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For Christmas my Father in Law always gives the girls £50 each, I believe they are too young to receive money as I don't think it is in keeping with the magic of Santa brining the presents so I always buy a gift from him myself and then just get the money from him. Last year we decided that we would buy them an Innotab 2 learning system and a game each, Emily my youngest daughter is 2 years old so we needed to buy her a game which was in the age 3 range as that is the youngest in the games. I found this game on Ebay and it costs £21.95 with 95 pence delivery charge which is generally in the right price range for the games.
The Innotab systems are created by Vtech so the box has the logo emblazoned on it, the box states that the game is for ages 3-6 and includes an e-book, 3 learning games and creative activities. It also states on the box this game will help to teach shapes, patterns, numbers and creativity which seemed like a great all round game in my opinion.
The box shows Millie, Geo and Bot in the Umicar and is really brightly coloured, the box is quite big for the fact of it only holds a tiny little game cartridge however I think that is for the size of the instruction manual. On the back of the box there are some little pictures and a few words to describe the activity so that you can get a rough idea what the game is about although obviously with buying from Ebay we weren't able to see these before we bought the game.
Turn it on
When you switch on the Innotab system you get a screen which allows your child to select their name from the list so that they can save their own games. Once your child selects their name on the next screen you have the cartridge option to load up the game. Whilst the game is loading the screen has the Umicar full of the characters driving from one side of the screen to the other which I think it great as it keeps your childs interest and also means you know that the system is actually loading.
The screenplay of this game is played on the Innotab turned sideways so that it is landscape orientation. The starting screen lists the options of gameplay for your child, on the left hand side there is an E book called Purple Monkey Mission then at the top of the screen there is the learning options which are Umi city search, railway fix it and sled run then underneath these there are the creative options which are Team Umizoomi Go-Gallery, Dance Show and Umi Photo Album.
The menu is easy to use, it is colourful and the titles are bold which will make them easy to read although at 2 years old Emily is unable to read them. Emily tells me which game she would like to play and I tell her which one she needs to select and she is able to use the stylus to select the correct option although occasionally she doesn't press the option hard enough but if I tell her to do it a little harder she can select the option.
The book screen has 2 pages showing on it and they are numbered, there are 20 pages to the story all together and there are blue arrows underneath the pictures so your child can scroll through the pages and select which ones they want to read. There is a small door symbol in the top left hand corner which is uniformed throughout the game and allows your child to exit the screen and on the bottom of the screen you have the option to turn on highlighted words.
When your child selects a page the page of the book loads and there is a picture or video of what is happening on the page along with a couple of lines of text on the bottom. Each page of the book has a small purple rectangle in the top left hand corner which takes your child back out to choose another page to read and also has a circular arrow symbol in the top right hand corner which allows your child to have the text reread to them. When your child is listening to the text they can stop the reading by touching the words and then they are able to select the words one at a time to have the word read to them, I have used the book like this with my elder daughter so that she is able to read the story to us and when she gets stuck on a word she can touch it and the word will be read out to her.
The story begins with the Purple Monkey who is riding to her new home on the back of a truck when she falls off and lands in the Penguins home instead. Team Umizoomi help the Monkey get back to her own enclosure but just like in the programme there are a number of obstacles in the way. First of all Geo uses his shapes and creates a snow mobile for the team to ride on until they come to a swamp where they have to use a series of Turtles to jump across to get to the other side. The team come to a yellow door which is guarded by Dormouse from the show and the team have to select the longest key to open the door, the final problem to get through is Tiger Forest so the team use their Umicar with black stripes on to get through without being spotted that is until the Monkey sneezes and the stripes fall off. The final couple f screens get your child to count to 10 as fast as they can to help the Umicar speed up to the finish although of course the counting actually has no effect but team Umizoomi do get the Monkey home in the end.
Emily really enjoys the story and she will listen to it over and over again, it's quite cute when she tried to count to 10 quickly as she mumbles her numbers together and comes out with some strange sounding words. The pictures are all brightly coloured and I love the way there is videos to go with some of the pages such as the Tiger chasing them through the forest. The graphics of the story are very clear and there is no issue with the console keeping up with the story at any point.
Highlighted words means that words such are characters names, locations and types of words are highlighted and your child can press on them to be given an explanation of the word or to be told a little about a location such as the Jungle. Emily doesn't seem very interested in listening to the words on their own and prefers to listen to the story as a whole but I would think as she gets older these explanations will become more interesting for her.
The only issue with the story part of the console is that the story doesn't play all the way through so you have to keep coming out to the e-book menu and choosing the next page which can be quite slow to do and isn't the best way for a book to work in my opinion. The story is fun and has plenty going on in it, it is really like a short programme from the series which is great as it's in a format that Emily recognises.
There are 3 different learning games for your child to play, Umicity Search, Railway fix it and Sled run.
Umicity Search - When you load Umicity search your child gets to select whether they would like to play the game in easy or hard, there are little pictures with the options of cogs, one cog for easy and a series of complicated looking cogs for hard, I think the way the pictures show the difficulty too is great especially for children who are not able to read yet. The team give your child instructions on what they need to do to play the game but then your child also gets a demonstration of the gam through the Umigoogles which I think is great as for young children they are getting the instructions in more than one way so that they can thoroughly understand what they need to do.
The game is a map of Umicity which is a very simple map with very simple detail on it, your child is asked to find a particular street which is either a fruit or a shape, once you find that street you are asked to find a numbered street which it is crossed with. When your child finds the correct crossroads they them find a specific numbered property, once at the property the game asks your child to find something nearby such as a paint shop and finally they have to follow certain numbered bus to get to the train station which is the first stage to saving Umicar.
This game is a little too difficult for Emily however if you don't do anything when you are meant to be finding a street arrows come up and tell you which way to go so you can't exactly go wrong. You only look for a street ion one direction at a time which is great as it makes it easier. My eldest daughter can play this game with ease so I am sure Emily will get to grips with it shortly but really she is below the recommended age anyway so I think she does well with the game as she can play it with help.
Railway Fix - This game also has an easy and a hard setting, on this game Geo has an outlines diagram of a train engine and your child is given 3 options of shapes to make up the engine shown. You child simply has to use the stylus to pull the correct shape onto the picture, the engine requires 2 shapes to make it up so your child has to complete the process again. Once the engine is built all the characters board and they are on their way until they reach a part where the track is broke. To fix the track Millie gives your child 3 options and will ask them to pick one such as the smallest, medium sized or longest one, this continues until your child gets to the end of the track.
Emily enjoys this game and she tries to sing along with the song as the train is racing down the track, she is able to recognise the pieces needed to make the engine up and then she is able to pick out the shortest and longest track pieces but she struggles when she is asked for the medium sized piece.
Sled run - This game again has an easy or a hard option, firstly your child helps to maker the sled with Geo's shapes and then they're ready to go. The sled sets off down a down a snow covered hill and your child has to tilt the console from left to right to move the sled on the screen and avoid the obstacles. When you get so far through you are told that the dog is tired and he needs some dog treats to keep going and your child has to select a treat on the screen with the correct number on it. You have to feed the dog a couple of times through the sled run and then at the end you feed the dog a final biscuit to help him get home, Umicar is over some water so your child then has to build a speed boat with Geo's shapes to finally get across to him and save him.
This game makes Emily laugh, she likes twisting and turning the console and laughs when the sled crashes as she has gone the wrong way, she can't really play the game to avoid the obstacles it is more luck when she does miss them but i'm pleased with that as there is plenty more to this game that she will grow into and develop with rather than her being able to complete it all straight away. Whenever the dog is getting the biscuits she says "aw cute" and likes to pretend to stroke the dog on the screen.
Throughout the 3 games there are little circles at the side with the head of each character in it so that your child can get tips through the games if they are needed.
Go-gallery - when you go to this option you can create new pictures or you can look at pictures that you have previously created. There are only 4 pictures to complete which I think is a little poor as this is something both my girls love playing with as they are both pretty creative and my eldest gets bored once she has done each picture once. The pictures available are an underwater scene, a set of planets, a train on a train track and a helicopter flying above some building.
When you go into the picture you want to create the picture takes up the majority of the screen and then there is a row of paint pots at the bottom of the screen. At first I thought it wasn't very good as there are only 6 or 7 pots of paint however when your child selects a colour then they tilt the console to make it colour in and the more they tilt is back and forth the more the colour develops so you can actually get 4 different shades of colour from each colour pot. Your child can also choose to put a pattern on their pictures too to make it even more detailed so there is much more to this setting than what it first seems.
Emily loves playing with the colouring and tilting back and forth although she often forgets that you have to select the piece of the picture you want to colour before you select the colour for it and then wonders why it won't work but once you remind her what to do she is fine and can play this part of the game independently.
Dance show - This setting allows your child to create themselves a character, do a dance with the character and film the dance to be replayed later. Firstly the console asks your child to take a photo of themselves fitting their face into the circle on the screen, Emily can't manage to line her face up herself but with help she manages to take her picture. Once you have the picture you have to create your outfit, the costume bases are a Bee, a pink girl shape, a blue boys shape, a Lobster, a Dragon and an Octopus. Your child then decorates their costume with different things such as flowers, buttons, feathers and glitter and has to shake off the excess by tilting the console like you would if you were using glitter.
One your child has finished their creation they then go onto stage with the three Umizoomi characters and dance, the console tells them to click on the arrows as they appear on the screen and this makes the character do some great dance moves until right at the end of the dance your character does the crazy shake from the show.
Emily will sit and play on this game for well over an hour and is fascinated, she loves to make her costume and won't let me help her and I find it quite cute as she is really proud of her creations. Emily can follow the arrows to complete the dance at the end of the game and she sits wiggling her bum along with the dancing.
Photo album - In the photo album section your child has 10 different scenes to pick from and 10 different lots of heargear to pick then they get to take their photo in the scene or headgear they have selected. Emily can't manage to take the photos for this setting herself but she is able to select which scene she would like to use. The scenes are all really brightly coloured and have the different characters from the show on them, the scenes are generally scenes from throughout the book and the games that are on this software. Emily isn't quite so keen on this setting as she seems to get bored really quickly but then my eldest daughter loves playing with this and finds it really funny that her face is alongside the characters.
This game is simply fantastic, I would say that being from age 3 is about right although the top end of the game being 6 could be pushing it a little as my elder daughter has just turned 6 and she finds the majority of this game to easy and she says that most of the game is boring.
The game is all brightly coloured, the graphics are great and all the options such as to go into games, come out of games and saving items is all uniformed making it easy for a young child to flow.
The game is really educational and when we are matching shapes I make a point of pointing to each one and asking Emily what they are as so far she only recognises 3 shapes so this helps to back up her knowledge. Some of the educational parts are a little basic for a 6 year old such as counting to 10 and picking the biggest number when they are all single figures, my eldest daughter has been able to select numbers like this since she was 4 years old so this sort of thing isn't a challenge at all for her.
I'm really impressed with how much is on this game and Emily will play with it for ages, some of this game she can do herself which at 2 years old is really good in my opinion and some of the game I can see she will grow into and at the moment we play together more so that she understands what she has to do than that she is actually unable to complete the tasks in most cases. The game has little diagrams to go with everything so if your child doesn't read yet it doesn't matter which I think is great as it means Emily can understand the options available to her herself.
I will give this game 5 stars, I think it is fantastic value and I would expect this game to be played with for a long time to come.