Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I am not the target market for GCompris: it's "an educational software suite comprising of numerous activities for children aged 2 to 10." I'm ashamed to admit that I still had some fun with it.

I think the docs say there are a total of around 80 games, though not all work without some additional packages installed (specifically, the ones that require the computer to speak seem to require an extra voice-pack for your language). There were more than enough to occupy my alcohol-addled brain for a while, as I bounced from memory games to alphabet and reading games.

They were still a bit below my grade level, but I was amazed at the quality and level of polish. They're going for an easy-to-see, broad, over-sized, childlike sort of look, and with that in mind, the software is almost perfect. While the controls and the goals for each of the games/applications weren't always immediately obvious, it never took more than a second or three of experimentation to figure out what was going on.

And even though the games are for the 2-10 year old age bracket, some of them are actually a bit difficult, in that Brain Age brain-training sort of way. Especially fun (for me) was the kiddy-sudoku that used shapes instead of numbers; there were smaller grids a very limited number of shapes, to start with, but it kept ramping up the difficulty until it was halfway as hard as a normal game of sudoku, but also only half as annoying. I dug it.

Graphically, as mentioned, this is a child-like delight to behold. The GCompris apps all share the same sort of aesthetic, and they're all quite functional. Things which are not the same are quite obviously different, and everything it bright and bold and easy to see.

The sound was also oddly great. Background music tended toward the classical/orchestral type - presumably thanks to those studies in back in the day that suggested we learn better when we're listening to the old masters' symphonies - but occasionally wandered into more contemporary electronic terrain. Sound effects were as easily differentiated as the visual cues, letting players/students know via multiple senses that they'd done something correctly (or not).

I doubt anyone reading this is going to be very interested in an educational software suite aimed at primary-schoolers. But it must be said that this is a very polished piece of software, indeed, and is absolutely on par with pay software of the same type. It should be noted, of course, that generally edutainment software even in the retail sphere is pretty shoddy. If you've got kids in the house, this is almost definitely better than anything you could purchase. The only downside is that it doesn't contain any licensed characters to hook your kids into the learning. :)

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