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Kids' Software

Scaring Up Some Fun

Five games based on 'Monsters, Inc.' let children work and play with Sulley and Mike.

January 17, 2002|JINNY GUDMUNDSEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Disney Interactive has spun out five computer software titles from its movie "Monsters, Inc."

"Monsters, Inc. Scream Team Training" and "Monsters, Inc. Scare Island" are well-crafted titles that are definitely worth exploring. The other three, however, are just undistinguished arcade games.

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"Monsters, Inc. Scream Team Training"

This activity-based software for children ages 5 to 9 continues the delightful creativity that is characteristic of the movie. Disney has developed 10 activities that stay true to the theme of the movie while challenging young children to think. This fun thinking occurs when children "punch in" at Monsters, Inc. as a new employee.

Players choose one of six different monsters. Roz, the sneering slug-shaped mistress of Monsters, Inc.'s paperwork, conducts a short orientation. She explains that by working hard, players can progress through 10 jobs in hopes of eventually becoming a "Top Scarer."

As the low monster on this corporate ladder, a player debuts in the mailroom. The "job" is to sort mail by shape, color, numbers or a combination of similar attributes. Performing well in the mailroom opens up other job opportunities.

Children can "work" in the lunchroom where they stave off a feeding frenzy by correctly filling food trays with hungry monsters' requests. They can be promoted to the Door Vault where they direct Sulley, the "hunky" monster star of the movie, through a grid of hanging doors.

All 10 activities provide a good workout in logical thinking. They are cleverly intertwined into the world of Monsters, Inc.

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"Monsters, Inc. Scare Island"

For children 8 and up, here is an opportunity to play with Monsters, Inc. movie stars Sulley and Mike. Set as a prequel to the movie, players meet up with the scare-duo at their initial training program before they are top performers at Monsters, Inc.

The format of this software is an action game. Players take on the persona of either Sulley or Mike. At an orientation session conducted by Roz, players learn how to move, jump, break through objects, scare and attack interfering toys. To pass the training program (and win the game), players must explore 12 places on Scare Island.

In each location, players encounter troublesome toys that can zap their health, and robotic children on which to practice scaring.

To win, players earn medals based on how thoroughly they explore the environment. Scare five robotic children and you will win a bronze medal; collect 10 monster tokens and you've got yourself a silver medal.

The 3-D graphics are not the best in the industry, but they create interesting and complex environments for children to explore.

For parents concerned about violence, these monsters do wreak havoc by smashing things (usually toys or crates) but they stay true to the characters presented in the movie. Their dialogue and antics are wonderfully entertaining.

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"Wreck Room Arcade Games"

Even monsters need an arcade room in which to unwind. That is the premise for these three arcade games that are sold separately. With the characters from the movie, children can play "Bowling for Screams" (a bowling game), "Eight Ball Chaos" (a variation of pool) and "Monster Tag" (a variation of "pong"). Although these games are not expensive at $10 each, none is special.

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Jinny Gudmundsen is editor of Choosing Children's Software magazine. She can be reached at jinny@choosingchildrenssoftware .com.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

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The Skinny

"Monsters, Inc. Scream Team Training"

Price: $30

Ages: 5 to 9

Platform: PC/Mac

System requirements: On the PC, a Pentium 200 with 32 MB of RAM and 60 MB of available hard disk space. On the Mac, iMac or G3 233 with 32 MB RAM and 60 MB of available hard disk space

Publisher: Disney Interactive

The good: 10 solid thinking games

The bad: Occasional lapses in game instructions

Bottom line: Fabulous fun with the stars from "Monsters, Inc"

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"Monsters, Inc. Scare Island"

Price: $30

Ages: 8 and up

Platform: PC

System requirements: A Pentium II 266 with 32 MB of RAM and 30 MB of available hard disk space

Publisher: Disney Interactive

The good: Lots of locations to explore

The bad: Graphics are good but not great

Bottom line: Fast-paced action game that delivers roaring fun

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"Monsters, Inc. Wreck Room Arcade Games"

Price: $10 each

Ages: 5 and up

Platform: PC/Mac

System requirements: On the PC, a Pentium II 233 with 32 MB of RAM and 110 MB of available hard disk space. On the Mac, iMac or G3 233 with 32 MB RAM and 110 MB of available hard disk space

Publisher: Disney Interactive

The good: Lots to explore

The bad: Nothing new

Bottom line: Arcade games you won't miss if you skip them

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