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Critical Thinking Software Reviews

Pajama Sam - in "No Need to Hide When it's Dark Outside"
by Humongous Entertainment

For Ages 3 to 8

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Critical Thinking / Problem Solving software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.


Reviewed on:
Children's Software Screen Shot PowerMac 6100/60 with 16MB and 2XCD
Pentium90 with 24MB and a 2XCD

Content
Ever hear of a kid who was afraid of the dark?

Pajama Sam opens with young Sam reading a comic book, where the hero, Pajama Man, is battling the evil villain, Darkness. Sam is interrupted by his mother, telling him it's time to go to sleep, and that tonight he had promised to go to sleep with the lights out. Sam decides to face his own demon, and dons his hero's mask, grabs a flashlight and his "portable bad guy containment unit" (his metal lunchbox).

Stepping into his closet to look for Darkness, he finds himself transported to a strange place. Moments later, he is stripped of his evil-fighting tools by some mean trees -- and his mission begins. The user must help Pajama Sam find his mask, flashlight, and lunchbox before he can capture Darkness.

Ease of Install / Use
The program installed without any difficulty on our reviewers' PC's and Mac's. Initial use by young children required the assistance of an older child or parent.

Methodology
Pajama Sam follows a tried-and-true model for programs of this genre, that dates back to the ascii character-based 'Dungeons and Dragons' game played on early time-sharing computers. One big difference - this program has some of the best cartoon-quality animation we've seen.

To reach his objective, Pajama Sam must overcome various obstacles, using tools he finds and collects along the way. For example, at one point Sam must cross a river. There is a rowboat sitting conveniently on the shore next to the dock. But when Sam asks the boat for a ride, 'Otto' the boat explains that since he is made of wood, he can't possibly go in the water, or he would sink. Sam goes back to a previously visited area, and returns with a piece of wood, and demonstrates that, in fact, wood floats. The point proven, Otto happily ferries Sam across the river.

Although this is standard fair for this type of program, our parent and teacher reviewers felt that the constant need to return to areas previously visited to gather tools was frustrating for young users. "No way most 3 year-olds could handle this," according to our teacher reviewer. "It would be far more appropriate for 6 to 10 or even 12 year-olds." Younger reviewers tended to get very frustrated unless they had help, or had the benefit of watching an older child use it first.

Proxy Parent Value
Proxy Parent Value is SuperKids' measure of how well a program captures and holds a child's interest. Pajama Sam scored well with the older children in our review group, 8 to 12 year-olds. "My two daughters (11 and 9) have been fascinated with the program and can't seem to quit," wrote one parent. Unfortunately, those children are older than the age range suggested by the publisher (3 to 8). In the recommended age group, the kids required much more hands on assistance by a parent. Another noted that, "I would really like to recommend Pajama Sam because I personally liked it immensely - but I think it is out of synch with its target audience."

Best for...
This program is best suited for an inquisitive child - who won't give up easily! And because of the long playing time required to achieve Sam's objective, it is far better suited for home, rather than school use.

Bottom-Line
Pajama Sam is a graphically beautiful program, with true cartoon quality animation. The problem solving skills required are excellent exercises in critical thinking - but for the older end of the recommended age spectrum, and beyond.

Education value = 4/5, Kid appeal = 3/5, Parent friendly = 4/5

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Critical Thinking / Problem Solving 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 higher System 7.0 or later
CPU Type and Speed 486/33 or faster 68040/25 or faster
Hard Drive Space 2.5 MB none
Memory (RAM) 8 MB 8 MB
Graphics SVGA (640x480x256 color) 640x480x256 color
CD-ROM Speed 2X 2X
Audio sound card n/a
Other Needs


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