A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
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What 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.
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