Bright Spots in Bundled Titles

jinny@choosingchildrenssoftware.com

As you cruise down the software aisle of your local Wal-Mart, Kmart, Costco, Best Buy or other large discount chain, you may notice the rows of bundled software packages that appear to contain multiple software titles.

Most bundles are sold at greatly discounted prices--usually at the same cost as buying just one software title. Many people are skeptical of these discounted bundles and wonder whether they are cheap because they contain lousy software. Some do. However, many bundles are real finds.

Bundles may contain current top-notch software that for some reason is no longer available. Others contain current software that is still sold individually. Sometimes, bundles are made up of older titles--but that doesn't make them bad.

I apply the "two-for" rule when looking to recommend a bundle. If you can buy two good software titles for the price of one, then the bundle is worth it. If it has more than two good titles, you have found a gem.

Here are bundles that have passed the "two-for" rule. They would make great additions to any family software library.

'Adventure Workshop Preschool-1st Grade'

Price: $20 for the PC and Mac

Publisher: Learning Co.

Ages: 3 to 7

"Adventure Workshop Preschool-1st Grade" contains three good titles. The real gem in this bundle is "Reader Rabbit Thinking Adventures," a discontinued title that was (and now, once again, is) the top logical thinking title in its age category. This award-winning title invites children to help organize a birthday party for Reader Rabbit's friend, Sam the Lion. Filling out the bundle are "Arthur's Birthday," a fun interactive storybook, and "Reader Rabbit's Math Ages 4-6," a solid math title for this age group.

'Humongous Greatest Hits Bundle Expanded'

Price: $20 for the PC or Mac

Publisher: Humongous Entertainment

Ages: 4 to 10

This five-title bundle far surpasses the "two-for" rule. It contains four great edutainment titles and one that is just plain fun. "Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo" is an outstanding adventure starring Putt-Putt, an animated car. Young children learn about logical problem-solving. "Freddi Fish and the Case of the Missing Kelp Seeds" is the first title in the award-winning Freddi Fish series. "Pajama Sam in 'No Need to Hide When It's Dark Outside' " allows youngsters to join a little boy named Sam in his adventures as a superhero. In "Spy Fox in Dry Cereal," children join top secret agent Spy Fox in a hilarious 007 parody. "Super Duper Arcade I" is thrown in for old-fashioned arcade-type fun.

'Math & Science Excelerator'

Price: $30 for the PC or Mac

Publisher: Topics Entertainment

Ages: 8 to 12

Here is a bundle that packs an educational wallop! It contains four great Edmark titles: "Thinkin' Science ZAP," the best science title on the market for ages 8 to 12; "Space Academy GX-1," an interactive journey through space; "MindTwister Math," a math game show that drills third- and fourth-grade math facts and concepts; and "Mighty Math Calculating Crew," a fun way to explore third- to sixth-grade math.

'Family MegaHits II'

Price: $20 for the PC or Mac

Publisher: Encore Software

Ages: 13 and older

Here's a bundle that passes the "two-for" rule with flying colors but contains two extra titles that may not be of much interest. The diamonds in the rough here are "Titanic Adventure Out of Time," a role-playing game set on the Titanic, and "Railroad Tycoon II," a historical simulation that teaches children about economics and the stock market. The less appealing titles in this bundle are "You Don't Know Jack Television," an irreverent game show, and "Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit," a classic car-racing game.

'SimMania for Kids'

Price: $20 for the PC or Mac

Publisher: Maxis

Ages: 8 and older

"SimTown" and "SimAnt" are both excellent beginning simulations. After children have cut their teeth on those, move them to "SimPark" and "SimSafari," two fun ecological simulations. "SimTunes" is a unique music game that is highly interactive and inventive. The bundle also contains "Widget Workshop," a hands-on science lab.

Jinny Gudmundsen is editor of Choosing Children's Software magazine.

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