"Thingamabobs" and "watchamacallits" take center stage in Gary Gadget: Building Cars, a software game from Viva-Media. This novel game encourages children to experiment with old auto parts and other junk items to build cars.
Kids work with Gary Gadget, an inventor who owns a salvage yard. His junk yard provides children with over 120 different parts to experiment with to build cars. Gary acts as a consultant and advisor.
At first, kids will find only a few items in the junk yard, so combining pieces is pretty easy. They scavenge the yard and select pieces to click-and-drag into Gary's workshop. Gary provides a frame onto which the parts will adhere. To find out what a part does, you need only click on it, and Gary will speak up. If you drag a part close enough to where it can fit on the car, it will click into place.
By trial and error, you learn that a car must have an engine, battery, fuel tank, gearbox, brakes, horn, steering wheel, and tires (or something just as good). Once you have assembled a car with all the necessary parts, Gary invites you to take it for a spin.
You direct Gary's driving to go to visit his neighbors. You can "drive" by using either the arrow keys or the mouse, a process that isn't very responsive. Each of Gary's neighbors needs your help, which results in your going on 16 different missions. In one, Mia Minardi's cat is stuck up in a tree, and you will have to return to the workshop to reconfigure your car so that you can rescue the cat from the tree. Luckily for you, the junkyard has a discarded fire engine ladder.
As the game progresses, you get access to new parts, because Gary is constantly getting new junk delivered. Also, accomplishing a mission will earn you helpful items for your cars. And if you log onto www.gary-gadget.com
, you can download more parts (and a bonus game about sorting the parts.)
While it is easy to throw together a car, your vehicle may not be able to drive where you want it to go. Mudslides need wheels with special traction, driving up a mountainside needs a strong engine, and getting cows to move off the road takes a special horn. The game requires kids to experiment with different parts to create cars that can accomplish specific tasks. Medals and certificates awarded for accomplishing milestones such as figuring out how to create a fuel-efficient car, or one that is lightweight. One of the activities challenges you to design a car for speed, and thereafter race it at the raceway.Building Cars
is a good fit for kids ages 6 to 10 who like cars or like to tinker. If your kids enjoy creating with Legos or other building sets, then they will probably enjoy this open-ended game of constructing cars. But, if your kids are used to playing fast-paced video games, they will probably quit this game before they discover its imaginative playground.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.