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ItzaBitza Educational Software from Sabi

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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ItzaBitza House

Just One Way to Draw an ItzaBitza House, Photo Courtesy of Sabi

Sabi
The first word that came to mind when I tested out ItzaBitza was, “Wow!” Imagine drawing a house and having your main character open the door and walk inside. Draw a cloud and it starts to rain. Draw a friend and have a big party. All this and more is possible with kids’ software ItzaBitza from Sabi Software.

Pros

  • Room for creativity in game play
  • Fun puzzles to solve
  • Totally interactive
  • Excellent visual and verbal directions

Cons

  • Younger kids may struggle with mouse controls
  • Only one user profile in game
  • Avatar can’t be customized

Getting Started with ItzaBitza

When starting ItzaBitza, you have the option of choosing a boy “Sketchy” or a girl “Sketchy.” The Sketchies are the characters you interact with during the game. I’d love to see some more customization here. At the very least I prefer to have the option of choosing a character with a different hair or skin color. Since you draw most of the other objects in the game, it’s a bit frustrating to not have control over the look of your own character.

ItzaBitza is a program that intertwines literacy with creative drawing. Once you have a character, you start by receiving a written request to draw a house. From there, you’re off on an adventure with your Sketchy to explore the environment. You can redraw your house at any time, or you can ask your Sketchy what to do next. Clicking on almost any object on the screen makes something magical happen.

The game has 5 “levels” which unlock when you meet a set number of goals. You can progress to the next level, or continue to stay where you are. The basic premise is the same, but some of the vocabulary and concepts become more challenging. Where you are asked to draw a sun in the first level, you may be asked to draw a rocket ship or trap door on more advanced levels. Parents should also note that the last level is a haunted house, replete with ghosts, mice and bats. Some kids might be scared by this level.

Learning with ItzaBitza

I have two general pet peeves with educational software. Often, there is only one right path to progress in the game. Exploration and creativity are discouraged in the attempt to teach a particular concept. The other issue is that many games expect kids to follow complex verbal directions or read written directions on the screen. ItzaBitza has neither of these challenges. The game play is open to creative interpretation and the instructions are available in short visual clues, as well as mouse-over verbal clues.

Room for Improvement

As much as I can sing the praises for this game, there are a few challenges that parents should be aware of that haven't been mentioned:
  • There are no instructions at the beginning, so you need to figure it out as you go. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for kids, but may frustrate parents.
  • ItzaBitza doesn’t have multiple game profiles, so once an object is unlocked, the whole family will have access. You can get around this with multiple Windows user profiles, but it’s not ideal if you have a few kids wanting to play.
  • Each shape (such as a window or a door) used to created an object needs to be drawn with one continuous line. Younger kids may struggle to hold down a mouse button to draw an entire shape.
  • The shapes of objects are open to interpretation, but the elements are not. For example, your house can have windows, but not window boxes. If something doesn’t “fit,” it simply disappears. This might be frustrating/confusing for kids. You are also limited to pre-defined colors for each part of an object, which takes away some creative options.

Bottom Line

Despite some minor drawbacks, ItzaBitza is a fantastic game for kids that adults can even enjoy. ItzaBitza allows each child to explore at their own pace, follow their own path and use their imagination. Although there are end-goals, children aren't required to complete all of them before moving on. ItzaBitza meets almost all of my requirements for excellence in software for children.

Honestly, it’s hard to find an educational, age-appropriate game with as much magic as ItzaBitza brings. I’m looking forward to seeing what Sabi comes up with next.

Manufacturer Specifications

  • Recommended for ages 4+
  • OS: Windows XP/Vista(tm)
  • Processor: 1 Ghz or faster
  • Ram: 512 MB RAM
  • Video: 64 MB DirectX® 9.0c compliant
  • 1024×768 or greater screen resolution
  • Sound: DirectX® 9.0c compliant
  • An internet connection during installation to activate the game.

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