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Interactive Books / Early Learning Software Reviews

Menlo the Frog
by Windy Hill Productions

For Ages 3 to 7

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Interactive Book software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.


Reviewed on:
childrens software PowerMac 6100/60 with 8MB and a 2XCD, and
Pentium90 with 8MB and a 2XCD

Content
Menlo the Frog is subtitled both as an "interactive learning cartoon," and as "musical fairy tale." The packaging further goes on to state that Menlo helps "develop your child's full potential for mastering essential musical skills [which will] translate directly into greater verbal and mathematical success in school." SuperKids thought this sounded like a good program to test drive for parents shopping for a new interactive book.

The fairy tale begins with the awful news that the Evil King of Later has stolen the music key from the Beautiful Land of Once Upon a Time. The music key is vital to the existence of the kingdom, because it is used to wind up the Melody Man (who looks strikingly like a wooden version of the Tin Man from Oz). Menlo the Frog volunteers to help Princess Winnicent recover the purloined winder.

Three music activities, each with multiple levels, are interspersed through the search. The first requires the user to select which clam on a musical scale replicates a note which is heard. The second, and more difficult, requires the user to click out the beat of a tune with the mouse or keyboard. The third music activity, allows the user to construct short tunes, using different musical constructs disguised as various animals stepping on a plank rope bridge.

Ease of Install / Use
Menlo the Frog was simple to install on our reviewer's Mac - just insert the CD, then click on the Menlo icon when it appears on the screen. Our testers found ease of use, however, more difficult to score. Menlo received good marks in terms of intuitive design. But some of the activities were thought to be difficult -- both for young children, and the 'musically-challenged' adult members of the review team!

Methodology
Even though Menlo is built around just six or seven screens, the level and quality of animation is among the very best that we have reviewed. One sequence, in the castle of the Evil King, is particularly impressive, with lightening, thunder, eery noises, and other surprises.

Proxy Parent Value
Proxy Parent Value is SuperKids measure for the interest-holding power of a program. Menlo the Frog received lukewarm marks from our kids and parents reviewers, because of the repetitiveness of the story, and the activities. For example, in the story, the music key can always be found in the same hiding spot (in fact, our 5 year old tester found it in seven minutes on her first use of the program!).

Best for...
Our reviewers felt that Menlo would be best liked by children with a pre-existing interest in music.

Bottom-Line
Great animation, good music skills drills, and a story-line that needs greater depth.


See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Interactive Book software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.



Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Windows 3.1 or greater
WIN 95 compatible
System 7.1 or above
CPU Type and Speed 486SX-33 minimum Mac IIci or faster
Hard Drive Space 2.5 MB 2.5 MB
Memory (RAM) 4 MB min;
8 MB preferred
4.5 MB
Graphics Super VGA card min;
Local bus video pref'd
n/a
CD-ROM Speed 2X speed 2X speed
Audio Windows compatible sound card n/a
Other Needs


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