Putt-Putt Joins the Parade. (educational software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by David Sears
If only we could relive our childhoods! Instead of deploying plastic army men or posing Barbie dolls, we'd play Putt-Putt Joins the Parade, an instructive charmer chock full of bells and whistles. Even if your problem-solving and reading skills don't require further development, you owe it to your kid ages 5-7 to bring home a copy of this Humongous Entertainment product.
Putt-Putt, a cute little talking convertible, wants to join the Cartown Pet Parade--quite the gala affair. To participate, he must find a pet, pay for a car wash, and snag a balloon. Kids take the wheel, using the mouse to move Putt-Putt around Cartown and activate secret Click-Points. In urban areas, kids have plenty to do mowing yards, delivering groceries, and finding their way around town. Out on the open road, youngsters will find that almost every butterfly and flower animates when touched.
The problems Putt-Putt encounters won't stump an eager seven-year-old, but for younger adventurers, figuring ways around balky cows, tacks in the street, and busy intersections can take some time. Successfully solving such simple dilemmas results in rewards of clever animated sequences and clear digitized speech. Putt-Putt also manages to teach a few ethics lessons without preachiness. For example, Putt-Putt must locate a missing child. Kids might notice that the distraught mother has a red balloon perfect for the parade, but the game itself never mentions rewards for noble actions--until after they're performed. Putt-Putt finds the child and gets the balloon; kids just might learn that valorous action makes them feel better about themselves. Besides, doing the right thing is the only way to "win" the game. Throughout, Putt-Putt and friends talk to kids via quality digitized speech, offering hints and encouragement. Putt-Putt often reads words on signs aloud so that kids who can't read will be able to make valuable word/object associations.
Putt-Putt Joins the Parade seems to borrow from the Little Golden Books tradition of charm with its anthropomorphic fire engines and automobiles, all of which smile jovially. As mentioned, the whimsical backgrounds bristle with Click-Points that trigger amusing animations. The manual, suitably titled The Junior Adventurer's Handbook, consists of connect-the-dots activities, pages to color, and counting games, to name just a few items. The Junior Adventurer's Toolkit completes the package with a Putt-Putt pencil, sharpener, and box of crayons--quite an assortment of goodies sure to delight any child.
So when the route chosen calls for a gentle introduction to computer interfaces and hours of light-hearted play, Putt-Putt looks like the king of the road.