared) and
touch. An MP3 player mode lets you play music through his built-in speakers. USB cables and
rechargeable batteries are included.
Details: Disney Interactive, Inc., Price: $200. Ages: 6-up. Platform: Smart
Toy. Teaches/Purpose: robotics, limited programming. Entry date: 7/18/2008.
UltiMotion Swing Zone Sports
Still can't get a Wii? Here's a geared-down option for your TV that removes Nintendo from the
equation. UltiMotion Swing Zone Sports ( comes with five sports games and
a motion sensing controller that resembles a pint-sized Wii Remote. While the remote has an
accelerometer that can detect the timing of your swing or throw, it can't detect the speed or position
of your motion, leaving seasoned Wii Sports players grumbling.
The battery-powered receiver (4 AAs, plus 2 AAAs for the remote) plugs into the A/V jacks of
your TV. Turn it on to see an offering of five sports — bowling, baseball, football, tennis and golf —
each with an accompanying snap-on accessory designed to accommodate the motion sensor in the
handle. Testers (seasoned Wii sports players) complained that the timing is not even comparable to
the Wii, and noted that the graphics look dated; they're out of a '90's arcade. But getting started is
incredibly simple, and the process of hitting home runs or sinking puts is rather addicting.
There's no auto-off mode in the receiver; so if the kids leave the receiver on, they'll come back
to four dead AA batteries. One tester, age 9, couldn't figure out how to turn off the receiver (you
press the long LED on the front, which is not obvious). While you can choose between a male or
female lead character, you aren't given any choice over the look of the avatar. Created by
Superhappyfunfun for Jakks Pacific.
Details: Jakks Pacific, Inc., Price: $80. Ages: 4-up. Platform: TV game.
Teaches/Purpose: sports, gross motor coordination. Entry date: 5/30/2008.
V.Smile Cyber Pocket
This year's version of the V.Smile Pocket features a compact, flip-up high resolution screen
and touch pad for use with a tethered stylus. Other new features include a microphone and a V.
Link port -- designed to accommodate V.Tech's special USB storage device, allowing the transfer of
information (such as a child's scores) to the Internet through your Windows computer. Of course,
the V.Link features are all optional -- you don't need a computer to use this device.
While the body is slightly smaller than the previous model and it feels easier to hold, the
screen is a step backward. Because it is significantly smaller than original V.Smile pocket (3 inches
vs. 4 inches) and offers no better resolution, it is one of those rare events in technology gadgetry
where things are actually getting less powerful. This is a minor issue -- it is still easy to see and hear
games. The innovative controls still can be reversed for left or right handed users. Other standard
features include a headphone jack, and an A/V port, allowing you to port the graphics and sounds
through your TV screen.
Details: VTech Electronics North America, Price: $70. Ages: 5-up.
Platform: V.Smile. Teaches/Purpose: math, reading, phonics, problem solving. Entry date:
Viva Pinata Pocket Paradise
This XBox 360 game will now be available on Nintendo DS, as of Fall 2008. We had a
demonstration at E3, and noted that it seemed easier to use due to the touch screen, but still need to
confirm this with more testing. We did note that reading was required in order to use the dialog
Based on the Fox Kids TV show, this edition lets you create and explore a garden that grows
Piñatas. The idea is that with care, you can grow more Piñatas, and that they will reproduce.
Content includes 60 piñatas, including seven new species and missions based on the TV shows. Key
features include the ability to transfer items or piñatas from one DS to another using the wireless
connect (a second copy of the game is required). Created by Rare for THQ.
Details: THQ, Inc., Price: $call. Ages: 6-up. Platform: Nintendo DS.
Teaches/Purpose: creativity, logic. Entry date: 7/17/2008.
AUGUST 1, 2008
We Love Golf!
This game for the Wii utilizes the Wii Remote's motion-sensing function, allowing you to
swing the remote as you would a golf club. Players can choose their clubs, line up shots, swing and
even add fade or draw with a flick of their wrist. Players must gauge wind conditions, choose clubs
carefully, and read the green correctly in order to perform the best shots. The game features both
single player and multiplayer modes for up to four players. You can also play online using the WiFi connection for two players in Friend Play or World Play. In addition, the game features different
game modes including tournament, character matches, stroke play, and mini-games. Each course
features it's own unique obstacles, and players can unlock additional courses as well as characters
by playing through the different game modes. You can also unlock costumes for your characters,
including Capcom-theme outfits such as Apollo Justice, Arthur and Chun-Li. Developed in
partnership with Camelot Software Planning.
Details: Capcom Entertainment, Inc., Price: $50. Ages: 7-up. Platform: Wii.
Teaches/Purpose: golf. Entry date: 7/17/2008.
WebPlus X2: Website Maker
"Design your own website without having to learn HTML code" is what it says on the box of
this utility, being marketed to educators. The package includes built-in multimedia and Web 2.0
support for adding Flash animations, videos, blogs and podcasts, and integrated e-commerce which
allows schools to create a fully transactional Web site.
Details: Serif, Inc., Price: $80. Ages: 12-up. Platform: Windows.
Teaches/Purpose: webiste maker. Entry date: 7/9/2008.
Wii MotionPlus
Few would argue that the Nintendo Wii's motion sensing controllers, with their tiny hidden
accelerometers, are pretty amazing. But could they be better? Nintendo seems to think so, at least
for tasks like wood chopping, sword fighting or Frisbee throwing; tasks that require the direct
mapping of your arms speed and position with an on-screen avatar.
The solution? The Wii MotionPlus, a matchbox-sized attachment that plugs into the end of the
Wii remote, designed to "more quickly and accurately reflect motions in a 3-D space" according to
PR materials. There are no extra batteries; the device draws power from the Wii Remote, and it also
works with the existing accelerometers and sensor bar to more accurately track arm position.
We're not too sure how the thing works, but we did try it "first hand" (pun intended) to throw
a Frisbee, and it did seem a bit better than the regular Wii remote. When I attempted a behind the
back throw, the device accurately mapped a nose-dive. Wii Motion Plus will be bundled with Wii
Sports Resort; both arrive in the Spring of 2009.
Details: Nintendo of America, Price: $call. Ages: 3-up. Platform: Wii.
Teaches/Purpose: movement, physical education, gross motor movement. Entry date: 7/30/2008.
Wii Sports Resort
When the Wii first shipped, in November of 2006, it came with a copy of Wii Sports, with
addicting versions of tennis, bowling and boxing that people grew to love; and associated with the
Wii itself.
This second title in the Wii Sports franchise, Wii Sports Resort expands on this idea, and
comes bundled with the Wii MotionPlus attachment, that snaps into the end of the Wii Remote, and
expands the motions sensing abilities. According to PR materials, the device "provides smoother
mapping between your actual motions and the movements of your on-screen avatar." Nintendo
calls it the most "responsive and realistic experience possible," but we didn't notice much difference
between it and the regular Wii controls. Perhaps it is 5% better? Hard to tell.
Designed for one to four players and due early 2009, Wii Sports Resort takes place on a
tropical island with beach games like wood chopping, jet ski racing, sword fighting and Frisbee
throwing. Perhaps that's where Nintendo designers have been spending some time, due to the
success of the first Wii Sports title.
Details: Nintendo of America, Price: $call. Ages: 5-up. Platform: Wii.
Teaches/Purpose: sports, grows motor coordination, timing. Entry date: 7/30/2008.
AUGUST 1, 2008
Wonder World Amusement Park
Thirty unlockable mini-games for the Wii can be found in this 3D amusement park, with five
themed zones (Carnival, Spookyville, Fairytale, Pirate and Space). The quality varies considerably
in each activity, but in general, the games are fast and fun — thanks to the Wii's controls. You use
your Wii Remote and Nunchuk (required) to throw, draw, shoot, and shake your way to the prizes.
Rides include Bumper Cars, Pirate Ship, Tunnel of Love, Sky Cannon, and Castle Terror. There are
three modes of play including a Story Mode (single-player mode where you navigate the theme
park, play games, and win prizes); Quick Play (multi-player for one to four players); and Party
Mode (turn-based multiplayer game for two to four players).
Details: Majesco Entertainment, Price: $40. Ages: 6-up.
Platform: Wii. Teaches/Purpose: timing, gross motor coordination, some reading. Entry date:
Zoo Hospital
In this one-player Nintendo DS veterinarian simulation, players take on the role of an intern
for the summer at a clinic where they treat a variety of exotic zoo animals — including eagles,
kangaroos, jaguars and zebras. In order to succeed, you must interpret body language, soothe
animals, perform examinations using the touch screen and use the stylus in medical mini games to
treat illnesses, administer injections, apply ointment, pull teeth, remove deadly microbes and X-ray
organs. The game starts with 10 animals, and players can unlock another 30. There is also a twoplayer cooperative mode. Reading is required. Developed by Torus Games for Majesco.
Details: Majesco Entertainment, Price: $30. Ages: 8-up.
Platform: Nintendo DS. Teaches/Purpose: science, biology, reading. Entry date: 7/16/2007.
Zoo Tycoon 2 DS
In Zoo Tycoon 2 DS, players can experience new exotic animals and environments. The game
features three different modes of play that allow players to layout and customize their zoo as Zoo
Designer, maximize its financial success as Zoo Director, or interact and care for their animals as
Zookeeper. Players use the touch screen and stylus to construct their zoo, purchase animals, and
design exhibits. Players can all exchange zoo data and compete with friends wirelessly using DS
multi-card play.
Details: THQ, Inc., Price: $30. Ages: 8-up. Platform: Nintendo DS.
Teaches/Purpose: Economics, balancing a budget, managing resources, Science, maintaining life,
ecosystems, reading. Entry date: 2/8/2008.