Newsweek Parent’s Guide to Children’s Software 96
Parents need as much help as they can get when it comes to choosing quality programs for their kids. Newsweek Parent’s Guide to Children’s Software 96is a paperback book that comes packaged with a CD-ROM. Eighty publishers were invited to submit their top CD-ROMs to Newsweek’s editors. Of the 300+ received, 50 won the coveted “Editors’ Choice” award, and are given “multimedia reviews” on the disc, while the other 250+ are reviewed in the book only. On the disc, choose a winner from one of six categories like Reading, Creativity, or Learning to watch a brief summary and see the report card. Some reviews include an “active screen” which allows you to sample the program, and some have “Kids Response” in which one of twelve kids pop up in different screens to offer comments on the title. There’s not much critical information on the disc, and even less in the book. Most of the titles, with the exception of the “Editors’ Choice,” have a measly one or two line review and, on a scale of A to F, As and Bs are predominant – far too predominant to our way of thinking. It’s no surprise to find Freddi Fish, The Amazon Trail, or Creative Writer among the top picks, but Aladdin’s Activity Center? Even Disney knows this program is limited (four locations with the same three games!). How about The Yukadoos? While this is admittedly better than most of the titles from Active Imagination (which mostly rate Cs in the guide), it’s a major stretch to call it one of the year’s best. And where on earth is The Way Things Work from DK Multimedia? If you want to know about the newest titles, released just in time for the holidays, you won’t find them in this guide. But the book/disc combo can serve as an introduction to many current best sellers. A final note: assuming the editors have looked at as many impolite CD-ROMs as we have, how they could publish a disc that not only won’t let you bypass the registration screen, but one that modifies your WIN.INI, so that a message pops up to remind you every time you boot up. Another puzzle: the “Autoplay” option under Windows 95 didn’t work on our machines, and the printed instructions for running the disc under Windows 95 ignore the “Run” command in the Start menu, and instructs you to go instead into your Control Panel – very odd.
– December 1995