Children’s games and PlayStation 3 is a coupling that hasn’t really been explored. Well, that was the case until Lexis Numérique released Learning With the PooYoos: Episode 1 on PSN service. Designed for children between the ages of 3-6, this game sets out to captivate the minds of the youngest gamers, but does it succeed?
On the one hand, the PooYoos boast exactly the sort of vibrancy and colour that appeals to the target audience, and even those who are younger. In fact, insofar as appearances go, this is to a much higher standard than a lot of the TV shows aimed at this age group. By the same token, the audio narration in the game is of high quality, as is the soundtrack, which is full of catchy music.
Probably the biggest mistake Lexis Numérique could have made when crafting this experience would have been to make this more of a game than a piece of children’s entertainment; in the 3-to-6 years age group there are very few budding young gamers out there, and thus many games are rendered unplayable for children. Thankfully, the team avoided this trap by significantly bringing down the level of interactivity compared to your conventional console game. That’s not to say the game is not engaging and doesn’t encourage activity, it’s just that a lot of the actions aren’t essential, or at least require only loosely accurate moves.
WiiWare aficionados may recognise the game here, as it combines elements of Learning with the PooYoos: Episode I and Learning with the PooYoos: Episode 2 on WiiWare. There is in fact a third entry on the Wii's download service, suggesting we'll see more PooYoos on PS3 in the future, but for now we have three themes from the first two games, each combining simplistic gameplay — push a button or shake the Move when prompted — with some nice sound and visuals.
The simple control set in Learning with the PooYoos is well designed for children, so it is easy to get to grips with; although you can choose between ‘little’ and ‘big’ PooYoo stages, which does affect the complexity of the controls. If you have one of the younger gamers playing this one, you can set it to little PooYoo so that the actions required are minimalistic, but if you want it to be more challenging, you can set it to big PooYoo. The dancing games, in fact, don't even require any input, relying on your good nature and obedience to get up and dance.
The activities in each theme are repeated a few times during each playthough, which is ideal considering the target audience, and during the breaks the learning aspect of the game kicks in through a series of questions, such as "how many PooYoos were dancing?" and "what colour is the cloud?". These are nice additions, and we can see how they could help to facilitate learning.
The game hardly stretches the PlayStation Move technology, with a hide-and-seek game using the controller as a flashlight being about as sophisticated as things get; this is not a surprise considering the gameplay on offer. One disappointment, however, is that this isn't a complete collection of the activities available on WiiWare, as at $8.99 this is around the same cost as the first two episodes on WiiWare, but only offers three themes as opposed to the Wii's four.
As the first conversion of a downloadable WiiWare game rather than a disc release, Learning with the PooYoos pleases and disappoints in almost equal measure. While the game is visually and aurally attractive, there isn't a whole lot to do for your little ones. They might enjoy the dancing game for a while, and it'll satisfy their inquisitive desires for bright colours and sounds, but don't expect it to keep them quiet for hours on end.