NAPPA 2006: Software for Ages 9 & Up

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By Alex Chisholm

Nappa Gold Winners
The theme running through this year's NAPPA winners is excellence in empowering kids and unlocking their creativity. As computing technologies become more sophisticated, they're also becoming easier to use.

The past few years have seen an explosion of new software titles and electronic games that move beyond what's possible with the keyboard and joystick. These innovations invite kids of all ages to literally jump in to experiences with easy-to-use dance pads, skateboards, drawing slates and other devices that connect directly to the computer and TV. These wonderful new ways of interacting with technology enable designers to create products that go way beyond old-school "drill and thrill" activities. These NAPPA Gold Award-winners represent some of the best of what's new for families.

Gold Award Winners

Big Brain Academy and Brain Age, for Nintendo DS Lite, Nintendo, 2006; $19.99 each ($129.99 for Nintendo DS Lite). Nintendo has built a reputation on making the most basic activities and game play extremely fun and engaging. Big Brain Academy and Brain Age keep you wanting more and always deliver. Leveraging the dual-screen (hence the "DS") mode and touchscreen features of its powerful new handheld gaming system, Nintendo has released a series of "brain-teaser" games to help kids keep their minds sharp, reinforcing quick thinking, memorization, computation, analysis and identification skills. Although it may appear like a simple series of activities - players have to perform basic math, identify moving figures, memorize lists of words - Nintendo's approach makes each fun and exciting, allowing players to compete against themselves with a running log of daily performance. The wireless feature enables competition among friends and family. Included, of course, is Sudoku. Need we say more?
Xipster FullStop, XOW, 2003; $39.95; Mac/Windows 2000 and up. Xipster FullStop is tops when it comes to empowering kids and unlocking their creativity. For parents who grew up with some of the early classics in "stop-motion" animation - Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Davey and Goliath, to name a few - and wondered how it was done, Xipster answers the mystery and puts a powerful set of PC-based video and digital capture tools in the hands of our kids. The interface is easy to learn and use, allowing kids to quickly start creating their own stories and producing their own animations. Xipster is the perfect tool for today's media-savvy kids who want to grow up and make movies or produce games.

Honors Award Winners

Discovery Channel American Road Trip, bEqual, 2006; $14.99; TV and DVD player; Those who have piled into the family car for the annual road trip will appreciate this new trivia game, which takes players on an extended tour of the United States and challenges players with hundreds of questions about the history and geography of our country. Parents and kids learn interesting facts, view wonderful Discovery Channel video footage and navigate excellent graphics. It's a terrific way for families to spend an afternoon or evening without having to stop every few miles for a rest stop!

Play TV Family Tetris, Radica, 2006; $19.99; TV; Anyone who has played Tetris knows how hard it is to put down. This classic game provides hours of challenge for family fun. At such an inexpensive price for something that plugs directly into the TV, there should be one in every home.

Play TV Skateboarding, Radica, 2006; $39.99; TV; Fantastic in its simplicity, the name says it all. Radica's newest product is a skateboard game that plugs directly into the TV and lets kids perform "virtual" stunts in a variety of cool 'hoods, tracks and half pipes. Play TV Skateboarding is among the many new gaming experiences that get kids off the couch and exercising more than just their thumbs.

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