________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 4. . . .September 25, 2009


Didi & Ditto Preschool: Mother Nature’s Visit.

Montreal, PQ: Kutoka Interactive (www.kutoka.com), 2008.
1 CD-ROM $29.99.

Minimum System Requirements:

WINDOWS Windows:
XP Vista Processor: Pentium - 1 Ghz RAM: 512 MB Video & Sound: DirectX 9 DVD-ROM Drive: 4X Hard Drive Space: 1.1 GB

Mac OS X 10.2-10.5Windows: XP Vista Processor: G4 - 1 GHz RAM: 512 MB Video & Sound: Standard Macintosh CD-ROM Drive: 4X Hard Drive Space: 1.1 GB

Preschool-Kindergarten /Ages 2-5.

Review by Devon Greyson.

***½ /4


Mother Nature is coming to visit Smart Valley! The animals would like to hold a party in her honour, and they hold an election to vote in a mayor to be in charge of festivities. Unfortunately, purple wolf Zolt is a sore loser. Upon losing the election, Zolt destroys all the band's instruments and hides all the party food in an attempt to ruin the festivities. Zolt figures he will show up at the last minute with all the food and be a hero, but little beavers Didi and Ditto are on to him. Players of Didi & Ditto Preschool: Mother Nature's Visit choose one colourful beaver (Didi, the red "girl" beaver, or Ditto, the blue "boy" beaver) with which to try to recover the supplies and prepare for the party.

     The game can be played in two modes, "full game" and "activities only." Full game mode begins with an interactive animated version of the introductory story. Players can vote in the mayoral election and choose their beaver with whom to travel around Smart Valley, piecing instruments back together and finding food. This mode is episodic and can be saved and resumed at a later time. This mode also allows for plenty of clicking around the screens to discover hiding animals and funny animations. Activities only mode is geared toward shorter attention spans and allows for playing games or puzzles one at a time, with no unifying storyline.

     For Children: Meandering through "Smart Valley" playing matching and sorting games and clicking around screens to see where funny little critters may be hiding is an enjoyable pastime that will likely build mouse skills and comfort with computers. Young children may not put all the pieces of the backstory to the games together, but doing so is not necessary to enjoy the activities embedded therein. The animated world of the game is wonderfully lush, brightly colourful and highly detailed, and there is plenty of original music and dancing. There are many characters who are not well introduced, but again this does not seem to hinder children's experience of the game. Navigation is rather complicated, however, and there are, at times, too many options on one screen. For example, when the game is started, a player must choose a level, mode, player identity, and which beaver to be (boy or girl) before beginning the game. It's easy to choose things by accident; however, a young child will probably not care all that much about most of these settings, as long as they get into the game fairly quickly.

     For Adults: Some adults will find Didi and Ditto to be adorable cuddly little beavers who engage in wholesome games in a quest to save the day. Others will find Didi & Ditto's vacant cartoon stares and droning monotones creepy and patronizing. Since the game does require that the sound be on, and adult assistance may be required, particularly with the game navigation, the adult-annoyance factor could be important to some buyers. However, this does not seem to bother children, and this game does not seem to be any more annoying to adults than other games aimed at this age group. Unlike many more heavily branded children's computer games, Didi and Ditto are original and not tied to trying to sell children anything (except, perhaps the two sequel Didi and Ditto games). However, the anthropomorphic characters do unnecessarily reinforce typical human gender stereotypes, such as eyelashes and high pitched voice for the girl versus a slower, lower voice for the blue boy beaver.

     Technical Details: The DVD-ROM requires you to both install software and have the DVD in the computer when you play -- something to be particularly aware of if you might be using it in an institutional setting, such as a school or library. If it were able to be completely installed and run independent of the DVD-ROM, it would be a more versatile product for such settings as there would be no need for constant disc handling and potential damage or loss. It also requires a reasonably new operating system to run, so preschools or daycares with hand-me-down machines should check their specs to make sure they will meet the requirements. That said, once all is installed and running, operation is quite smooth. (Note: Tested on a PC with Vista OS)

    Overall, Didi & Ditto Preschool: Mother Nature's Visit is highly recommended for anyone who is seeking a computer game for the preschool set, particularly for home use. Some adults will find Didi and Ditto annoying, but there is nothing violent, disturbing, or consumerist about the game, and most children would find the simple games and activities repetitively enjoyable.

Highly Recommended.

Devon Greyson is a librarian at the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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