- Fish Tennis
- Building blocks – “fit-the-blocks-together” game
- Music Time – play along and record your own compositions
- Ice Flow
- Snow Maze
Great Games and Accessories for the PC.Once again, the BBC has produced a superlative software package for youngsters aged between three and six years old.
Though this is a fairly large age gap to bridge, the content on Pingu: A Barrel of Fun achieves it effortlessly. For the younger end of the age group, there are shape-sorting, number- and letter-matching, sound- and colour-recognition puzzles to crack. For five- and six-year-olds, the “hard” rather than “easy” skill option will give plenty to amuse. For example, in the easy letter game, players must choose the initial letter of a given everyday object, whereas in the hard version, players must spell the whole word. (Hover over the letter and you get the name of the sound; once you’ve placed it, the voice-over tells you the name of the letter–an extremely sound educational approach.)
The sound game, a real highlight of the package, is an aural pelmonism, where players must match sounds to make the symbols disappear. In the harder version, the organ grinder plays a tune and players must match the sounds in the correct order. Though most sounds are everyday (telephone, cow, pig) there are some more exotic sounds (lion) that children may not recognise, but they can match them to the pictures shown.
For older players, there is a selection of five games to choose from, each with an easy, medium and hard skill option. In “Ice Flow”, you must get Pingu across the water without wetting him so he can deliver birthday presents: a kind of basic Pingu Frogger! “Snow Maze” is reminiscent of a simple Pac-Man, but the added bonus is picking objects up along the way that you can build up into your own original picture at the end. “Fish Tennis” is bordering on the surreal–a kind of elementary tennis reminiscent of the original Atari game, but with Penguins not paddles and fish not balls! “Building Blocks” sets players a puzzle not unlike those in the Krypton Factor–matching shapes together to build up an overall object within a template. In the easy version, each shape is cut into three pieces; in the medium version it is four or five pieces and in the harder one, seven or eight. The only let-down to the game section is “Music Time”, a recording synthesiser which allows you to play nursery rhyme tunes, sing along or record your own composition. Though the idea is great, the mouse dexterity required to make it work effectively is probably beyond the target age group, and the resulting sound quality on a home PC is poor.
That said, this is a minor blip in an otherwise fantastic package. It is easy to load, has great graphics that perfectly reproduce the TV programme, and while younger players may require supervision and help, they will still enjoy their favourite character, even if mastering the finer points of the package is beyond them. Whether your child is a fan of Pingu or not, there is plenty for him or her to get their teeth into. From early learning to elementary gaming skills, Pingu: A Barrel of Fun will definitely last the three years of the target age range and players will continue learning all the time. And, once your children has turned six, a simple and effective Uninstall option means your hard drive won’t be clogged up forever. —Lucie Naylor