BASED on the Yorkshire Television programme, Mirrorsoft's Giddy Game Show is designed to help parents teach very young children to recognise the letters of the alphabet.
The obvious question to be asked in such cases is whether the game does the job better than the traditional picture books on which we have all relied for so long. The answer here is that unless infants are absolutely crazy about the Yorkshire TV characters, the Giddy Game Show holds little to stimulate their interest, thus making it hardly worth the considerable trouble of loading the four separate games on the tape - not to mention the equally considerable expense.
Game 1 consists of reasonably jolly graphics showing the Giddy Game Show heroes Giddy, Gorilla and Gus the Professor, with a variety of objects such as an apple, a balloon or a xylophone, with the name of each underneath highlighting the a, the b or the z.
The objects appear in four groups - Aa-Gy, Hh-Mm, and so on - and each picture in the group is displayed for a second or two before an instruction appears telling the child and its parent to press the space bar to move on to the next picture. When the complete sequence has come to an end, but not before, the child can go back to the menu and choose a new group of letters.
There is no way to alter the sequence of each group of objects, or to speed up their painfully slow appearance and disappearance. Nevertheless, the child is assumed to have sat patiently through the entire sequence, without falling asleep or tipping Ribena onto the carpet, and to have learned the entire alphabet by the end, thus being equipped to play the other games on the tape.
Game 2 is a letter jigsaw, consisting of a grid with a letter - lower case - in the middle, with pieces of the letter scattered round the other squares of the grid. Pressing any key highlights each of the pieces in turn, and a section of the letter in the middle is also highlighted. When the two pieces are the same, the child presses the space bar, and hey presto, the missing portion of the letter is inked in.
Once again, the child cannot move round the grid at random, but has to plod round the pieces of the puzzle in strict rotation - a defect from which genuine wooden or cardboard jigsaws are free. Nor is there any way back to the menu until a complete sequence of letters has been filled in.
Game 3 features the Hungry Gorilla and a series of edible objects, displayed six at a time. The name of one of them, say banana, is spelled out at the bottom of the screen. Giddy, travels round the objects, once more in strict rotation, and when he perches above the one whose name is spelled out, the child presses the space bar causing the word to disappear - far too slowly once the initial novelty has worn off - into the gorilla's munching jaws.
The same game can also be played using the cursor keys to select objects at random - an improvement in flexibility, but it is a pity that the instructions don't mention that Giddy must be positioned right on top of the object rather than above it before it can be selected.
Game 4, which refused to load on our review copy, again uses the cursor keys, this time to move Princess Galaxzena round a maze in a happy reversal whereby a damsel has to rescue a king in distress. The maze is littered with objects - most shown in earlier games - and the Princess must avoid landing on objects beginning with the forbidden letters displayed on the screen.
The game is accompanied by a cheerful little booklet, and there is enough colour and sound in it to amuse a child for a while. One fairly serious flaw is the fact that the space bar does not always respond as it should, but what really mars the game is that it treats the child as a passive spectator.
Perhaps computer games should only teach about computers, while teaching to read is best left to books. This game does nothing to prove the contrary.