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ZX Spectrum 48K
Unspecified custom loader

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Rosetta McLeod
Chris Bourne

I had seen the advertisement for this package in a woman's magazine before the game arrived on my desk. Having noticed with interest the claim in the advert: 'No adult supervision required, and having formed the mental picture of a child with his new baby-sitter, the computer, I was keen to try out this package with Daniel and David.

The write-up on the attractive packaging boasts that 'Leeper leads children through four word-winning pre-school games that prepare them for reading, writing and maths'. We are told that Leeper has won 'a CES Showcase Award, Electronic Games Best Computer Educational Game Award, and a Parents' Choice Award'. All of this might seem impressive to the prospective purchaser, but beware! Are we informed that the games in this package have been designed by educationalists? No. Are we told that they have been approved by practising teachers? No. It was with a fair amount of scepticism, therefore that I began to test out the games.

'Dog Count' is a very simple game in which the player has to choose the correct number of bones required to feed a number of dogs which appear on the screen. If the child succeeds, the dogs stand up and wag their tails.

In 'Balloon Pops', the player has to manipulate a balloon to lift crates with letters on them up to a ledge to match up with a given letter. If a child gets it right, a tune plays and the balloon sails away with the letter. All the letters used are capitals - lower case letters would have been more appropriate, for the simplicity of the game makes it more suitable for the very young child.

'Leap Frog' is a dreadful game in which the player has to manipulate a frog through a maze and avoid being caught by a chasing centipede. Unfortunately, the game is boring, in that if the frog is caught by the centipede, nothing happens.

'Paint Box' is a good idea, which doesn't quite come off. The screen displays a picture of a house, and the child has to use the cursor to select between different colours, and paint them in the various areas of the picture by positioning the cursor over them correctly. Both Daniel and David found that the cursor is very difficult to control - it moves far too fast at the merest touch, and even I had problems with it. Another problem is that the colouring in of the different areas does not occur uniformly, so that gaps are left which are difficult to fill.

Both children quickly lost interest in the games contained in this package, and a parent leaving their child to play unsupervised would not win much of a respite before the youngster complained of boredom.

I contacted Software Projects to enquire about the awards the package had won, and was informed that they were American awards, and that the Showcase Award was from the Consumer and Electronics show in Chicago. The four games have apparently been published in the States for the Commodore 64, Atari and Apple, and Software Projects have converted them to run on the Spectrum. The spokesman for Software Projects admitted that this Spectrum version had not been tested out in schools, and he could tell me nothing about the original designers, or about the educational ideology behind the games.

Having said all that, however, Software Projects are to be commended for being prepared to offer the tape on fourteen days free home trial. Their research has indicated that Mums' initial reaction tended to be in favour of buying the game, but Dads were more likely to say that they would copy it.

The package actually comes with a colour-coded key-in card to discourage copying, but frankly, having tried out the four games, I would not want to bother.


Control Keys: Q/Z up/down, I/P left/right, N select; for young children, it would have been easier to use the arrow keys. There is, however, a joystick option
Keyboard play: very responsive, though in Paint Box, it is too responsive, making the cursor very difficult to control
Use of colour: simple, but very clearly defined
Graphics: again, simple but clear
General Rating: Rather dull and uninspiring.

Not Rated