Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker - The Music Game "Scores Platinum"

by Diane S. Kendall for Children's Software Press and PowerToLearn

A small new software company Music Games International has persevered and deserves platinum for their latest update of their musical adventure software, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker - The Music Game. Tentatively offered last holiday season, this year it roars back with more of everything making it a high quality gem for kids 4 to 10 amid the usual seasonal schlock offered at holiday time.

As soon as the software opens, strains of the very familiar Nutcracker Suite emerge and immediately the game is "a dance" as the well-known plot rolls out. A wicked witch has cast an evil spell on a young prince - the Nutcracker - and it is the job of young musicians to save him by solving a series of musical puzzles and earning a set of nine gold keys. If only music appreciation had been more like this when I was in school!

Kids tune up their musical ears by deciding which musical instruments are playing various selections from the Nutcracker in The Nutcracker Game. They must also figure out how famous Nutcracker tracks have been distorted in the Nut House Game that plays like waltz through a musical house of mirrors. This one is most fun and seems to bring kids back over and over again to see if their friends can figure it out, too! Another repeater is Funky Monkey, a repeat-the-notes quest like the familiar electronic Simon game, which involves a playful primate vibraphonist. Kids will also enjoy the animated Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments and taking a crack at some of the music trivia questions.

There is nothing of the stuffiness often associated with classical music in this software romp through the Land of the Nutcracker and I can't imagine a better way to introduce a child to this classical treasure. If you and your children are lucky enough to be going to one of the many offerings of the Nutcracker ballet being tendered this holiday season, this would be a great introduction to that classic or a fantastic way to bring a little of the excitement of the performance home. The software also includes a biography of the composer, The Nutcracker Tale in a Nutshell, and a history of the ballet making it an ideal introduction or companion to any youngster's first or even tenth encounter with the Nutcracker music and ballet. The many features in the program also give it an endurance that kids will return to over and over again throughout the year.

This software is the kind of treat that only the Sugar Plum Fairy can whip up! Try it! You and your children will like it!