Thursday, November 12, 2009

JumpStart Contest Winner

Congrats to Jennifer for having random integer #2 in the JumpStart giveaway. She won a 3 month subscription to the JumpStart website!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Giveaway: JumpStart Membership

I remember as a child playing some of the new technologically advanced games of the day -- Space Invaders on my Atari, the Smurf game on my uncle's ColecoVision, Oregon Trail on the Macs at school, and eventually Ultima III on my home computer with my dad. The wee ones? It's a whole new world. Literally.

I was given a membership to JumpStart to try out, and we are having so much fun with it. My only real experience with gaming today are WebKinz that Mister Man has and a little bit of an educational site called Starfall.

JumpStart is like a custom catered twelve course meal compared to the McDonalds of what I've experienced before.

When you start out, you create your own avatar called a "Jumpee" that is completely customized with hair and eyes and lips and clothing and more. It is incredibly realistic and moves so smoothly. They are so well done that it is almost too realistic for me in that there are too many variables to think about. We're adjusting though.

I love that JumpStart has educational component as well as just pure entertainment parts to it. When you log on, you start in the "village" and can choose to go into any number of different worlds from the brand new Future World (where you can earn coins by correctly answering math and language arts questions or play games visiting future or ancient worlds) to MarineLand to AdventureLand, and more.

Each world is labeled for the approximate age range, which helps me out greatly. StoryLand is the one that best suits Little Miss (ages 3-5) while Mister Man enjoys hanging out at AdventureLand or MarineLand (5-8 for both). The new FutureLand is aimed at the 8-10 year old set, and some of those questions really make me think. "What three digit number is between 400 and 600 with the second digit half the third?"

As you enter each land, you are given an introduction to the area by the character that inhabits it. This takes you into a little vignette and makes it clear what your goal is for each world. My one main frustration with JumpStart is that my personal computer loses the volume whenever we go into one of those vignettes. I can hear the background noises, and I can hear the movies that I've played there, but the character vignettes are inaudible. The engineers at JumpStart aren't quite sure what makes me so special, but when we play this on my dad's computer or my husband's, the volume is just fine.

Fortunately, there are great help buttons as part of the navigation, so I'm able to determine what we're supposed to be doing for the most part. StoryLand is a challenge, as it's designed for kids who don't yet read, so I have to do a lot of guessing and MarineLand has some verbal riddles I'm supposed to solve, but beyond that we've made do quite well.

Little Miss and I play it for a few minutes most morning while waiting for her bus to come. She can do StoryLand by herself, as it is purely mouse-driven, but she also really enjoys it when I "help" her with the more advanced worlds and the games within there. Granted, I'm not figuring out syllables or the times tables with her, but there are lots of things that just tickle her (and me).

Since we've been trying out JumpStart, there are a number of innovations that they've made, which really goes to show how they're ensuring that this will continue to be something that holds kids' interest. MarineLand and FutureLand have both been introduced within the past month. For Halloween, the whole town was decorated appropriately and also included a fun haunted house (don't ask how many times we went through it).

While JumpStart is a site that you can enjoy for free, the free portion of it is somewhat limited. You can access StoryLand, AdventureLand, Buggy Racer, and Ghost Town Grab, as well as buying some items from the Threadz Store, but you don't get full access to the worlds (and you don't get MarineLand or FutureLand, which are our favorites.

The paid membership also allows you to download programs to your computer that are appropriate for preschool through second grade. The cool thing about these programs (aside from just being cool themselves) is that you can track your children's progress individually on the software downloads so you can see what they're learning. I love that parent-friendly touch.

One of the fun features is that you can set up individual avatars for each person in your family once you become a member. Mister Man has his own coin earnings and star rating and dude, while Little Miss has hers. I love that there's no fighting over who something belongs to or what someone is doing because it's like they each have their own membership.

That also comes in handy as you start to adopt pets, another new feature that adds another layer of interest for kids. To be honest, there are so many facets of JumpStart that I haven't been able to explore them all. I'll keep working on that, and the wee ones are more than happy to help me.

The only other kind of odd thing for me was that there was no log off button. When you're done playing, you simply close the window. To me, I feel like that's missing something, but that is the way it's set up for now, and it works fine. I just like logging off.

So what about you? Are you ready to become a member of JumpStart? Head over to their site. You can try it out for free to access parts of the site. Membership is $7.99 per month for as many children as access your account.

Want to win it instead? I'm giving away a three month membership to JumpStart's website to one lucky reader. (And I do mean lucky. It's possible I keep playing JumpStart even after Little Miss has hopped on the bus.)

This contest will run until Tuesday November 10 at 9pm Central. The winner will be chosen by based on the valid entries received. You must provide me with an email address or the ability to contact you via your profile or you will be unable to win. The winner will have 48 hours from being notified to contact me, or I will choose another winner. Leave a separate comment for each entry to make tallying that much easier for me!

Mandatory Entry: What was your favorite computer game growing up? Other entries won't count if you don't do this one!

Bonus Entries:
1) Follow this blog. (one extra entry)
2) Follow Honest & Truly - my "regular" blog. (one extra entry)
3) Visit the JumpStart website, and tell me something new that I didn't mention above. (two extra entries)
4) Tweet this giveaway, and post the link below. (one extra entry)

That's it! Five easy ways to enter to win access to this oh so fun world. And if you'll excuse me, I have some math to go practice.

I did not receive any compensation for this review. I was granted access to the JumpStart website. The opinions expressed here are purely my own -- and my family's.