Noddy's Playtime logo

Lock up your daughters, put shackles on your sons. Noddy's back with a vengeance, with a mission to educate.

What has a 43-year-old with rosy cheeks and a blue hat got to offer the nation's children? More than you might at first imagine, actually. Particularly when the 43 year-old in question is only three feet high, drives a rather pleasant little yellow car, lives in Toy Town, and is called Noddy. (Is that his first name or his second? Never could work it out).

Anyway, there are eight games to play in Noddy's Playtime, all of which are linked by a natty little driving section, which involves steering Noddy around Toy Town to get to one of the games. A simple painting program is thrown in as well, to enable children to exercise their creativity.

The games teach children about (deep breath) shapes, colours, matching objects and animals, basic music, letters, words, odd-one-out, counting, and basic maths. Phew, you never knew there was so much in it, eh? All the games are extremely well presented, and have excellent sound effects, though some of the graphics are a bit small, particularly on the train matching game.

I had trouble distinguishing between the portraits of the characters, let alone remembering where they were all sitting. Three skill levels cater for a range of age groups, from just entering school to about seven-years old.

When children first use the program, it is best that an adult uses it with them to guide them through the basics. The control system is simple, and text has been kept to a minimum, which makes the program easy to use. But you cannot help wondering how many five-year-olds have mastered the complexities of swapping disks on their single-drive Amigas (although they will get a lot of practice here).

All the games are extremely well presented

Apparently, there has been a lot of demand for a Noddy game from parents, but whether it is to educate their children or satisfy their own nostalgic cravings is unclear. And anyway, parents who were raised on a good healthy diet of Noddy, Big Ears, suet and cabbage will want to ensure their children get the same treatment - however unfair it might seem to outsiders.

The attraction of Noddy as a game character must lie very much with the parents. The little chappie has not been on TV for a good few years, and I know that my four-year-old boy certainly would not accept sweeties from the strange little gnome.

But if Sonic came round with a pocketful of sherbet dips, that would be a different matter. In marketing terms it is obviously very sensible to use a character parents can identify with - after all, they have all the money. (There cannot be many infants just entering school with £25 pocket money to spare, can there?)

Having used the program for some time, I'd quite happily fork out the aforementioned sum for the program for my little ones to use. And not being a huge Noddy fan, that surprised me a bit. I would not buy it for the ridiculously twee, cotton-candy Noddy stuff, it is just a damned fine educational program. It is fun, it keeps children interested, the graphics and sound effects on the whole are excellent, and there are plenty of different games.

The numerous disk swaps involved are an absolute pain on a single drive machine and is potentially ruinous for young children, but overall, Noddy's Playtime is one of the best of its kind.

Noddy's Playtime logo

Jumping Bean £25.99

This month we take a look at five new packages aimed at the very young user (Noddy's Playtime, Paint and Create, Spelling Fair, Merlin's Maths, Playdays and ADI French). Tony Dillon looks back to the days of short trousers and runny noses - it's nice to see that he hasn't changed.

In the world of children's games, can any license be as sought after as the Noddy one? Well, yes probably. I don't know about you, but from where I'm standing Noddy's a little old hat. Still, that didn't stop the Jumping Bean picking him up and sticking him in quite an inventive piece of software.

Aimed at children between the ages of three and eight, Noddy's Playtime aims to teach basic skills, such as picture recognition, along with some simple logic abilities. This is done through a series of eight games, based in various buildings around Toytown.

In the farm, you have to match the front and rear end of animals so that they will get fed. In the factory, you are shown five similar items and a picture of the kind you want, e.g. an ice cream with a red cherry but no wafer. Using the mechanical crane you have to knock off any wrong items.

The whole thing is linked by Noddy driving around Toytown, and this is full of nice little keyboard touches, such as pressing the 'B' key causes the car to brake sharply, complete with sound effect. However, this is where I think things might be a little too much for younger children. It is a large map, and you're given no indication of where the games are.

You can choose to skip to the games, but that removes the continuity. Other than that, it's a fine piece of software, and one stimulating enough to capture the imagination of the older end of the age group.