Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Software Review: Jumpstart World 1st Grade

I've been meaning to write this review for a couple of weeks, but every time I open the software to study it I get engrossed in playing the game and before I know it the time is up. I guess that says a lot! It is an enchanting and stimulating world where it's easy to lose track of time.

We have a couple of other Jump Start titles at home so I was eager to try this one out. This version is far more involved and complicated than the other ones we have so it took a bit more to get it installed. I gave Buddy, my five year old, the Jump Start Kindergarten game for his last birthday and he likes it a lot.

Jump Start World is a bit different. It requires more oomph from your computer, for one thing. I started out eager to get the box open but I was quickly frustrated and ground to a halt. I couldn't successfully install it on our old home PC because our graphics card is too old and weak. I also had trouble installing because Jump Start World is a subscription game and you must have an active Internet connection to install. My kid's computer at home is not hooked up. My Internet capable machine at home is a Mac, and this software is only for Windows machines. I sent off a few email to support with questions about this, and was pleased that I got prompt and helpful replies. It didn't solve my problems, however, so I had to wait till I could install it on my work machine.

That means no child actually played the game for this review. The implications of that are that I may have had a lot of fun and been rewarded for successful play as an adult in games that might in fact frustrate a six year old. If you are a grown up it is easy to move quickly ahead in these games, since they are based on first grade math and language arts skills. If you are an actual first grader the experience is completely different. Just something to keep in mind.

Most older kid's games are somewhat two dimensional. You play a game of matching or counting or decoding and get rewarded with points or printable prizes. This game is more of an interactive environment. You have a avatar character that walks around Jump Start World and enters arcades to play the games. You use the arrow keys on the keyboard to move around the sidewalks, so that is a skill you have to master at first. The games themselves are fun; matching coins, selecting bugs by their shape attributes, finding letters and sounds to match pictures and counting. With successful play you collect gems which go into your bank.

There are several sections of the game that are "locked" to you when you first start to play. I found this frustrating. You have to earn a certain amount of gems in math games before the arts and crafts area is open, for example. You have to follow the prompts and play the games as they are laid out for you. There is no free explore. I hate that. I want to learn new software by mucking around and experimenting. I don't want to have to check tasks off a "to do" list in order to earn my way into the coloring section. It's quite a bit too restrictive for my way of learning, but maybe that's just me.

The other thing I was disappointed by is that you have to complete all the sections in the first two "Adventure Packs" and then your parents have to purchase the next "Adventure Packs" through download subscriptions in order to keep playing. I don't want to have to keep paying every month for new games. I want a really fun, challenging, creative, stimulating game that has room for alternative solutions and is open-ended but doesn't require my email address or Online registration. There are games like that out there and I am always looking for more. If you have any suggestions for this please let me know!

But bottom line: if your kid wants to play computer games and you want them learning math and language arts skills this is a pretty good game for that. It's engaging, fun, challenging and well put together. You need:
  • Pentium III 1 GHz or faster PC
  • 3D video card with 32 MB dedicated memory w/DirectX 9.0c-compatible driver
  • 256 MC dedicated RAM (512 recommended) 1 GB RAM for Windows Vista
  • 24x CD=ROM drive, 1.4 GD available on hard drive, 16-bit color
  • DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound card
  • Broadband Internet connection

1 comment:

Vivian Mahoney said...

Thanks for this recommendation. My 1st grader loves the computer and math, so I'll check this one out.