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Friendly Learning
1993
Educational
£9.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

8,9
Dave Golder
Chris Bourne

When I were a lad (You forgot the 'Eee'. Ed) learning wasn't supposed to be fun. Fear was the key word - though at first, of course, we didn't know that because F wasn't taught until we'd gone through A to E. Short, sharp shock treatment, that's what it was all about . And it didn't do me any harm. (Wibble.)

Okay, I admit it. I'm jealous. I wish there had been educational computer games when I was a tot. It would have been much more beneficial than spending my time avoiding flying chalk and chanting times tables. Of course in those days the games would have been based on classics like Ivor me Engine or Noggin the Nog. Sadly, these never get repeated so instead the games are based on the underfives' faves of the moment. Hence Playdays.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HAMBLE ANYWAY?
Playdays the programme is what Play School mutated into via a brief moment when it was called Playbus (which explains the bus motif on the cover and during the credits). The star of the show is an avine of indeterminate species called the Why Bird. In Playdays the program, said bird acts as your host throughout the thirteen different activities (or games) and constantly gives you encouragement. If you get things wrong you're not lambasted and told to stand in the corner with a dunce's hat on. Instead Why Bird will say something like. 'Try again,' or 'That was nearly right' or 'You're crap.' (Er, not really. Ed) and give you an extra clue to help you on your way to enlightenment (or something).

The thirteen games cover a wide range of skills. There's everything from shape recognition and counting to grids and dot-to-dot puzzles in there. The format of the program is fairly ingenious and, if nothing else, makes all the loading a bit more bearable by lumping together certain activities and letters in blocks. It's also an approach which means that the activities are chosen seemingly at random, so a child will never know what to expect next. (Actually, it's far from random, but, hey, who's taking notes?) (You are, I hope. Ed)

The program presents you with a choice of six letters. If you choose J the program uses words like jumper and job in all the activities, choose T and you get trees and, er, something else beginning with T (and so on). If you don't want any of the letters in that set, you get another lot, after enduring a bit more loading.

Once you've chosen a letter you are first shown six pictures all starting with your chosen letter, then it's on to the activities. Depending on which letter you've chosen you get to play a different set of games. When you've completed them you get to see a high score table which shows you how well you've done, then you can go back and select another letter. The only letter this doesn't apply to is X. Select X and you are taken into a specific set of three games - Noughts and Crosses, Treasure and Shapes and Colours.

WE'D QUITE LIKE SOME EDUCATION, ACTUALLY
There is a difficulty setting which makes the game suitable for three to eight year olds - or so the manual tells us. Personally, I reckon the activities are a bit too simple and samey to appeal to any child over six. Also the program boasts a vocabulary of over 250 words, but when you divide this by twenty-five (the letters you can play with) this works out at about, er (scribble, scribble) ten words per letter, which ain't that many. Folk of eight should certainly know more.

Using the same background graphics for every game also robs the program of excitement. A bit more variety would have made it more appealing.

On the plus side, great use is made of the characters from the TV programme. Why Bird is an excellent host, and particularly well-drawn. Other characters, such as Wobble the clown, pop up to congratulate good work. Also the control system, which uses the joystick to select letters, is simple to use, though for the very young it would be best for a guide to stick around (especially to keep 'em interested during the loading).

In the scheme of educational programs, Playdays is on a level with the early Fun Schools, but way behind such fare as The Shoe People. If you're only going to buy one educational program, this isn't it. Decent, but no award-winner.

Uppers: The characters from the show are used well. 'Random' games help to keep things fresh. Downers: But the same graphics and games (and words) do tend to come up again and again. The Fun School series is still a much better bet.

65%

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THE GAMES

as Described by Someone with No Patience At All

Matching

Match the word with the picture.

Snap

Obvious.

Odd One Out

Obvious.

Counting

Again, obvious.

What's Gone?

I haven't got time for this.

Spelling

I've an urgent appointment, you know.

Moving Window

You get to glimpse a small portion of a large picture though a small roving window. Of which there are no more in my diary, get the idea?

Dot-to-Dot

Do you really need me to explain this? Dots, more dots, join them, happy?

Sliding Puzzle

It's a puzzle, and bits of it slide around. What do you want, blood?

Rhyme

Each letter has its own little rhyme for you to read. Edward Lear has nothing to worry about, apart from being dead of course.

Very Obvious Game Indeed

Right, I'm going.

X MARKS THE SPOT

Noughts and Crosses You play the noughts and Why Bird gets the crosses. I think you know the rules to this one.

Treasure

There's treasure hidden under one of those squares. Click on one and you're told whether you are hot or cold (ie near to the loot or not). Try to locate the prize in as few goes as is humanly possible.

Shapes and Colours

Do the colours match? Are the shapes not entirely dissimilar? On the harder levels the Why Bird cheats by changing the size of the objects or rotating them.

CARD GAMES

Playdays comes with a set of rather spiffy colour cards that don't link in with the program at all, but are great fun. Bright and colourful, you can use 'em to fill in that interminable wait for the tape to load with all sorts of games. Our panel of reviewers took a look.

Dave I reckon you could tear off the names and numbers from the bottom of the cards using the handy perforations and match the words with the pictures.

Jonathan No, that's far too dull. I think a spot of Tarot would while away the time nicely. Separate the numbers and words with the aid of the handy perforations, shuffle them, then lay down a set of pictures. Under those put a line of numbers or words. Then try to work out what a 'parrot over twenty shoes next to a 'three cups over a foot' could possibly mean on an astrological level. Pat Sharpe to be the new Doctor Who perhaps?

Andy Well. I reckon you could make really good card castles. By tearing off the bottoms (my, those perforations are handy) you have two different size of cards, which means you can make some really wacky castles. A hit, definitely.

80%

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I would have thought that upon seeing creatures which up until that moment had been considered mythological beasts, determining their precise number would not be the most pressing of matters.

This satanically convoluted code, posing as a noughts and crossess puzzle, was instrumental in bringing about the downfall of Noel Edmonds' evil empire. Allegedly.

So do these. Litmus, leopard, lollipop, last, loopy, lalssezfaire, Looby-Loo, lilac, lawnmower, labels, lope, lame, lampshade and Lionel. Good, wholesome YS words, those.