Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker the Music Game

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker the Music Game

Winter 2002 Software
Ages: 4 & Up
Price: $19.95
Platform: windows
This innovative musical interlude in your child's computer time is really a one-note program--except that the note is Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" and that's noteworthy.

A delightfully different program, it not only introduces youngsters to orchestrated classical music but lets them explore the famous holiday ballet's depths and play with its parts. Through a series of nine games, kids learn how composers put together a composition, how each instrument in an orchestra teams with other instruments to create a masterpiece, and how individual instruments sound. But mostly they get to appreciate this beautiful music upclose--with repeated exposure to different selections of the Nutcracker, from the world-renown overture to the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

In the Orchestra Game, for instance, players identify which instrument is playing a selection until they've identified them all and filled the entire orchestra--and are then rewarded with a full rendition. In the Nut House Game, players listen to a familiar segment of the masterpiece and then try to identify which of several distorted or off-speed segments match it. And Loopy Tunes lets players learn about mixing music to create composition.

Although the animation and graphics are sweetly simple, the program's concept and the music provide the engaging qualities. The program also includes additional learning materials, such as a biography of Tchaikovsky and a history of the Nutcracker ballet, though compared to the games those seem too much like school work. While kids are likely to replay this game once they've solved the games, thereby freeing the handsome prince from the spell that embodied him in the nutcracker, this is inexpensive entertainment that's fun and filled with educational value.

Don Oldenburg   ©2002 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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