Software Review: 'Lassie and Friends'

None of Lassie's grand history appears in this computer game, which gives more time to a dozen other types of dogs.

Lassie 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Lassie 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli kids who see a collie dog will inevitably call it a "Lassie," even though they have no clue that the fictional canine character first appeared in the short story Lassie Come Home, written by British-American author Eric Knight and published in the Saturday Evening Post magazine in 1938. Two years later, it was expanded into a novel and in 1943 into the first movie. The Lassie TV Show was short lived but was followed by another TV program, Lassie, broadcast in the US between 1954 to 1973. The legendary female collie - played for generations by males because they don't lose their fur and are large enough to play their role opposite a child actor without being quickly outgrown - continues to make personal appearances. One of only a handful of fictional animal characters to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Lassie was promoted as an almost-human collie with incredible intelligence who always helped her owners get out of trouble. But none of all this grand history appears in this computer game, which gives more time to a dozen other types of dogs, from poodle and pug to Rottweiler and beagle. There are six activities, and none breaks any new ground. In one, which requires players to identify a breed of dog by its picture, players aren't even taught the names of the varieties in the highest level; only at the lowest level are you introduced to them. But this section does provide background on the dogs' physical characteristics and history. There are also dog photo puzzles to piece together and a maze through which you take Lassie by capturing keys to get through gates. Another activity requires kids to lower and raise the collie as she runs to avoid dog catchers or earn a steak or dog biscuit. A memory game requires clicking on a window to display an adult dog and another with a puppy of the same breed. A "creativity center" offers Lassie pictures that can be enhanced by choosing "stationery," sentences, numbers and stickers - all of which can be printed out as greeting cards. But none of this does justice to the brave, beautiful dog that we remember from our childhoods. Lassie and Friends (Lassie Vehaverim), a CD-ROM by Classic Media, dubbed into Hebrew by Compedia, requires Windows XP and up and an 800 Mhz PC, for ages four to nine, NIS 80. Rating: ***