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Kids Turn Gaming News

IT REALLY IS A ZOO IN THERE

ItzaZoo Computer Game

ItzaZoo Takes Kids on a Virtual Trip to the Zoo Where They Can Feed, Train and Play with the Animals

Kirkland, WA (September 28, 2009)– What kid doesn’t love a trip to the zoo? They get a kick out of looking at the penguins waddle around their habitat, watching the lions roughhouse, and taking in polar bear feeding time. But looking at animals doesn’t always satisfy a kid’s sense of adventure. They dream of jumping into the exhibit to monkey around with the monkeys! The latest computer game by Sabi® Games, ItzaZoo™, helps children fulfill these pie-in-the-sky dreams in a safe, fun and educational way.

ItzaZoo is a follow-up to Sabi’s first award-winning game, ItzaBitza™. It features Living Ink™, a unique drawing recognition technology which animates children’s drawings in front of their own eyes. Those drawings then become in-game elements that the game’s animal characters can, amazingly, interact with. Like the human characters in ItzaBitza, the animal characters of the game are called Sketchies.

The game begins in the first of five playsets, or levels: a lion’s den. In each of the five playsets, children have the choice of playing a male or female animal, in this case a lion or lioness. The other four animal playsets in ItzaZoo are monkey, elephant, turtle and polar bear exhibits. Throughout the game, players watch as visitors to the zoo pass by the exhibits, giving players the feeling they’re really at a zoo.

As players draw items like a hammock for the monkey, or a greenhouse for the turtle, they’re working toward collecting stars. In order to unlock the next playset, children must earn five stars.

It takes some thinking and exploring to earn a star. Children must use their problem solving and reading skills. For example, in the elephant playset, a star can be earned by watering flowers. The first step is to draw a rain cloud, then click on the cloud to make it rain and fill the bucket. As they water the flowers, the water level in the bucket goes down. If it empties before the task of watering the flowers is complete, then children must figure out that they’ll need to make it rain again, in order to fill up the bucket and complete the task.

For those still learning to read, ItzaZoo offers reading assistance. Instructional bubbles pop up throughout the game, giving tasks to complete or hints. Children who are still learning to read can mouse over any word, and it will turn red and a child’s voice will read the word aloud.

The best part of ItzaZoo, just like its predecessor ItzaBitza, is that it doesn’t compromise on fun. Children lose interest in other educational games quickly because those games aren’t designed as games, they’re designed as educational tools, and fun seems to be an afterthought. The learning method behind ItzaBitza and ItzaZoo was developed after a multi-year research project that began at Microsoft Corporation. The end result is an educational computer game that plays like a game, yet teaches children important work-life skills, such as creative problem solving and reading.

In developing ItzaZoo, Sabi highlighted and improved upon key features from its multiple award-winning first game, ItzaBitza. Since customer feedback showed that children most enjoyed the parts of ItzaBitza that involved animals, a trip to the zoo seemed like a natural choice.

Another improvement in ItzaZoo is that the Sketchies can show a lot more emotion. In the polar bear playset, children are asked to remove the bear’s mask as he is swimming underwater. His facial expression changes, and children can tell that he is holding his breath. Then when the mask is placed back on his face, he smiles. These unspoken cues create a stronger bond between character and player because they are interacting more and expressing emotions.

Visitor Challenges have also been added. As players win stars in a playset, trophies can be earned, and more visitors are attracted to the exhibit. Once a silver trophy is earned, then the Visitor Challenges for that playset are unlocked. The visitor is challenged with taking a picture of the animals performing certain actions, such as dancing with a snowman or slipping on a banana peel. These timed challenges feature more difficult vocabulary, and are more challenging to complete. Since they are intended as a bonus level, there is no reading assistance available.

ItzaZoo is best for pre- and early-readers, ages 4+:

ItzaZoo • $19.99 • Available Now
Available for download at ItzaZoo.com. A boxed copy will be available in late October on www.amazon.com

Sabi’s first game, ItzaBitza, has received glowing reviews from parenting and technology experts and recently won a Creative Child Game of the Year Award. The game had previously won a Parents’ Choice Gold Medal Award; an Editor’s Choice and Gold Award from The Children’s Technology Review; a five-star review from USA Today; The Toy Man Seal of Approval, eco-Recognition Seal, Award of Excellence and eChoice Award; an Editor’s Choice Game Award from the Computer Times; and a “Best Tech for Kids” mention in BusinessWeek

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About Sabi , Inc.
ItzaBitza and Living Ink® began as a research effort led by mother of two, Margaret Johnson within Microsoft Corporation. During the fourth year of research, core members of the team spun-off and started Sabi, Inc. Microsoft maintains an equity share based on Sabi’s licensing of the research work. The core team members at Microsoft were game designers and developers who had a successful track record working with video game consoles such as the PlayStation and Xbox. The team collaborated with Dr. John Bransford and his learning science team, which included young child reading specialist Dr. Diana Sharp. ItzaBitza is the first product from Sabi, Inc. For more information visit www.ItzaBitza.com.