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Feature Review

Published: December 1, 2008
By Warren Buckleitner, Children's Technology Review

Bringing the pop-up book idea to the computer screen is an old trick. See The Living Books, for example. But few programs have done it with this level of aesthetic detail. Our testers noted that the program delivers on its promise to provide a safe, unstructured environment for children to explore; although there are some weaknesses to note.

There's no real "clicking" (at least of the mouse) in ClickToy. Instead you simply bang on the keyboard to make things happen. It's helpful to remember that the designer, Ken Kavanagh, created this program while living with three children, all under age five -- the Ft. Knox protection is a result.

After the $20 file is downloaded and installed on your Windows computer (no Mac version), children see a peaceful meadow scene complete with familiar animals such as bunnies and frogs. Pressing any key makes the animals do things. The scenery is a bit like a screen saver, and there are no points or time limits. Content includes four forest scenes, with about 25 realistic animals. You might see a deer grazing under some beautiful fall leaves. Press the K key, and you see a chipmunk jump out of a hole. Press it again, and he rolls around. Weaknesses include the constant zooming in and zooming out on a particular animal. It can get you seasick. Instead, it would be nice to have a mouse click option that could offer a more direct link between a child's action and the screen event. Another issue is the overall lack of responsiveness to your random key press. Fortunately, a curious child will learn that the numerical keypad always creates musical notes. The program installed and ran fine on our Compaq SR5717CL, although you'll want to make sure you have a pretty good graphics card that works with DirectX.

So why not a higher rating? Children at this age want to be in control. While ClickToy offers some control, it could do a better job by offering a "free explore" mode, sans zoom, where you can click on any graphic to see it come to life quickly, in the context of the screen. To be fair, that's not the point of ClickToy. You can also protect your computer from your potentially destructive children for $20, and bring a pond into your home at the same time. Note that once the program is installed on your hard drive, you can run it without the disk (256 MBs of hard disk space is required). The game is available as a download from www.clicktoy.com.

Details: Clicktoy Interactive, www.clicktoy.com. Price: $20. Ages: 1-5. Platform: Windows. Teaches/Purpose: animals, cause and effect, a child-safe utility for Windows computers. . Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4 stars. Entry date: 4/23/2008. [WB]

Children's Technology Review, 2008

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Children's Technology Review