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August 15th, 2001

CJ's Closet™ and CJ's Clubhouse™

Updated with Full Review

Game Type: Children's Activity / Online Community
Platform: PC/Macintosh
Developer's Website: Kay Productions™ LLC



CJ's Closet™/Clubhouse™ is both a safe game and a safe online community for children. The game is CJ's Closet™ and the online portion is called CJ's Clubhouse™. Dreamed up by Kay Productions™ LLC, CJ's is their attempt to bring high quality family oriented games and a safe Internet site for kids. Huzzah! Did they do good? Let's find out.

CJ's Closet™

My children played the demo some weeks ago and now they've had a chance to play with the full version (actually a beta version, but essentially it's the full deal). I have two kids in the targeted age group: a daughter and a son. Actually, my son is a bit too old and my daughter hits the upper age range for the CD. However, they did give me some great feedback and helped me better see from a kid's eyes what CJ's Closet™ offers.

The CD offers a range of activities, games and stories oriented to children and specifically meant to be safe for anyone to play. You won't find any violence or blood on this CD. While this definitely limits the overall appeal of the product, that's the point. CJ's Closet™ fills a need for something that's of high quality and yet doesn't require you to blow someone/something to pieces. Good, safe, family oriented fun and stories with biblical themes; That's what they set out to do and from the reactions of my children, they achieved it nicely.

What makes CJ's even better is that there really isn't anything on the Christian market like it. While there are others in the works, CJ's will be the first out. Veggie Tales you'd think would have done something by now, but I've yet to see anything from them. There are plenty of secular games out there oriented to kids but really there's nothing of this caliber in the Christian market. The people behind Kay Productions™ LLC saw this need and made an excellent attempt to fill in the gap.

The CD consists of a series of activities, puzzles and stories. The Demo has one story, one game and two puzzles. The full CD has ten stories and approximately 40 games and puzzles. Unfortunately, there are only two games. The puzzles are jigsaw puzzles, sliding puzzles or word puzzles. They are all done well and the two games are fun. But if there was one area where CJ's Clubhouse is lacking, it's in how many games they offer. The screen shots below are all from the full CD. Only the water balloon game is from the demo.

The Demo story was about forgiveness but it was clear that besides teaching a moral, the story contained several teaching elements. As you read through the story, you run into some problems that require you to pick a solution. For instance, you are confronted by a stream and must choose the best way get across. The right answer moves the story along. None of the puzzles are overly hard but they do require a bit of thinking to figure out which answer makes sense.

The full CD has in four categories: Jungle Safari, Ourter Space, Underwater and Wild West. Each set of stories is themed off the category and teaches something while having the reader make choices or do some kind of activity. For instance, during one story, you have to lasso three horses. You might have to answer a Bible question or you might be able to click on the screen and get information about how the Wild West pioneers created different products. The stories cover a wide range and is the strongest part of CJ's Closet™.

The two games were a balloon toss "shooting gallery" and a butterfly hunt game. In the balloon toss game, you throw water balloons at cutout figures that move across the screen. The butterfly hunt had you catching butterflies of a specific color.

The activities on the CD are all well done and smoothly animated. There wasn't anything truly innovative or different from anything else I've seen. However, they are all quite appropriate for Children and well done. But is there enough content and activities to keep Children occupied for more than a few hours. Read on if you want to know.

Is It Worth It?

First a minor diatribe. My biggest disappointment with children's games in the past is how little time my children actually spend using them. At first, they play them with a great deal of interest but by the end of the second week the CD goes unused. That's because replay value is always limited. How many times can your kids watch the same story or put together the same puzzle?

My children went through every story, every activity and game on the CD in a few days. They'd already played with the Demo and their age group was at the upper limit for the CD. They enjoyed themselves but they were left wanting more.

Keep in mind that the real target audience for this game is the preschool and lower elementary aged children. If my kids enjoyed CJ's, those age groups should enjoy it even more. I'd also expect that the younger children would spend more time playing with the CD and enjoy going through the stories more often. Young children enjoy repeating familiar things. Compared to other Children's CDs on the market, CJ's offers a lot.

CJ's Closet™ has enough content to be well worth the price of $24.95. However, how much total enjoyment your child will receive from the game will depend on how young they are.

A Few Additional Thoughts...OK it's a Little Rant

The interactive and "choose your own adventure" approach to story telling on the computer has a great deal of promise. CJ's does what is expected of a Children's story. I'd personally like to see some more innovation in this area. After checking out the other stories on the full CD, there is a wide variety of ways they have children interact with the story. But being the kind of guy I am, I still wanted more. But what I say below is a general comment about all the children's games on the market today and not a specific criticism of CJ's.

Of all the things on the CJ's CD, I kept wanting the stories to be more interactive, more involved. I.E.. Instead of a linear story where you click on the "turn the page" button, it'd be more interesting to me to have the story unfold depending on the interaction the child would have with the screen. For instance, why not have the story unfold as the child clicks on the screen? Depending on where they click, the story could unfold in many different directions. The child would have to explore a world rather than click through a series of screens. It'd keep them coming back for more because they might discover something new.

I'm probably asking for too much here and it's possibly not the right approach for children (after all, this isn't my area of expertise), but the possibilities and promise for greater interaction keeps me wanting more and I think the limited replay value of such interactive stories is proof that we need to see more innovation here. There's nothing wrong with the way CJ's Closet™ approaches doing their stories. And what I'm suggesting might be too confusing for children of the age CJ's is directed toward...maybe...but I suspect it's not if handled well.

CJ's Clubhouse™ (Not just for kids)

This is the part of the CD that initially grabbed my attention. This, I think has great possibilities for enhancing the value of the CD. The Clubhouse is a "safe" online website. I put "safe" in quotes, not because there's anything unsafe about CJ's Clubhouse™ but because the Internet is unsafe in the same way that any public setting is unsafe. And no matter how safe CJ's Clubhouse is, it's still the Internet where your kid can wander anywhere they want.

I say this to encourage parents to monitor what their kids are involved with online even if they are only going to the Clubhouse. To me that's just common sense.

I encourage my kids to be online. It is one of the greatest and best learning tools ever devised. My kids are better readers, better typists, more creative, better educated and more in tune with technology because of the Internet. However, there's a dark side to the Internet. You can't shield your kids completely from the dark side but I see it like anything in life. It's an opportunity to teach my kids right and wrong. And if they don't learn it and they choose to do the wrong things on the Internet. then they lose that privilege.

I'm a big proponent of being online. I think Christians should have a huge presence on the web and CJ's is a great example of doing something that promises to be of high quality and provide a safe place for kids to enjoy and yet benefit from this fantastic tool.

CJ's is a relative safe island on the Internet. and as such is a great opportunity to provide your kids with many of the benefits of being online and help make the risks manageable from a parent's perspective. My daughter was very interested in this section.

Parents and Teens too?

Yep, they have a place for parents and teens. Parents and teens can even keep their daily planner online here. It looks like they are trying to make this a comprehensive website that will appeal to everyone. I'm not sure how teens will like the idea of hanging out in a place called CJ's Clubhouse™. As of this writing, it's still very much under construction.

The entire website is under construction and won't be in full swing for some months. They are working hard to get the CD out and once that is done, they have plans to get a Christmas music CD done and a 30 minute children's video out the door. So, currently the only aspect of CJ's is quite limited. But if this interests you or your children, you should check out the website regularly to see how it's coming along.


CJ's Closet™ is a high quality, reasonably priced, content filled CD that's well worth their asking price. In fact, this looks to be the bargain of the season. You might want to grab a copy of it quick before they come to their senses and raise the price.

If you are looking for a quality game CD for your child that's both nonviolent and biblically themed, CJ's Closet™ is just the ticket.

The game is slated to sell for $24.95 which is a good price considering that most new children's games sell for no less than $30 (for a lot less content).

Final Score

Highlights: Solid, content filled game.

Lowlights: Can someone say, "We wanted more, more, more?".

Hints:  Don't let your kids go through the CD in one sitting. Try to pace them out.

Recommendation: A definite buy if you have children/grandchildren in the right age group.

Age Appropriateness: Preschool and early elementary.

Christian Sense (CS): 4.0 - Nothing especially innovative, but they do a good job overall presenting biblical themes and morals.

Game Engine (GE): 3.0 - Does the job. This is probably the biggest limiting factor for the game designers.

Game Play (GP): 3.0 - For Preschoolers, this is good stuff.

Overall: 3.3

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