★ AMSTRAD CPC ★ GAMESLIST ★ THE THREE BEARS (c) SCHOOL SOFTWARE ★

ACUThe Amstrad User
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If you go down to the woods today ... say hello to Doctor Dorn and the three Bears.

It had been my intention to concentrate on ARC education this month, but, for reasons which will become apparent, it is not to be. ARC had provided a single disc with the full range of its programs for us to peruse and check out - called the MASTER DISC. Fair enough you might say. However, for one reason or another, the disc is corrupt, hence there have been great difficulties in getting access to the programs as a whole.

One or two have presented themselves before summarily crashing - due in no way to the author, but to the corruption on the discs. So, to be fair, ARC will have to wait until later.

Instead, we shall be examining School Software's range of products.

School Software are an Irish-based company who have specialised in 'educational'computing for some time now.

They support not only the CPC, but a much wider range of machines, with programs that are intended for school administration as well as what might be called 'proper' educational stuff.

SS' range of software for the CPC is almost entirely written in BASIC, a factor that has been the cause of some criticism from some observers. This writer, however, does not believe that, in this case, it makes an appreciable difference to the software's usability. As is always the case, the content and presentation of the program is most important, and School seem to have managed to get things just about right in these respects.

Goldilocks??

School's latest offering for the CPC is the Three Bears, a junior adventure game. In many ways, it is structured similarly to a full blown adventure, but has had many of the complexities of that genre removed to suit the younger generation. In essence, then, it becomes a computerised 'choice story-book' of the type you will doubtless have come across.

Once the initial loads have taken place (which amounts to a minute or so to get through) and the child has convinced the program that he or she is/is not using a 6218 or 464 (whatever happened to the 664?? hehehe!), we're into the program proper. I've got to say at this point that I was a little concerned about the blank screens while certain bits of code were loaded. There were times when the drive stopped whirring, and the screen did nothing. A simple message onscreen would have been nice, and might prevent concerned users from resetting their machines.

On with the plot! The child takes the 'Goldilocks'role (not explicitly, which is just as well if it's a little boy!), and is asked to help rescue the baby bear from the wicked old witch. I, like both of my testers, who are perhaps a little old for this program, was very impressed at the thought that appears to have gone into the language used in the program's screens. Sentences are very short, snappy, and appropriate, and use words that will easily be understood by the younger child, especially with a parent there to help.

Participation is guaranteed - there's nothing better for holding attention -by the child constantly being asked to confirm whether or not she wants to help, enter the cottage, and what have you. This technique tends to draw the child into the story, to the point where the computer becomes transparent to her, and is just a means of communicating with the characters in the game.
Concepts are kept to manageable levels, which is pleasing. By this, I mean that nowhere do ideas that might be outside a ch ild's experience gel used. The whole structure of the Three Bears is kept within the limits of what a child of early school years might reasonably be expected to have seen and experienced in other books. Again, this tends to have the effect of endearing the program to its user, which, by a knock-on effect, sows the seeds of a willingness to use a computer for learning purposes later in a young life.

Now for a few of the technicalities! The art work for the graphic screens MUST be praised. It's clear and well drawn, coming as close to cartoon quality as you'll get on a CPC. Colours are kept to a minimum as in all the best cartoons, or so an art teacher colleague of mine would have me believe - and, because of this, look striking, rather than restful. Again, they have immediate attraction for children, and become talking points for them with their parents.

This, as a concept in computer based learning, is something that cannot be stressed enough. In many respects, the computer and software is often best used as a stimulus for conversation, which in turn brings about a growth in vocabulary. You may recall that, in an earlier article, I suggested that a good deal of parental involvement in the process of using educational software was a good idea. I'd like to reinforce that concept here.

I found that, if I sat down to play through the Three Bears, I could read and see everything, and be out of the other side in less than 15 minutes. A child in the company of a parent who will use the pictures and text as stimuli will not only take many times longer than this to finish the game, but will also revisit it even when the puzzles are completed and the game beaten.

This is not so much a mark of a good game (although in this case it is certainly that!) but is also a mark of a caring parent. Lest anyone reading this think I'm preaching.... I am! I feel it's very important that in the learning situation that we're discussing, parents spend as much time as they possibly can chatting about the experiences that the child is having, and helping them further not just vocabulary, but also theirunderstandingofthe world around them - as exemplified by the game.

Can bears really talk? Do witches really exist? Have you ever seen a cottage like that? What kind of cottage do you think it is? What do you think it looks like inside? Do witches look like that, or do they look pretty to fool you? Should you try to rescue a friend or go for help? Who is it asking you to help? What do you do when someone you don't know asks you to go with them?

These are all questions that the first couple of screen shots might prompt a parent to ask and discuss. I'm sure I need not elucidate further on where such discussions might go!!

In short, then, the Three Bears, although not state of the art programming, represents a very good source for broadening a child's horizons, when used properly. If a child is just plonked in front of it, then, as a parent, you've wasted your money. If you spend some time with the child, you'll have to work, yes, but youll see a richer child for the money you've spent.

I have to say that I'm very much taken with this program, and can recommend it to caring parents everywhere!

ACU #9008

THE THREE BEARS
(c) SCHOOL SOFTWARE

PROGRAMMING: STEPHEN IRVINE
ARTWORK: MARK IRVINE , STEPHEN INVINE
STORY LINE: A. JENNINGS , STEPHEN INVINE

★ PRICE: £13.95

COMPATIBILITE: CE LANCE AVEC LA ROM BASIC 1.1 UNIQUEMENT

★ YEAR: 1987
★ LANGUAGE:
★ GENRE: INGAME MODE 1 , EDUCATIF , aventure text , aventure graphique

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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.