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Kids' Software

Logical Choices for Children

* An investigation is at heart of 'Freddi Fish,' while activities push 'Franklin the Turtle.'

July 12, 2001|JINNY GUDMUNDSEN | jinny@choosingchildrenssoftware.com

A gumshoe fish and a friendly turtle are happenin' wizards of logic for young children. Freddi Fish, a beloved sleuth in children's software and seller of more than 3 million software titles, has found another mystery to solve in "Freddi Fish 5: The Case of the Creature of Coral Cove."

In "Franklin the Turtle: Clubhouse Adventures," Franklin, the irrepressible turtle found in children's books and featured in a Nick Jr. television show, leads children through a series of thinking activities.

The logic presented by "Franklin" is more academic than that found in "Freddi Fish 5," but it is less compelling. Here's a closer look at what these two titles have to offer.

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'Freddi Fish 5: The Case of the Creature of Coral Cove'

Little girl fish Freddi and her best guppy-pal, Luther, decide to check out the new park at Coral Cove. Upon arriving, they discover that the mayor of Coral Cove has closed the park because of mysterious "monster sightings."

Freddi and Luther decide to investigate this mystery, and so begins this fifth underwater Freddi caper. Children sleuth with Freddi by controlling her movements as she investigates the 35 or more scenes.

Everywhere Freddi goes, she meets new characters. By talking with and helping these characters, Freddi obtains clues and information that helps her to solve the mystery. As with all Freddi titles, there is more to this mystery than what appears on the surface. The farther down you swim, the more you discover, including the fact that there is a sea monster, whose habitat is being threatened by the opening of the park.

Freddi's detective work is complicated and requires logical thinking. To move the story line forward, Freddi and Luther have to acquire a lot of information and then remember where objects and people are located in the game. They need to think creatively to figure out what objects can help a particular character.

For example, at one point in the game, Donna, the Claw Machine Repair Person, tells Freddi that she needs her lost charm bracelet because it has a screwdriver on it that she uses to fix the Claw Game. To help her, players need to find a bag of Planktos in one part of the game and then take it to the vicious jawfish's lair. The jawfish is fiercely guarding the bracelet, and he can be drawn out only if players figure out how to place Planktos in a certain order on various mounds of sand.

The graphics in this game are richly drawn with vibrant colors. Freddi and Luther are wonderful companions because they are funny and supportive. Players will hear dialogue such as: "You are so eFISHent" and several other puns that will elicit groans from parents and belly laughs from kids.

The logic learned in this game comes about naturally, by simply playing the game and solving the mystery. This is the kind of game that intrigues children--you will find them thinking about it even when they are not at the computer. The software comes with more than one game path, so children can play it more than once.

Freddi Fish 5 is edutainment at its best. As you plan your summer fun, make sure to take your kids swimming with Freddi Fish!

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'Franklin the Turtle: Clubhouse Adventures'

Although the title calls this an "adventure," this software is really a series of activities to explore with Franklin and his friends in their outdoor clubhouse. In the clubhouse, children find six activities by clicking on things that sparkle.

The tent leads to a traditional "find the differences" activity in which children are shown two pictures that are almost the same. They click on all of the differences that keep the pictures from being identical.

At the sandbox, children meet Snail, who has found some dinosaur bones buried in the sand. Children put together the bones to make a dinosaur. An old box cut out to look like a castle turret leads to a traditional hide-and-seek game.

There also are patterns to re-create to make friendship bracelets, posters to plan and paper boats to navigate to reach color-matching ports that lie across a stream full of floating obstacles.

Other than the poster activity, each activity has three levels of difficulty. By playing them, children win badges to collect in an on-screen Scrapbook. There also are projects for children and adults to do together off the computer.

This software offers six (and only six) solid activities. But don't expect ones that are different or inventive. Franklin and his friends are sweet and supportive; but unlike "Freddi Fish 5," there is no story to keep children entertained as they play. The logic here is direct: Children play an activity that gets harder on higher levels. Because of the small number of activities, this title has limited replay value.

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Jinny Gudmundsen is editor of Choosing Children's Software magazine.

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The Skinny

*

"Freddi Fish 5: The Case of the Creature of Coral Cove"

Price: $20

Ages: 4 to 8

Platform: PC/Mac

System requirements: On the PC, a Pentium 133 MHz or higher with 32 MB of RAM and 20 MB of available hard disk space. On the Mac, a 132-MHz Power PC with 32 MB of RAM and 20 MB of available hard disk space.

Publisher: Humongous Entertainment

The good: Teaches logical thinking as children play

The bad: Nothing

Bottom line: A terrific mystery adventure

*

"Franklin the Turtle: Clubhouse Adventures"

Price: $20

Ages: 4 to 7

Platform: PC/Mac

System requirements: On the PC, a Pentium 133 MHz with 32 MB of RAM and 50 MB of available hard disk space. On the Mac, a Power PC 120 MHz or higher with 12 MB of RAM and 50 MB of available hard disk space.

Publisher: Knowledge Adventure

The good: Six solid thinking activities

The bad: No story line and limited replay

Bottom line: Good logic activities with Franklin the Turtle

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