- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ni Hao Kai-lan’s New Year’s Celebration (2K Play for Nintendo DS, $29.99) mirrors the animated designs and gentle lessons of the popular Nick Jr. preschool cartoon as 6-year-old Kai-lan Chow and her friends Rintoo, Tolee, Hoho and Lulu join YeYe - Grandfather - to work together to prepare for the Chinese New Year.

Game controls are easy enough for little hands and use the basic DS commands, such as blowing into the microphone or tapping, scribbling, dragging and tracing objects on the screen using the stylus.

Children choose to play along with the story of the preparations for the New Year celebration, or, in free-play mode, select from any of the minigames. In addition, there is a coloring feature where children can create their own designs.

In New Year’s Celebration, children play through games while getting an introduction to emotions, such as waking up in a cheerful manner.

In one sequence, Kai-lan wakes up Mr. Sun by asking players to say “Wake up” into the microphone and then “tickle” Mr. Sun or play the tambourine with the stylus, to bring him back from slumberland. If someone wakes up a little grumpy, prompts require children to say “Cheer up” into the microphone while patting their friend on the back with the stylus.

Being aware of emotions, such as grumpy and happy, is very much a part of Kai-lan’s message.

In the Spot the Emotion minigame, the top screen shows a character expressing an emotion. The child then chooses which emotion is being expressed by picking one of the three pictures on the bottom screen.

Reinforcing personal responsibility and the need to be helpful in the home, Kai-lan asks for help in cleaning up the house, blowing into the microphone to clear away dust bunnies, scribbling on spills and stains to clean them up, and collecting items to put them away by drawing circles around them. This minigame also teaches that it is good luck to start off the Chinese New Year with a clean home.

A shopping challenge is just for fun as players are prompted to find new clothes for Kai-lan and her friends as they shop with YeYe. Children practice following direction and matching colors.

More directions must be followed to make Chinese dumplings and almond cookies with YeYe. To make these traditional Chinese New Year treats, players follow a sequence of instructions as they drag and stir ingredients.

The Band Practice and Performance challenges require another round of following directions, more scribbling and microphone puffs.

In the Marching and Fireworks games, children will follow YeYe as he calls out shapes and colors reflected in the top screen. In Fireworks, the bottom screen will show three shapes, prompting the child to trace the one that matches what YeYe calls out.

Marching in the parade is a bit more complicated as Kai-lan and her friends, Rintoo, Tolee, Hoho and Lulu march along, each holding up a different color of the Chinese Dragon that leads the parade. In addition to the color, each friend has a shape. As YeYe calls out a color or shape, the child is encouraged to click on the correct friend, teaching colors and shapes in addition to developing hand-eye coordination and reflex skills.

Of the 20 games, paper crafting offers something to be taken away from the Nintendo DS. Children follow directions to color a paper dragon’s head and lanterns for the parades. It would be fun and simple to really make these crafts for your own New Year celebration.

My disappointment in the game stems from the lack of Chinese language or simple characters that could have been taught. At the very least, some bilingual number lessons could have been incorporated.

It would have been nice if Kai-lan and her friends had taught a simple “Xin Nian Kuai Le” - Happy New Year.

By the way, the game is an excellent accompaniment to the Nickelodeon Kai-lan Web site (www.nickjr.com/ni-hao-kai-lan), where parents and children can find plenty of printables, games, downloads, crafts and recipes for Chinese foods, such as the dumplings featured in the game.

Send e-mail to jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

Send e-mail to jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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