Computers: Hip bird turns on tot: Isabel Hilton on a CD that's right on song

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The Independent Online
LENNY'S MUSIC TOONS is an enchanting CD-rom for chldren that takes off where things like the Broderbund's Grandma and Me leave off. The enchantment of Grandma and Arthur's Teacher Trouble for the young (five-ish) computer user is that all the bits in the picture come alive and do something when asked to.

Captivating though it is, once all the bits have been tried, all the whizzes whizzed and all the secrets discovered, the computer tot becomes blase, even bored. (For parents who fondly imagined that at this point the infant might play it again in Spanish or Japanese, we reserve our most polished pitying look)

Lenny's Music Toons comes to the rescue. Lenny is a hip penguin who lives in a room overlooking Times Square. Lenny is into moosic, by which I mean hip-hop rather than Mowtsaat. Lenny's room has the gags that old hands at Broderbund have come to expect: the teddy flies across the room; grandfather's ghost floats out of his portrait; flies invade the room only to be eaten by the goldfish. But Lennie's 'infotainment' value is in the musical games that are accessed in his room.

Click on the bookcase and you get into a musical jigsaw puzzle with three levels of difficulty: a piece of music is torn to pieces by an angry gorilla and to save Lennie's cat from the same fate, you have to fit it together. It can be done visually, though this gets harder in the advanced levels. Or it can be done on sound: each fragment can be played, as can the tune at any point, to help you fit the pieces together. The puzzles have proved extremely popular with a musical five-year-old.

Her older and less musical brother went for a slightly odd collection of shooting games in which the player has to beat off the attack by identifying and hitting the right note, which goes to show, I suppose, that anything can become a casus belli. Less alarming for the right thinking parent are the put-together-a-band and make-a-pop-video options which had the five-year-old acting the ruthless impresario in no time, complete with New York snarl caught off the penguin.

Making the pop video is no more rewarding musically than it would be in life. The music is marginally more interesting, but neither are terrific, even when played, as this was, on a Gateway 2000 PC- compatible machine complete with 16-bit Soundblaster sound processing card. It was not a reproduction problem. The raw material is just on the dull side.

The infant impresario did not object to the music. 'Now that really looks like a party]' she pronounced, as every inch of the screen flashed and whizzed in her hip-hop video. So far, the verdict holds.

Lenny's Music Toons

System: PC-compatible


Hardware: CD-rom; sound card.

Software: Windows.

Publisher: Paramount Interactive.

Availability: Computer Manuals: 021 706 6000


Street: pounds 47.57.

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