Monday, April 4, 2011

Review Crew: Go Go Kabongo!

Last week I mentioned that the older boys had come across their most favorite review this year:  Big IQ Kid.  This week, I have the pleasure of reviewing Go Go Kabongo, my 5-year-old's favorite review product of the year.

Dr. Martin Fletcher (a cognitive psychologist, dad and gamer) and the people at Kabongo take a cognitive approach to reading;  that is, the cognitive psychologists have identified key thinking skills necessary to make successful readers:

  • Attention and focus
  • Working memory
  • Successive processing
  • Simultaneous processing
  • Visualization
  • Planning
  • Comprehension
 [You can see the chart  at the Kabongo website here.]

Unlike a lot of computer games, Kabongo will not give your child a "score" nor will it tell you if your child is doing the game "right" or "wrong."  The developers are clear that their goal is to "guide children toward better thinking by using an exciting, engaging game design. Children use a wide variety of critical-thinking and problem-solving strategies to play and progress..."  Their efforts to create something different has not gone unrecognized.  Dr. Toy listed Kabongo on her list of 100 Best Products in October, 2010. You can see their other awards, too!

Joining Kabongo is easy and practically free.  The Laughter Lake habitat is free, while Galaxy Gardens is free for a limited time.  The third habitat, Twister Top, is a reasonable $4.95.  This is not  a monthly free, this is forever.

[I will mention that the banner says "beta," so it is still a work in progress.  We had a couple times when the game stopped responding or we would get funky images and lines at the treehouse/ home.  Sometimes all the post-game rewards are not available. When this happened, we just refreshed the screen and moved on. This might bug some kids, but amazingly enough, it didn't stop Levi from enjoying his KaBongo time.]

After first logging into the treehouse, your child can create their own avatar by mixing and matching heads, bodies and legs.  You can be a different avatar as often as you want. Afterward, s/he could click on the habitat map to play games, or cruise over to the skate park or comic book maker to redeem prizes for playing games.

Our Experience.  Overall, this product was a joy to test.  Levi loved doing his "computer school" and I loved knowing that he was working on something that was providing cognitive value dressed up to be perfectly silly and fun for his age.

I have just two minor complaints:  (1) I want more information in the emailed parent reports. Over the course of the nearly two months he's been playing the games, I've received several email progress reports.  These have told me which games he's been playing and what his level of progress is (there are 6 levels).  The site says that reports are sent weekly, but my experience and emails with a Kabongo contact say otherwise.  Apparently, their system is set up to kick out a progress report only when your child makes progress in a game.  My wish is that they fix this bug sometime soon and send out more frequent reports. addendum: Thanks, Debra and Tess, for pointing me to a page (under Parents) on the website that I'd never seen before! It's entitiled "Your Child's Progress" and it provides a bit more information that I had been receiving via email.  It shows my son's progress level on each of the nine games available - not just the games he has recently played.  I think this is the improvement that the Kabongo customer service tech told me was coming in an email exchange I had with her. 

(2)I also have found that the audio is not very distinct in audio-dependent games (like Desert Dash), but maybe that's because I'm old and my hearing isn't as good as it used to be!  In this game, particularly, the volume of the phonomes (like a short 'u' or 'a' sound) really needs to be as loud as the rest of the music and sound effects audio -- it is too muffled.

Neither one of these issues is a deal breaker, and they both probably reflect more of my control-freak personality than issues with the game, but I thought I mentioned it just in case someone else is as freaky as me!

Thank so much to the Kabongo people for free access to their site in exchange for an honest review.  If you'd like to read what others say about Kabongo, please head over to the TOS Review Crew site!


Debra said...

Alane -- go check the info in the parent section -- um a drop down box where there is a choice for 'Your Child's Progress'

That gives a lot more info. :)

Tess said...

Alane, I was disappointed with the progress report info as well *until* I discovered the progress report on the parents dashboard thingy. It seems fairly new as before it was only the emails they sent out (about once a week).
We've enjoyed the games here! Nice review!

Alane @RaH said...

Thanks, ladies. Tess, yes I think this is the new addition that the rep mentioned to me when I was talking to her about some problems I had with the parent reports.