I found very little on the interweb's about the new WiiWare title The Very Hungry Caterpillar's ABC's. I assumed right from the get-go that I wasn't the target audience for a video game based on a beloved children's book. And I had a feeling that even my two children might be a little old for this title. But the thought of having Mr. Hungry Caterpillar living on my Wii menu screen and the thought of getting one of the first reviews for this game out in cyberspace (thus increasing my traffic, making this the most popular website in the world and possibly leading me to fame and fortune) I figured it was worth the 800 Wii Points ($8 US) to download the game and see what it's all about. Worse case senario: my kids learn a little something while they stare at the idiot box.
Let's just say first that The Very Hungry Caterpillar's ABC's is a charming little title and a unique way to engage the smallest members of the household in Wii play. For those of you out of touch with your childhood, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the main character of the classic 1969 children's book written and illustrated by Eric Carle. In the book, we follow the caterpillar as he nibbles his way through several pages of food items. In the book, there are actual little holes in the pages where the caterpillar has made his way through. This WiiWare title, does not incorporate the little holes into your television screen. In fact, this game doesn't have much to do with V.H. Caterpillar at all. I guess we should also mention that this game isn't really much of game either...it's more of a interactive work book. But it's still cute.
The download should have been titled something more like "The Wonderful World of Eric Carle" as his illustrations from many of his popular books are the centerpiece of this game. (Ok, I'm still going to call it a game.) We went on an Eric Carle spree earlier this summer and checked out most of his books from our local library, so my kids were excited to spot familiar characters and illustrations from several books that we've enjoyed. I did read somewhere that Eric Carle created all the artwork for the game.
Caterpillar is divided up into four games...or sections. The Alphabet features a big, bubbly listing of letters A to Z. When a child points and clicks on a letter, a picture opens up of something that begins with that letter. The word for the object is also on the screen and a girl says the letter and the word. It enforces word recognition and all that good stuff. The pictures are animated and the crowd went wild when the aforementioned caterpillar popped out of A is for Apple. In a bold move by the game developers, the queen has been retired and now Q is for Quetzal. (That's some kind of bird.) There's no objective to this exercise besides having fun and a little learning. Kids can click around as long as they like.
Colors, Colors, Colors is the game pictured above. This is like a video game version of a lottery scratch-off card. When the game starts, the entire screen is a solid color. With the Wiimote you scratch away at the color trying to find the picture that is hidden somewhere on the screen. The game has four levels, which do not get harder but each round introduces a new color. Again, there is plenty of beautiful Eric Carle artwork to look at.
Animal Stamps lets kids pick out different stamps and create a picture on a pre-made background. And there's also What is This? which shows kids three objects and then shows them a word. Point and click on the correctly matching image to move to the next picture. This exercise would be very educational if there wasn't a narrator saying the word. For my four year old, I put the game on mute and had him try to figure out the words and he had a good time getting most of them right. I, myself, even scored a 9 out of 10 with the sound off!
Again, The Very Hungry Caterpillar's ABC's doesn't have much to do with the starving caterpillar, but it's a fun, cute game for the tots. If one were to register a complaint about the title, it's that after plopping down $8 bucks for this simplistic game there are places in the program where you need to spend more money to unlock additional features of the game. My kids were disappointed because the Animal Stamps game had a level devoted to 10 Little Rubber Ducks (a huge hit in our house earlier this year) but it costs an additional 700 Wii Points/$7.00 to unlock it. In the Alphabet game you can also purchase "verbs" to go with your letters. That just seems like a complete waste of money in my book!? What makes verbs so much better than nouns that they need to cost more. Snooty verbs!
Eric Carle's illustrations look magnificent on a big screen TV. If you appreciate his work, and have a child under kindergarten age and he/she can point a Wii controller at the TV with any precision The Very Hungry Caterpillar's ABC's will be a dandy of an addition to your Wii library. It's available for download from the Wii Shopping Channel in the WiiWare department.