A month ago, I had an opportunity to review a new computer game for preschoolers from Knowledge Adventure (you can see the review here). Having purchased other Knowledge Adventure games in the JumpStart series in the past, I was familiar with their work and knew it would probably be pretty good and my girls would enjoy it.
Now I’ve had a chance to check out a new game from Canadian publisher Kutoka called Didi & Ditto: Mother Nature‘s Visit (Preschool). Until now, I had never seen any of their games before, so I was curious how their approach to educational software differed from that of Knowledge Adventure.
Well, when I first installed the game, I ran into a few issues running it on one of our machines. However, Kutoka’s support staff (thanks Mathieu!) was very helpful in getting us running on a different machine. Though we’re still not quite sure what was going on, we’re confident we will get to the bottom of the issue before too long.
That said, the game installed very quickly on our other machine from the DVD in the package. And from there my daughter and I were able to start the game and work through the opening menus.
Though we liked the disappearing clouds as we worked through the menus, I have to wonder at the number of options for your usual 2-4 year old. I suspect that their thought was that a parent would be present to help them get set up, but it might still be nice to have a quickstart option to perhaps use the same settings used the last time the game was run.
The story for Didi & Ditto: Mother Nature’s Visit (Preschool) is that the animals get a message from Mother Nature announcing that she’s coming to visit Smart Valley. They want to have a celebration and decide to hold an election to choose a mayor who will plan it. Zolt the Wolf loses the election and he’s mad. To get his revenge, he breaks all the musical instruments and hide the food in an attempt to ruin the party. Zolt thinks he’ll be able to step in as the hero to save the day when Mother Nature arrives.
Didi and Ditto see Zolt’s strange behavior and one watches Zolt while the other helps Hootdini the Owl to gather everything together again. The player gets to choose whether to play the girl (Didi) or the boy (Ditto) and run around Smart Valley so that Mother Nature has a great visit.
The opening movies are interactive and allow the child to jump right in to be involved in the story. I think this is a great approach, rather than watching a long movie where they aren’t involved at all.
The game includes many different min-games, including:
- Matching Games
- Alphabet Skills
- and Sorting
The biggest difference for me between Didi & Ditto and the JumpStart game is how mousing is handled. I thought it was difficult for my 3 year old to learn to navigate with the mouse in JumpStart. Not so with Didi & Ditto. It starts building the mouse skills right from the opening sequence and it was interesting to see my daughter pick up on the subtle feedback on screen. The mouse feedback is such that it provides a nice wide target area for clicks and the color of the pointer changes when you’re on a place you can click.
Also, keyboard play was great as well. Building hand-eye coordination in the form of a very simple arcade game, she had to hit the key to make the character jump at the right time. By the end, she had it down and was enjoying herself. But it was easy to get the hang of it.
The 3D graphics for the game also have a nice clean look with lots of creative, colorful characters to interact with. And, your child can pick whether they want to play a boy or a girl. Plus, lots of positive feedback makes them feel like they’re making progress and learning all the way along.
There were a few things I didn’t really like, though my 3 year old didn’t seem to care. One was the repetitive nature of the screens. Each screen had a few things to do, and then we’d go back to the signpost, pick another destination, and repeat it for the next screen. Again, she didn’t seem to mind the reinforcement.
The other thing I noticed was that the main character seemed to talk down to the kids, which may have just been a perception issue with the slow, deliberate quality to how they were talking. But my daughter didn’t seem to mind it at all, so it’s probably just me.
The only thing that really frustrated my 3 year old was trying to “catch” letters in the net. She’s developing a two-handed mouse technique for now, moving it and holding it still with one hand and using the other to click a button, which makes it difficult to move and click quickly. But I’m sure she’ll get the hang of it before long.
Really, Kutoka seems to have a great feel for how to get children starting to use the computer. The beautiful, three-dimensional world is just an extension of our own world for them and they can feel safe as they learn to use the mouse and keyboard and explore all the skills they’ll need as they go into kindergarten.
Except for the glitch we’re still working to resolve, this was a great find and a game that I know my daughter will enjoy for the next year or so as she gets ready to go to school. It’s available for both PCs and Macs, so if you have a computer and a preschooler at home I’d encourage you to take a look.
Didi & Ditto: Mother Nature’s Visit (Preschool) has its own web site, where you can get additional information and see some other Kutoka products. For now you can purchase the game from the Kutoka website directly, though it looks like the game may be available on Amazon sometime in 2009, as many of Kutoka’s other games are available there as well.
Be sure to check it out!