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Little Bill: Thinks Big

Score: 85%
ESRB: Early Childhood
Publisher: Scholastic
Developer: Scholastic
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Edutainment

Graphics & Sound:

Bill Cosby's latest cartoon for little kids has made it to the interactive world with Little Bill: Thinks Big. This is a cute little game for your younger children or grandchildren. It goes through the basics of patterns, colors, following directions as well as several other needed concepts.

The graphics are done in the same style as the Little Bill TV series on Nick Jr. The style is conveyed rather well (and for those of you who have never watched the show - the style is similar to the construction paper cutout images seen in the Comedy Central series South Park). The simple sprite-based system is just what this game calls for, and like I said a few seconds ago, it is done well. This is a big plus, because a lot of times, other edutainment games go for the flat 2D characters and have a tendency to make the game look sloppy. But not with Thinks Big.

As far as the music and sounds are concerned, the voice actors are either the same ones for the show or they are very good impersonators - either way it is just like watching the show itself. The music is there -- but hardly noticeable and acts mostly as white noise for most of the game.


You join Bill Cosby's creation in creating a surprise for each season in Little Bill: Thinks Big. You start the game by choosing one of the four seasons. Then you go around Little Bill's house playing games and collecting items (that you get by winning one of the main five games) to finish the surprise for that season.

The main games consist of various pattern matching and counting skills. One of these games involves putting pictures in the proper order to tell a story, while another is looking at a card with a cookie drawn on it and making a cookie look just like it by placing various colored shapes in the proper places on said cookie. Another game has you taking control of Little Bill's submarine (in the bathtub) collecting gold coins. The last two involve putting Elephant's (Little Bill's pet hamster) tunnels together (color and shape matching) and placing the correct alien in the proper flying saucer (based on what aliens are already in the ship).

Once you have collected the five objects, Little Bill takes you to the backyard and he tells you how to finish the surprise he has been working on. After completing the surprise, you can add various objects to the scene -- these objects include things specific to that season (pumpkins for fall, rabbits for spring, etc.) as well as generic images that are in all seasons (letters, numbers, other animals).

There are also various smaller games throughout Little Bill's house. These will present questions like, 'Choose the red five' or 'which pile of acorns is bigger?'

The only real beef I had with the setup of the games is that you get the item the first time you beat one of the main games, and thus you get the item on the easiest setting. If the reason the child is going through the game is to find out what the surprise is for a particular season, then they won't have any motivation to go back to the games and play them again as they get more complex. It is typical in these educational games to have the child beat the game a few times (usually three) before they get whatever the goal for that particular mini-game is, and each time they go through it -- the mini-game gets harder.

It took me two and a half seasons before I realized that there were more difficult versions of each game. I didn't realize right away that the mini-games got more difficult if you went back and played them again even if you have already gotten the object. Once again, if the child is simply trying to get through the main objectives, they aren't going to get into the more complex games.


Little Bill: Thinks Big is designed for kids ages four to six. This puts it at about a pre-K to first grade level and I believe it hits that range pretty well, though it seems to focus more on the younger section of that range than most other edutainment games that are geared to that age group.

Little Bill's purpose seems to be pattern matching and colors, and it does a fair job at upping the difficulty a bit each time a game is beaten --but it would have been nice to see some way to adjust the difficulty manually (as it is, there doesn't appear to be any game options whatsoever -- much less a difficulty setting).

Game Mechanics:

There isn't much to the control scheme for Little Bill: Thinks Big. Like most good pieces of software for the younger gamer, everything is point-and-click. In order to move the submarine around the bottom of the tub, err...umm... I mean ocean, you click on the sub and attach it to your cursor. This style is seen throughout the game and allows the child to not have to worry about how to use the controls; they can just walk up to the game and get started without any problems.

All in all, Little Bill isn't the best edutainment game out there -- it does a good job of teaching what it offers, but it doesn't offer as much as other titles for the age group. If your child/grandchild is a fan of Little Bill though, then he or she will definitely love this game.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:

Pentium II 266 MHz; Windows 95 or better; 64 MB RAM; 80 MB Hard Drive; 8X CD-ROM drive; 16-bit color; Windows compatible sound card

Test System:

Windows XP Professional Ed.; AMD Athlon 600 MHz; 384 MB RAM; 24X CD-ROM; Geforce3 Ti200; DirectX 9.0.

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