Alistair in Outer Space logo CDTV

Educational CD * £24.99 * Altered Images

PROBABLY THE MOST obvious application of multimedia is the 'interactive storybook' -a combination of text, pictures and sound in which the reader can take part. Alistair in outer space is the latest program of this type, and tells the story of a young boy who is abducted by an alien spacecraft before being whisked off into the cosmos and is finally brought back in order to return an overdue library book. Things looks questionable already, don't they?

The story itself is pretty poor, but the graphics are fun and a combination of subtitles and speech reinforces the educational element of the whole package, working well in explaining the situation in simple language. It is a sort of Nineties Peter and Jane starring the old Peter.

But what is really good about Alistair is its interactive section which enables you to click on objects which appear in the scenery of each cartoon frame, producing both a written and spoken representation of basic nouns.

On top of that there is also a further section which allows the user to play simple puzzle games that become progressively difficult as you get better at them.

Again, these are to do with the story and clearly the idea of a fun section like this is to keep the playing as well as the learning aspect centred around a common theme. But there is not really a lot here for your money -the main menu is very small and that is because there is simply not much volume to an idea which is quite promising until it is over.

What Alistair needs to be any good is a well written story, perhaps in chapters so that it could be lengthy but easy to digest. There are a couple of good concepts -like casting a magnifying glass across each picture to introduce new words, but there are not enough of them and the story twists and turns too much.

Children need simplicity and a theme that is specific. Alistair in Outer Space has potential, but it does not have a concept that is thought through well enough. A good attempt for a new programming house, though.