Fischer-Price introduces many of their well known real-world toys in a whole new way with Learning in Toyland. Although the activities could be said to be marketing tools for the company--inevitably extending the Fischer-Price brand with this game--it is done in a tactful, totally unobtrusive manner. In fact, the clear semblance to toys one can find at a toy store adds an instant familiarity to the game environment for those who have (or long for) the real-world equivalent toys.
For the most part, the program fits the age group perfectly. However, there are times when a child would be confused unless they already knew how to spell. For example, when you choose to quit, the gopher asks if you really want to quit and holds up two signs; yes and no. But there are no verbal cues or animated actions to differentiate them, unlike many other preschool edutainment products on the market.
Let such minor oversights be ignored; this is a exceptional game for preschoolers and kindergarten-aged kids. The parent will be happy because the kids are indeed being taught certain rudimentary skills--not unlike those they learn in preschool and kindergarten--such as visual discrimination, problem solving, completing tasks, following directions, deciphering codes, matching, creativity, telling time, number and letter recognition, shape and animal sound recognition, and basic computer mouse skills. The kids will be happy, because it's a fun way to express themselves on a rainy day.
These computer versions of their real-life cousins go far beyond expectations. For example, the Big Action Garage looks just like the plastic parking garage with ramps and cranks that many kids today have. But here, a kid can actually assemble and disassemble the car, adding new parts and creating a whole new interactive vehicle. And there are no small parts to choke on! The developers, Funnybone Interactive, have built plenty of fun surprises and given intelligent attention to detail. For example, in the kitchen center, you not only get to make, decorate, and bake your own cookies, but you get to feed the cookies you made to the game characters who, of course, absolutely love your recipes, and tell you so in no uncertain terms.
There is a surprisingly intuitive as-you-go help dialogue from the narrating characters, Gotcha Gopher and Bippity Bug that understands when kids are not grasping the game objectives and serves up different sound bytes to guide them into other options. Geared toward the parents, the written instruction manual is a good one. It could however benefit from the extra educational advice and real-world support activities that many such games include.
Ultimately, Learning in Toyland empowers kids, giving them control over their environment, encouraging them to try out new skills with computers. It's an excellent introduction to computers for pre-schoolers and offers effective early learning skills for kindergarten-aged kids. A good investment.
Graphics: A preschool color palette of primary colors in pastel tones is not only perfect for the target audience, but is reminiscent of the Fisher-Price toys that each activity imitates. A bit more could have been done with the animation.
Sound: Much creativity and detail. Each tool and its subsequent action has a unique sound suprise. Quality of dialogue clips are excellent. Verbal instructions are concise and clear.
Enjoyment: For a pre-schooler or kindergarten student, this well-targeted game is tons of fun, encouraging creativity and building computer confidence.
Replay Value: My kids continue to return to this game upon occasion, even though they've moved beyond its targeted age range.
People who downloaded Fisher-Price Learning in Toyland have also downloaded:
Fisher-Price Great Adventures Pirate Ship, Fisher-Price Dream Doll House, Fisher-Price Great Adventures: Wild Western Town, Fisher-Price Great Adventures: Castle, JumpStart 1st Grade, Freddi Fish and the Case of the Missing Kelp Seeds, Freddi Fish 2: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse, Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell
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