Common Sense Media says

Kids' art comes alive in fun, educational game.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Encourages kids to be creative through art, because everything they draw in the game comes alive and is incorporated into the story. You can play as a little girl or boy, but unfortunately, there is no ability to change their race from being white.

Ease of play

The game is simple to play by just clicking on things on the screen. All words can be read out loud. The drawing aspect works amazingly well as the technology takes what kids draw and inserts it into the game.

Violence & scariness

One of the quests asks you to use a storm cloud to zap five different creatures. By moving the cloud over a creature, it rains and then a bolt of lightning comes down and "fries" the animal in a cartoon manner where it grimaces, vibrates and turns a different color, and then returns to normal.

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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a reading game that uses fascinating technology to entice kids to read. The game presents kids with quests in a written format, with all words being clickable and spoken aloud. Most quests ask kids to draw objects, and when they do, those objects come alive in the game. Because seeing your drawings come alive and be animated is so compelling, kids are motivated to work their way through 5 levels of reading. The only questionable quest is one that has kids drawing a rain cloud that they then move over a creature to cause it to be zapped by lightning. The creature doesn't die, just contorts (as creatures do in cartoons when zapped), and then returns to normal. Kids don't have to do this quest.

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What's it about?

ITZABITZA is a game that incubated in the Microsoft's Advanced Strategies unit before being spun out to be produced by start-up Sabi, Inc. It combines learning to read with an innovative drawing recognition technology dubbed \"Living Ink.\" Kids are motivated to read so that they can contribute to a story by drawing objects. When they draw something, it comes alive in the game, animates, and is incorporated into stories that kids help to create. All of the words in the game can be clicked on to be read aloud in a child's voice. Kids can take photos of their evolving stories to showcase their artwork and share it with others.

The game is made up of a series of five themed playsets which include home, camping, outer space, a farm, and a haunted house. In each, kids choose to play with a girl or boy, both named Sketchy. Sketchy sends the player on a series of quests that earn stars. For example, in the home playset, the Sketchy asks you to draw it a home. When you do, no matter if it looks like an igloo, a mushroom, or a square, when you finish, the Sketchy walks inside of it and waves at you through a window. At first, only the home playset is available, but when you complete enough quests to earn five stars, the next playset unlocks. The reading in the first playset is easy, but it gets harder as you explore more playsets.

Is it any good?


This is a truly fabulous game for kids who are learning to read. Actually, it is fun for kids who already know how to read too, because creating artwork that is then incorporated into a story that you help create is, well, captivating. The magic of this game is how it anticipates what you might draw, and then makes it fit and animate within the story. Plus every time kids interact with a playset, it varies because their drawings will be different.

The reading within the game is also well thought out. Each playset offers progressively more sophisticated sentences. By placing the reading within a game in which kids draw many of the visuals, the game allows kids to read for a purpose and to cross reference words with visual objects. If you have an early reader, don't miss this one -- it is so much fun to explore.


Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how much fun it is to create a drawing and then see it animate. What happens if you draw it differently the next time you play? What playset was your favorite and why?

Game details

Available online?Not available online
Developer:Sabi Games
Release date:November 12, 2008
ESRB rating:E for (No Descriptors) (Windows)

This review of ItzaBitza was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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