MacSoft Mac Kids Pack

Described as “Four Great Kids Games in One”, the Mac Kids Pack basically does what it says on the box. Candy Land Adventure, Mr Potato Head Saves Veggie Valley, Play-Doh Creations and Playskool Puzzles are positioned as educational tools that allow kids of four and upwards to learn and play simultaneously. Sounds like a parent’s dream, but do they cut it with the offspring? Jon-Luca and Lolly, aged six and four respectively, comprise the crack squad who put the Mac Kids Pack to the test – along with a little parental guidance and support, of course. A sweet tooth is a prerequisite for Candy Land Adventure, where sickly pinks meet psychedelic purples in a visual soup reminiscent of Bonnie Langford, Gianni Versace and last night’s dinner. Of course, as I’m in the age bracket of 32 and upwards, perhaps this isn’t relevant in kid-land, but Jon-Luca certainly thought it was a bit girly. A fairly long intro sequence sets the scene, and it seems all is not well in Candy Land. King Kandy has been kidnapped by Lord Licorice, and we have to rescue him. It’s a long job that entails travelling through six magical lands, picking up candy and meeting some rather sweet characters. Both kids (and, er, myself) had problems navigating – it’s not a particularly intuitive interface and almost every move requires a return to the instruction book. Lolly certainly couldn’t play this on her own, and therein lies a major problem because, if an adult is required to supervise, the game really needs to be a bit more engaging. Overall, there’s a lack of direction that prolongs the game, which also, eventually, exposes its lack of substance. Jon-Luca and Lolly got bored quickly, thankfully – because I was starting to feel very sick. Despite not being exactly the Mr Potato Head who stars in Toy Story, this was much better game. It represented a far more creative and engaging challenge than Candy Land, and Jon-Luca and Lolly were completely absorbed. The game features interesting characters and amusing tasks such as cross-dressing Mr Potato Head and turning him into a simpering girl. This halted the game for some time while a rather uncomfortable discussion was held on the difference between boys and girls, but not for long as the kids were anxious to see what happened next. The animation is slick, the interface absorbing, and the storyline becomes irrelevant as the sheer level of interaction is enough. Top marks from all of us. Play-Doh is one of the best inventions ever, but sadly it doesn’t do it for me on a computer. It just doesn’t smell right. Jon-Luca and Lolly didn’t agree, however, and this game went down a treat. They invented different characters, created new hairstyles and designed clothes to, quite frankly, rather disgusting effect. But they were happy, and even better, quiet for a whole half hour. They also played well together, spurring each other on to push the boundaries of taste. And, finally, to Playskool Puzzles. This is simple stuff, and it’s good as far as it goes. Both kids had no problems solving jigsaw puzzles and connecting the dots, but it was probably a bit too basic for them. After solving a puzzle once, they wouldn’t bother again. My major problem with Playskool Puzzles is that I can’t see the point of playing games like this on a Mac. The kids would have more fun playing with a real jigsaw puzzle. As for the four-and-up age guide, a two year-old could crack this one.

OUR VERDICT

The pack is saved from being a “used once only” by the capers of Senor Potato Head. Other than that it’s all a bit thin. There are much better ways to spend rainy days.

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