Amstrad Action
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Anxious to recreate his glorious pre-school achievements, Simon Forrester takes a trip in that bizarre bus to visit one of the best edutainment packages around.

As far as education goes, computers have always appeared to have been slightly disadvantaged. Creating something that is of any educational value and at the same time fun seems to be more than a little difficult. The thing is, bright colours and cute things do not an educational package make. We're glad to say, however, that it seems Alternative have got the right idea from the start.

As soon as you open the package, you'll be impressed. As well as the standard tape and manual stuff, there're two sets of nice shiny flash cards. The first showing the numbers up to 20 (complete with illustrations) and the second being everyday objects (trees, beds, etc). These, though not covered in great depth (or at all) by the manual, are obviously to be used in conjunction with the various activities to increase the child's benefit. A word of warning though, these cards are not at all chewable (our new dribbling acting ed ran extensive tests). (He's right, I did. - Act Ed)

Anyway... When you do get around to loading the main package, you'll be pleasantly surprised. I'm not going to harp on about some previous releases from Alternative, as everybody releases the odd dud piece of software, and Playdays seems to set the record straight.

The experience starts with a dinky Playdays bus bouncing along, and credits zapping up on a lollipop. This is only a credit sequence though, and the tape has to be started again to load up the main bits.

It must be stated at this point, however, that 6128 owners (and all those with an external tape deck) will have immense hassle. The program stops and starts the tape willy-nilly, not really giving a thought to all those who have to sit patiently by their computer, fingers on buttons, stopping and starting the tape. Life's not all bad though - the computer does give prompts for stopping and starting.

Once the main program has loaded, Why Bird (a character from the TV series) asks you to stop the tape, while a little boat chugs along in the background. The boat sinks (to a complete lack of reaction on the part of the bird), and little Johnny (or whatever your child is called) is asked his name, and greeted. Text input (like all input) is via joystick. The level is then selected, and off we go again, on another tape stopping, starting, and 'oh dear I didn't stop it in time and now it can't find the bit I want it to load' jaunt.


And, as a special extra incentive, also included in the box is a free sample issue of the official BBC Playdays magazine. It can be found in all normal newsagents, and is stuffed full of fun activities, puzzles, stories, and educationally valuable material, as well as all the usual Playdays characters.

At last someone seems to be trying to make educational programs (and, indeed, educational programmes) fun. This is real 'big time' promotional stuff for software with what everyone usually thinks of as limited appeal (although, if you're a parent or teacher, you'll aleays have thought of it as being jolly important).

Hurrah for everyone, we say, it's about time. If only they'd had stuff like this when I was a kid -1 could probably have made something of myself...

Letters with a gladsome mind...

Next up is the selection of the letters that the games are to be based around. As a review example, we've selected level four, and the letter A. Why Bird then presents little Johnny with a list of things beginning with the letter A. Then come the animals. The pictures are fun, the letters huge. And we have a game of snap.

The program swaps the pictures and words, and Johnny presses fire when he sees a match. If he's right, he gets a nice tune, and a visual reward (a caterpillar or such like). As with most games in Playdays, the difficulty level seems about right, and each activity gets progressively harder as Johnny goes through.

For instance, the snap game starts with one card changing, and progresses to a level where all sorts of things change, requiring an alert child, though not necessarily a fast reaction.

Then, after Peggy has said “Well Done", we play counting, and the various objects in various quantities are counted. If young Johnny gets the contains, but, space being the overriding factor, we'll have to leave it there.

So, what's the package like as a whole? The answer is simple. Its brilliant, The software seems to have been pitched perfectly, with the age ranges well accounted for in the ease and concept of the activities. If your child is bored, or you just feel like giving little Johnny a helping hand in his development (social and psychological), Alternative's Playdays seems like a perfect opportunity. The graphics are nice and bouncy, the tone of the text simple, and the activities uncomplicated. AA recommends Playdays as a must for all children, and the perfect answer to the need for extra-curricular activities for younger children.




Program & concept: Chris PRICE
Graphics: David TOLLEY
Music: Richard BROWN

★ NOTE: Playdays (known as Playbus until 25 December 1989) is a children's television programme from the United Kingdom. The series ran from 17 October 1988 to 28 March 1997 on Children's BBC (CBBC), and was aired in reruns until 2003. The show was the successor of Play School, and, like its predecessor, was designed as an educational programme.

★ YEAR: 1992



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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.