The Secret World of Santa Claus is big Christmas fun for little ones. It’s nothing miraculous, but it’s worth having if you have children 3 to 8 years old that you’re trying to keep entertained during those long December nights before or just after Christmas.
This CD-ROM will conveniently run on just about any PC or Mac under seven years old. That’s pretty amazing in these days of high-speed Megahertz and RAM hogging games, but The Secret World of Santa Claus isn’t really a game. It’s an interactive entertainment CD-ROM for kids.
The opening screen is a table of contents in the form of a Christmas tree with decorative balls on it. Click on one of five balls to choose one of Santa’s workshops. In the decoration workshop children can make one of three different types of paper ornaments. They choose the figure, such as an elf or Santa himself, and click the figure onto the form which can then be printed, cut out and assembled according to easy instructions. For extra fun, heads and bodies can be mix and matched. With a little scissors and glue help even young children can make these simple Christmas ornaments.
The next workshop is karaoke, where children can sing along with popular Christmas carols like Jingle Bells and Silent night. The words are printed on the screen and children are prompted to sing along as each word is highlighted. An animated cartoon accompanies the song. This is a fun way to enjoy Christmas carols and to keep older children’s reading skills sharp during the holidays.
Another workshop is the Advent calendar. The child can click on a window a day to reveal a surprise, just like on a real Advent calendar. Unlike a real Advent calendar, however, you can’t skip ahead. As a matter of fact, I can’t even tell you what the surprises are because it won’t let you open the first window until your computer says it’s December 1, and it was only November when I was testing it.
The last workshops are the cartoon and games. The cartoon is just what it sounds like, a full-length Christmas cartoon complete with high-tech Santa. The cartoon can be stopped and the image on the screen can become one of the puzzles in the game section. The game section gives the child a choice between solving sliding puzzles, simple jigsaw puzzles or just doing a coloring sheet. All the puzzles and coloring sheets are scenes from the cartoon. The sliding puzzles are more difficult and aimed at older kids, the jigsaw puzzles however are very simple. They have a faded picture of the completed puzzle showing in the background, so it is really just a matter of matching the pieces to the picture. Even very young children could complete these puzzles.
Basically, this is just a fun CD-ROM aimed strictly at the Christmas holidays when kids are home and need to be kept busy while the parents get things ready. It will have limited appeal after the holidays, but should serve its niche nicely. I give it 3 GiN gems.