TARZAN ACTIVITY

CENTER, Disney

What: kids' edutainment bundle. Details: Disney's relentless marketeers have cranked out yet another CD-ROM tie-in to a movie. Actually, they created three: Tarzan Action Game (no education at all, shallow, puzzling to figure out), the Tarzan Print Studio (like those Barbie "creativity" titles, style without substance) and the Activity Center (the most entertaining, interactive and educational of the bunch). It features five activities: writing in a high-tech jungle journal, building memory in a tourney hosted by Jane and playing two arcade-style games with 65 levels of action (one game stars Tarzan as baby, youth and pointy-chin man; the other features animal friends Terk and Tandor hosting a feast). Kids can also write and record music: Toot an elephant horn, tap a tortoise xylophone, and ka-boom, they've created a tune. This has the potential to teach as well, but its educational elements -- for instance, the photo fact cards you can click on in Jane's game -- fall short. Note that the CD also comes with a sneak-peek video about the movie and plays three songs from it, so if you haven't seen the film yet you'll have to soon. Bottom line: Worth the money if your kids are fans of the jungle man. -- Hope Katz Gibbs

Win 95-98, $30, ages 4 to 8

MECHWARRIOR 3, MicroProse

What: Walking-battle-machine game. Details: The granddaddy of armored-robot combat simulations is beginning to show signs of rust. The third installment in the MechWarrior saga -- and MicroProse's first release in this genre -- doesn't add to the trailblazing gaming features of the first two Activision-developed games, but rather coasts along on the brand's coattails. True, the missions (you play a mech pilot struggling to finish a daring commando operation) are quite challenging, and the game controls make the sim as playable as ever. But while the game features a vast arsenal, from sniper scopes to Desert Storm-style laser-guided bombs, it conspicuously lacks the kid-tested, NATO-approved targeting gear of rival games, such as the night vision that would have saved my skin and my eyesight in several dimly lit missions. Worse, the multiplayer option is so awkward to setup, you might be better off going solo. The graphics are great, but it doesn't stop the game from becoming just another droid among such superior robot sims as Starsiege. It shouldn't have been this easy for MicroProse to hide a mediocre sim behind a slick game intro, but it succeeded. Bottom line: A hot-rod of a sim missing several gears, including first. -- Chip Goines

Win 95-98, $50

FAMILYTIME, TimeSoft

What: "Integrated home organizer." Details: I'm a sucker for organizational strategies -- I've color-coded my calendar, created an aisle-by-aisle master grocery list, filled a three-ring binder with everything from school schedules to coupons and stationed it in the kitchen. This program hasn't persuaded me to abandon my tried, true and kitchen-based methods. Nor did it endear itself to me by forcing me to install Microsoft's Internet Explorer: I wound up with a newly crowded desktop, a slower computer and a distinctly underwhelming program. For example: The calendar tool was too rigid to be useful (I couldn't designate an event to repeat Monday through Friday). The shopping list's 30,000-item database of products (many not available here) took much too long to navigate; while it could be sorted by product aisle, the aisles could not be arranged in the order they appear in stores. The meal planner is helpful, but only if you want to adopt FamilyTime's shopping strategy as well. There are also coupon offers and updates from what is actually a nifty little Web site , accessible to anyone. Bottom line: No saver of time. -- Elizabeth Chang

Win 95-98, $30

CAPTION: Tarzan Activity Center: Fun and games but not much learning.