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Puzzle Play Dot-to-Dots and Hidden Pictures (workbooks and CD-ROMs) Review by Donna Campos

School Zone Interactive
School Zone Publishing Company
1819 Industrial Drive, P.O. Box 777
Grand Haven, MI 49417

 Puzzle Play Software sets include an activity book and a CD-ROM for different types of activities. We reviewed the Dot-to-Dots and Hidden Pictures sets. The Dot-to-Dot workbook includes 64 pages of predominately black and white pages with decorative color accents. Each page has numbered dots (anywhere from 25 to 50 total dots in the pictures). The CD-ROM enables children to design their own dot-to-dot picture in any form they choose, or they can opt for a computer-generated design. The puzzles can be set up with numbered dots or letters. There are 15 backgrounds to choose from, along with nine scroll-down sets of "extras" to place in the picture (tails, jewelry, odd limbs, hairstyles, sports equipment, etc.). A paint palette offers colors and patterns to completely fill the background of a picture or the interior of a chosen dot-to-dot shape. Pictures may be printed at completion.

The Hidden Pictures workbook includes 57 full-color pictures. At the bottom of each page are black line drawings of items to be found in that particular picture. The CD-ROM version of hidden pictures is nothing like the workbook version. The child places ("hides") objects on a grid board (or has the computer do this step), chooses a picture to be laid on top of the items, and then "digs up" chosen grid squares to find the items beneath. There are extensive options for setting up the picture and hidden objects, as well as gags or goodies to make the game easier or more difficult. These too can be printed upon completion

The books can be used alone or with the computer games, or used with two children simultaneously (one completing the workbook activities and another playing the computer games). Both sets are designed for ages six to eight. The workbooks include glossy soft covers with sturdy pages and an envelope pocket in the back of each that contains the CD-Rom. And both computer games offer verbalized encouragement along the way. Each set is an enjoyable combination of activities and will offer hours of fun for children who enjoy Dot-to-Dots and Hidden Pictures. The $8.00 price per set is excellent for what is included.

Even though we are using a new computer, the games were somewhat slow to load. Another minor complaint was that we could not use the mouse to choose a dig position in the Hidden Pictures game; coordinate points were the only way to play. While this is great for an older child who is learning about coordinate graphs, a younger child might find it difficult. Other potential negatives: the Hidden Pictures game includes an "alien" as one of the options for a "dig crew" member, and the Dot-to-Dots program includes some potentially scary options (ferocious teeth, monster body parts, etc.), although all of them are cartoon-style. We found no such negatives in either of the workbooks, both of which were very child appropriate, although the Hidden Pictures are extremely silly and do include animals in human situations and dressed in clothing. It should also be noted that Easter bunnies painting eggs and a Santa Clause were shown in two of the pictures. Given the low price, we were willing to tolerate such things and enjoy the creativity offered from the computer programs.

Puzzle Play's Hidden Pictures and Dot-to-Dots are equally enjoyable sets of workbooks and CD-Roms. The price is reasonable, and the creative outlet found in each set kept our family happily entertained for hours. The continued use of the computer program long after the workbook has been consumed is an added benefit. We found these products to be a wonderful outlet for creative children.

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2007