- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 11, 2004

In a world of ultraviolent video games, where dexterity of the thumb and index finger is infinitely more important than flexing of the cerebrum, there must be a place for children and their parents to interact and actually learn something from that overpriced multimedia computer/gaming system. Take a deep breath and enter the ROMper Room, where learning is a four-letter word cool.

A group of droplets and splashes come to life to help teach children about colors, numbers and letters in the chromatic world of the Blobs.

With the title’s origins based on the D.C. Thomson illustrated book series from the 1980s and subsequent British cartoon series from the late 1990s, the CD-ROM provides four main challenges for the 3- to 5-year-old crowd to discover the joys of learning.

Simple designs, animated segments, a silly theme song and multiple musical moments greet explorers as they visit Paintbox Land. Computer users are introduced to the globular characters Poppy Red, Gloomy Royal Blue, Canary Yellow and Grumbly Green.

A rainbow droplet acts as the host as he beckons tykes to mouse around the static main landscape, and he is always one click away from offering audio instruction on a particular activity.

If the child selects the giant rainbow, he watches a short cartoon of the wicked witch Inky Black stealing the colors from some of the blobs, and he must use a magic brush to grab hues from the rainbow and fill in the colorless characters. Correct choices lead to another animation revealing some personality traits on the now vividly restored blob.

Players also will find within Paintbox Land a numerical exercise that involves choosing a digit as Inky Black stirs her cauldron to bring a corresponding number of objects up to the murky surface. Also within Paintbox Land is a phonetic alphabet activity in which Junior selects letters off paint cans. He can hear the pronunciation of each letter and place the letters in a row of ovals to try to assemble new words.

Additionally, Royal Blue’s Picture Puzzleintroduces the child to how a computer mouse works as he brushes a cursor across a patterned screen to remove tiled shapes. In the process, he hears banjo-plucked notes as the illustration reveals a short cartoon.

Higher pricing and less complex graphical presentations make the Blobs difficult to recommend for the budget-conscious family because of the large selection of Disney Interactive or Knowledge Adventures titles that cover comparable ground.

The Blobs from Tool Factory, $39.99, For PCs with Microsoft Windows 95 operating system minimum.

ROMper Room is a column devoted to finding the best of multimedia “edutainment.” Calls, letters or faxes about a particular column or suggestions for future columns are always welcome. Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).

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