SuperKids Educational Software Review. The parents' and teachers' guide to educational software
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Reviews of Software for Girls

Barbie Storymaker
from Mattel

For Ages 5 and up

Also see SuperKids':
  • Comparisons with other Girls Software programs
  • Buyers Guide for current market prices of this PC only title.

  • Reviewed on:
    Children's Software Screen Shot Pentium90 with 24MB and 2XCD

    Content
    Would your daughter like to create an animated Barbie doll show, complete with multiple characters, outfits, scenes, and action?

    Would you like to help her? If the answer to both questions is 'yes,' this program is for you.

    Barbie Storymaker is a sophisticated program that allows a user to move from playing with physical dolls, to a computerized experience with virtual dolls. The program has four major components:

    Ease of Install / Use
    The program installed easily in our reviewers' PCs, asking just two questions: which drive/directory, and if the user needed QuickTime for Windows 1.1 (included). The program takes approximately 5 MB of disk space, but an uninstall capability is thoughtfully included.

    Ease of install, however, is not the same as ease of use, as our reviewers were soon to discover.

    Storymaker has some easy-to-use features, and some not-so-easy. Our six year-old tester had no difficulty drawing or coloring scenes in the Paint Studio, adding objects to the settings in the Scenes Studio, or selecting characters and their outfits. But these activities aren't "the really neat part" of Storymaker. That label was reserved by our kid reviewers for the features which allowed the user to 'block' or draw the paths the characters would take in each scene, and those which added interactive animation between the characters, sounds, and dialogue. Unfortunately, using those features took a careful reading of a rather skimpy instruction manual, and a fair amount of experimentation. One of our parents noted that this was, "a definite black-hole for time."

    Methodology
    Users begin by entering the Scenes Studio, where they select a basic background for each scene in the story. A user might select the front of the house first, then move into the living room, kitchen, or bedroom, or off to the beach. Next, a cast of characters is chosen, along with their outfits. Additional features may be added to the set, like flowers, birds, butterflies, or an aquarium. Each character's path is 'blocked' out on the scene, by moving the mouse along a desired path. Time delays and fades can be added, along with animated activities like Barbie kissing Ken. Finally, music, sounds, and a custom dialogue may be added.

    After a collection of scenes have been created and saved, the user moves over to the Editing Studio, where the scenes are linked together, for viewing in the Screening Room.

    Proxy Parent Value
    Proxy parent value is SuperKids' measure of how well a program grabs and holds a child's attention. Barbie Storymaker has a strong initial attraction for most young girls. The pink packaging, familiar characters, and ability to access a number of easy-to-use features are strong hooks. Unfortunately, most of the more sophisticated capabilities of the program require significant instruction by a parent or caregiver who has taken a not insignificant amount of time to understand their use. "I spent two hours the first day, and barely felt like I'd scratched the surface," wrote one mother. "And the whole time my daughter kept asking when it would be her turn."

    Older children, say 10 and above, who might require less parental instruction, may tend to be less attracted to the notion of playing with Barbies. But if they are still interested, Storymaker offers the potential to hold their interest for almost countless hours of creative playtime.

    Best for...
    Barbie Storymaker is best suited for girls who are still interested in Barbie, yet capable of learning how to use a program that requires multiple steps for creative efforts to be displayed. Five to 8 year-old girls will probably be most comfortable with the simple activities, like picking and decorating sets, and selecting characters and their outfits. With significant parental assistance, they may be able to use some of the program's more sophisticated capabilities. Girls 10 and over should be able to learn these capabilities with the help of a parent, and then use them on their own to produce stories.

    Bottom-Line
    A neat program for a mother and young daughter to use together, to create animated stories.

    Educational Value 4/5, Kid Appeal 4/5, Parent Friendly 3/5

    See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Girls Software programs, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of this PC only title.



    Children's Software System Requirements


    PC

    Macintosh
    Operating System Windows 3.1, Win95 not available
    CPU Type and Speed 486/33 or faster
    Hard Drive Space 5 MB
    Memory (RAM) 8 MB
    Graphics 256 color VGA monitor
    CD-ROM Speed 2X
    Audio
    Other Needs mouse

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