2001 Holiday Hits

Looking for some no-fail e-Gifts? We've been busy reviewing the 160 brand new products that will be competing for your attention this holiday shopping season. Just like always, some of the new stuff is fantastic, while some of it's not. After scrutinizing the choices, we've come up with these 60 no-fail gifts guaranteed to thrill your kids.

Game Boy Advance
Rayman Advance, ages 6-up, Ubi Soft Entertainment, 415-547-4000, www.ubisoft.com, Game Boy Advance, $39.99, ESRB: Everyone-- Children guide Rayman through 60 levels filled with strange, surreal scenes.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, ages 9-up, Activision, 800-477-3650, www.activision.com, Game Boy Advance, $39.99, ESRB: Everyone--This Game Boy Advance version of the popular skateboarding games serves up lots of action and excitement.

Spyro Season of Ice, ages 6-up, Universal Interactive, $39.99, ESRB: Everyone--One of the best GBA programs to date.

Tetris Worlds, ages 7-up, THQ, 818-871-5000, www.thq.com, Game Boy Advance, ESRB: Everyone-- This is a perfect puzzle game for those who like a mental challenge.

Game Boy Color
Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six, ages 8-up, Activision, 800-477-3650, www.activision.com, Game Boy Color, $29.99, ESRB: Everyone-- Players take the role of the web-swinging super hero as he goes up against The Sinister Six (animated fighting in this one).

Wendy: Every Witch Way, ages 5-10, TDK Mediactive, Inc., 818-878-0505, www.tdk-mediactive.com, Game Boy Color, $29.99, ESRB: Everyone-- Children will love Wendy's tricky moves-- she even travels upside-down, along the ceiling. No reading is required.

N64
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, ages 9-up, Activision, 800-477-3650, www.activision.com, N64, $49.99, ESRB: Everyone-- This is the long-anticipated sequel to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, which manages to add features and depth without straying from the original game play.

Xbox
Shrek, ages 12-up, TDK Mediactive, Inc., 818-878-0505, www.tdk-mediactive.com, Microsoft Xbox, $49.99, ESRB: Teen-- Everyone's favorite green ogre faces off with the evil magician Merlin. Kicking, burping, flatulence and other "comic mischief" earns the TEEN rating. If you don't mind bathroom humor, this a fun way to break in the new Xbox.

PlayStation 1
Backyard Soccer 2001, ages 5-10, Humongous Entertainment, 800-499-8386, www.humongous.com, PlayStation, $19.99, ESRB: Everyone-- The first Backyard Sports game to run on PlayStation, this soccer simulation is one of the best around.

Barbie Explorer, ages 6-up, Knowledge Adventure, 800-545-7677, www.vuinteractive.com, PlayStation, $30.00, ESRB: Everyone-- Kids go on an action/adventure in Tibet, Egypt and the jungles of Africa.

Bugs Bunny & Taz Time Busters, ages 7-up, Infogrames (GT Interactive), 212-726-6500, http://us.infogrames.com/, PlayStation, $19.99-- The unlikely duo of Bugs Bunny and the Tasmanian Devil must travel through time to save Daffy Duck.

Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX: Maximum Remix, ages 10-up, Acclaim Entertainment, 516-656-2274, www.acclaim.com, PlayStation (Playstation 2 and Windows), $39.99, ESRB: Everyone-- Kids peddle their stunt BMX bikes through 15 fun, challenging tracks.

JumpStart Wildlife Safari Field Trip, ages 4-7, Knowledge Adventure (Vivendi), 800-545-7677, Win, Mac, $29.95, ESRB: Everyone-- Preschoolers and kindergarteners will love this game. They build a bridge out of alphabet logs on Goat Island, for instance, and return sets of eggs to the appropriately numbered bird in The Hatchery.

NBA ShootOut 2002, 10-up, Sony Computer Entertainment America, 650-655-8000, www.playstation.sony.com, PlayStation, ESRB: Everyone--This accurate, realistic basketball simulation is easy enough for beginners, and hard enough for veterans.

PlayStation 2
ATV Offroad Fury, ages 8-up, Sony Computer Entertainment America, 650-655-8000, www.playstation.sony.com, PlayStation 2, $49.00, ESRB: Everyone-- Kids head off the beaten path with this fun and realistic four-wheeler game.

CART Fury Championship Racing, ages 8-up, Midway Games, Inc., 773-961-1000, www.midway.com, PlayStation 2, $49.95, ESRB: Everyone-- Kids ride on seven real-life tracks from the CART circuit along with 11 fantasy tracks from around the world.

Casper: Spirit Dimensions, ages 8-12, TDK Mediactive, Inc., 818-878-0505, www.tdk-mediactive.com, PlayStation 2, $49.95, ESRB: Everyone-- Children help Casper the Friendly Ghøst as he tries to save the Spirit and Human Worlds from the clutches of Kibosh.

Cool Boarders 2001, ages 9-up, Sony Computer Entertainment America, 650-655-8000, www.playstation.sony.com, PlayStation 2, $49.99, ESRB: Everyone-- Kids play as professional or amateur snowboarders in this realistic sim.

Hands On: Frequency, ages 12-up, Sony Computer Entertainment America, 650-655-8000, www.playstation.sony.com, PlayStation 2, $49.99, ESRB: Everyone-- In this clever, compelling game, players press buttons in sync with the beat to capture the music tracks of different songs.

NHL Hitz 20-02, ages 10-up, Midway Games, Inc., 773-961-1000, www.midway.com, PlayStation 2, ESRB: Everyone-- NFL Hitz offers high-intensity arcade-style hockey action.

Smart Toys
Fisher-Price Learning Sensations: Play with Letters Desk, ages 3-7, Fisher-Price Inc., 800-432-5437, www.fisher-price.com, Smart Toy, $30-- This small, plastic toy desk contains letters that name themselves, great for introducing the alphabet and words.

HitClips Micro FM Radio Cartridge, ages 4-10, Tiger Electronics, Ltd., 847-913-8100, www.tigertoys.com, Smart Toy, $7.99-- These matchbox-sized digital music players have branched into a variety of offshoots, including a mini boom box, an alarm clock and this FM radio cartridge.

Intel Play Digital Movie Creator, ages 8-up, Intel Corporation, 800-538-3373, www.intel.com, Win 98, 2000, XP, $99.00-- This clever video-camera can hold up to up to four minutes of footage in RAM or 1,200 snapshots. The editing tools are exceptionally easy to use.

Interactive Shelby, ages 5-up, Tiger Electronics Ltd., 847-913-8100, www.tigertoys.com, Smart Toy, $24.99-- Those familiar with Furby will like Shelby even more.

Jumbo Music Block, ages 9 months &endash; 2 years, Neurosmith, 800-220-3669, www.neurosmith.com, Smart Toy, $59.99--Each of the six, soft sides of this musical cube contain a different door to explore.

My First LeapPad, ages 3-5, LeapFrog, 800-701-5327, www.leapfrog.com, Smart Toy, $35-- Smaller than the regular LeapPad (the books are 5 x 7 inches in size) this responsive electronic book reader makes a great introduction to the world of print.

Odyssey II or Explorer Globe, ages 8-up, LeapFrog, 800-701-5327, www.leapfrog.com, Smart Toy, $129.99-- These well-designed touch sensitive, basketball-sized globes offer lots of geography facts.

Pixter Creativity System, ages 4-8, Fisher-Price, Inc., 800-432-5437, www.fisher-price.com, Smart Toy, $40-- This handheld creativity toy features a 3 by 3 1/2 inch touch sensitive, black and white screen and a stylus. Packed with activities, kids scribble, draw, and complete dot-to-dot puzzles, among other things.

Turbo Twist Vocabulator, ages 8-up, LeapFrog, 800-701-5327, www.leapfrog.com, Smart Toy, $34.95-- This well-designed, portable toy lets older children race the clock to earn points in three vocabulary games.

Windows and/or Macintosh
PRESCHOOL (Ages 2-5)
Freddi Fish 5: The Case of the Creature of Coral Cove, ages 3-8, Humongous Entertainment, 800-499-8386, www.humongous.com, Win, Mac, $19.99, ESRB: Early Childhood--Freddi Fish and her friend Luther must do some sleuthing to figure out the mysterious identity of a sea monster.

Reader Rabbit Preschool Sparkle Star Rescue!, ages 3-5, The Learning Company, 800-825-4420, www.learningco.com, Win, Mac, $19.99, ESRB: Early Childhood-- Children explore the planet Sparkalot, where they discover early reading and math skills like following directions, counting, letters and shapes.

ELEMENTARY (Ages 6-12)
Backyard Basketball, ages 6-12, Humongous Entertainment, 800-499-8386, www.humongous.com, Win, Mac, $19.99-- Humongous scores another big one with this terrific, easy-to-play basketball simulation designed especially for kids.

Carmen Sandiego World Treasures of Knowledge, ages 8-12, The Learning Company, 800-825-4420, www.learningco.com, Win, Mac, $24.99-- Players help two teen detectives as they track thief Carmen around the world and learn facts about each location.

Disney's Magic Artist Deluxe, ages 6-up, Disney Interactive, 800-900-9234, www.disneyinteractive.com, Win, Mac, $29.99-- Want to turn your computer into a rocket-powered sketch pad? Get this program.

Disney/Pixar's Monsters, Inc. Scare Island, ages 8-up, Disney Interactive, 800-900-9234, www.disneyinteractive.com, Win, $29.99-- Kids guide Mike or Sulley around 3D environments, collecting food and energy, smashing pesky toys and jumping over hurdles. There is a lot of animated violence here, albeit of the Saturday morning cartoon variety.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, ages 7-up, Electronic Arts, 800-245-4525, www.ea.com, Win, PlayStation, $29.99, ESRB: Everyone-- Children (and adults) explore Hogwarts School of Witchcraft, where they unlock secret powers, fly through eerie mazes and meet Harry Potter characters

Hoyle Kids' Games 2002, ages 5-15, Sierra On-Line (Vivendi), 800-757-7707, www.sierra.com, Win, Mac, $19.95, ESRB: Everyone-- Fifteen classics like Go Fish, Checkers, Tic Tac Toe and Old Maid are filled with entertaining animations and humorous banter.

I Spy Treasure Hunt, ages 5-up, Scholastic, Inc., 212-343-7178, www.scholastic.com, Win, Mac, $29.95-- The kids wouldn't stop playing this newest edition in the I Spy CD-ROM series, which sprinkles Jean Marzallo's I Spy puzzles throughout the picturesque location of a quaint seaside town.

Jurassic Park III Dino Defender, ages 8-up, Knowledge Adventure (Vivendi/Havas), 800-542-4240, www.knowledgeadventure.com, Win, Mac, $30.00, ESRB: Everyone-- Children become members of the Dino Defenders in this fun, 3D action adventure game.

LEGO Racers 2, ages 6-up, Lego Media International, 800-453-4652, www.legomedia.com, Win, $39.99, ESRB: Everyone-- Children prove their driving skills as they race in five different worlds: Sandy Bay, Dino Island, Mars, Arctic and Xalax (in outer space).

Mia: Just in Time!, ages 6-10, Kutoka Interactive, 877-858-8652, www.kutoka.com, Win, Mac OS (CD-ROM), $24.95-- There's been a terrible fire, and the little mouse, her grandmother and their friends escape just in the nick of time. Mia must travel back in time to save the day.

Reader Rabbit 1st Grade Capers on Cloud Nine!, ages 5-7, The Learning Company, 800-825-4420, www.learningco.com, Win, Mac, $19.99-- This CD has it all-- exceptional graphics, an entertaining adventure/treasure hunt theme, challenging levels, and great practice in first grade subjects of reading, math, creativity and science.

Secret Agent Barbie, ages 6-up, Vivendi Universal, 800-545-7677, Win ME/2000/98/95, $30.00, ESRB: Everyone-- This new Barbie adventure is fun! Babs is now a secret agent, complete with spy gadgets, her own plane, and even a spy crew.

SpongeBob SquarePants Operation: Krabby Patty, ages 6-12, THQ, 818-871-5000, www.thq.com, Win, ESRB: Everyone-- Sponge Bob fans will delight in these five addicting maze games set in the zany world of Bikini Bottom.

SPY Fox: Operation Ozone, ages 5-10, Humongous Entertainment, 800-499-8386, www.humongous.com, Win, Mac, $19.99, ESRB: Everyone-- In a total James Bond spoof, our detective hero must once again "outfox" the villain to save the universe from disaster.

Zoombinis Logical Journey, ages 8-up, The Learning Company, 800-825-4420, www.learningco.com, Win, Mac, $24.99-- Deduction skills are a must as kids sort a band of wandering critters (the Zoombinis) through a maze of nine different puzzles.

MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, ages 10-up, Acclaim Entertainment, 516-656-2274, www.acclaim.com, Win, $19.99, ESRB: Everyone-- Similar to the PlayStation 1 version with even better graphics, this BMX simulation includes 15 fun, challenging tracks.

DM2: Digital Music Mixer, ages 12-up, Beatnik, Inc. (Mixman Technologies & Apzu, Inc.), 650-295-2300, www.mixman.com, Win, $120.00, ESRB: Teen-- Budding recording artists use this Windows-based table top mixing toy to "lay" tracks.

Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions, ages 10-up, Sierra On-Line (Vivendi), 800-757-7707, www.sierra.com, Win, Mac, $29.95, ESRB: Everyone-- This latest edition of Incredible Machine contains 250 brand-new mind bending Rube-Goldberg like puzzles.

The Oregon Trail 5th Edition: Adventures Along the Oregon Trail, ages 9-up, The Learning Company, 800-825-4420, www.learningco.com, Win, Mac, $24.95-- This edition of Oregon Trail is the best yet, and a great way to experience American history.

Ultimate Ride, Disney Interactive, ages 9-up, 800-900-9234, www.ultimateride.com, Win, $39.99, ESRB: Everyone-- This spectacular program lets kids quickly design and build a roller coaster, and then ride it in first person.

We've tested 840 new products this year, many of which are outstanding gifts. Visit the Children's Software Finder (for subscribers), and enter a copyright date of 2001, your child's age, your desired platform, and a rating over 4.2 or better. You'll be able to zoom in directly on just the products you need, saving time.

Jump to your platform or age with these links:

 

Some Shopping Tips from CSR's Picky Teacher

Before You Buy
• Know your computer. Make sure you know which version of Windows or MacOS you have, as well as how much RAM. Also note whether or not you have a 3D accelerator card. When you're ready to buy, first read the specified hardware requirements needed to run the program to see if you have enough power.
IMPORTANT TIP: This year, we've seen several popular children's software products for Windows that require that you have a graphics card with 8MB of RAM. LEGO Creator Harry Potter, for example, will not work on a new and popular Dell computer (the Dimension 2100) for this reason. To find out how much power your graphics card has, follow these simple instructions:

1. go to the START button, and select RUN.
2. Then type "dxdiag". If your computer has a version of DirectX installed on it, you'll see a series of tabs.
3. Click DISPLAY to see exact information about your computer's installed video hardware. Check the "approximate total memory" information. If you have less than 8MB, you may have trouble running games and some children's software.

• Do your homework. Packaging can get confusing and some products have several versions, so make sure you know exactly what you want before pulling out your wallet.

• Know Your Child. Choose software that matches his or her age and ability level. The recommended age ranges that come on the package are generally accurate.

At the Store
• Avoid impulse buys. Children are easily influence by attractive packaging and popular characters. You're much better off if you come to the store with your list already prepared.

• Watch the ESRB ratings. Some games are not appropriate for children, and the ESRB ratings are a reliable way to know. When buying a videogame, an EARLY CHILDHOOD or EVERYONE rating means you're probably getting worry-free content.

Shopping Online
• Advance order. On many sites, you can place your order even before the product's official release. This is the best way to insure you'll get a high demand copy.

• Comparison shop. Keep an eye on extra costs, such as shipping, gift wrapping and so on.

Computer Software: Getting it Ready
• Prepare in advance. Avoid disappointment by installing the software before giving it to your child. This way, you can be sure that it will run successfully. If possible, giftwrap the boxes AFTER you've installed what's inside.

Find the best price by comparison shopping at CSR's guide to online catalogs.

 

If you are not yet a subscriber to CSR, we would like to invite you to stop wasting your valuable time and money on poorly designed products; and start tapping the potential of the latest interactive technology for your child's benefit.

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