Arthur: Tzvai'm Vetzurot (Colors and Shapes), a CD-ROM in Hebrew by Pecan Games, distributed by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows 98 and a Pentium III PC or better, for ages three to five, NIS 80
Rating: ** 1/2
Arthur: Shoneh Vedomeh (Different and Similar), a CD-ROM in Hebrew by Pecan Games, distributed by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows 98 and a Pentium III PC or better, for ages four to five, NIS 80
Rating: ** 1/2
How many children do you know who don't recognize various colors and haven't learned the difference between a triangle and a square? Not very many, as they learn these basic things from their parents, in preschool or from TV. Do we need computer games to teach these concepts?
Certainly, they don't hurt. Given the decline in the number of educational games released in Israel (and the stress put on often-violent strategy and action games for teenage boys and adults) - and if they are innovative, interesting and graphically exciting - such kids' games should be welcomed. But don't expect much from this series, especially if your preschoolers are fans of Arthur - hero of the children's book series written and illustrated by Marc Brown and the Children's Channel series starring Arthur Reed. Arthur is an eight-year-old aardvark. In nature, this creature is a medium-sized mammal native to Africa whose name name comes from the Afrikaans/Dutch for "earth pig" (even though it is related to the anteater rather than the pig).
This anthropomorphic aardvark has small, standup ears, wears glasses, lives in the fictional town of Elwood City and is the star of this didactic Pecan Games series of seven disks - which also includes games to teach the Hebrew alphabet and basic English, arithmetic and Hebrew words. The Israeli company translated the original series, produced by the Marc Brown studios. Few children here or in America know what an aardvark is, and Brown himself caused the character to evolve from having a large pointy nose in the first book to a smaller one today.
But there is nothing about Arthur's aardvarkishness or his personality in these games, which also stars his sister Gali (the names of the sisters in the original books are Dora, Winfred and Kate, but these are not suited to Israeli ears). Each of the programs has only six activities that can be played on one, two or three levels of difficulty. None of the games is original, as these activities have been seen in numerous children's games before.
The Colors and Shapes game presents Arthur working in a bakery. Cheese, chocolate, strawberry and orange cakes appear on a shelf, and edible ornaments of four colors appear in jars on the shelf. Players are asked just to click on a cake requested by the narrator and then on the right sprinkles. In the next activity, one has to maneuver Arthur on a skateboard, pressing the arrow keys so he can avoid being hit head-on by bonfires, tires, soda cans and bottles. Another activity sends a basketball, marked with an object, flying above the heads of four characters, and you have to click the suitable one that matches that figure on a character so it can bounce the ball.
In another activity, click on a shadow whose shape corresponds with a colored object and vice versa. Yet another activity presents an object in mosaic form that has to be copied by dragging squares, triangles, circles and rectangles to the right place. The final activity, a version of Tetris, requires you to click arrow keys to position falling objects in the right columns.
The Different and Similar game puts Arthur on skis instead of a skateboard; another activity presents a figure dressed in odd pieces of clothing that gradually disappear and whose garb you are supposed to reconstitute from memory. Others require the choice of objects on cards that do not belong with the others and another one is a Tetris-type game.
Both of the disks have 10 worksheets, based on the regular activities, that can be printed out and colored in or played. That makes up a little for the very lean challenges posed by the Arthur series. Parents should consider buying the Arthur books instead; a couple of them will cost the same as one game and leave you with change.