Soft options;Hands on
Lego says it's one of the few girls' games around, but Lego Friends (age five to 12) beats many intended for boys. This creative title, nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award last month, has you joining a band to prepare for a big gig at school. You use a music sequencer to arrange tracks along a timeline then a "dance sequencer" lets you choreograph twists and head twirls to fit your song. This is set to a backdrop of rehearsals, sleep-overs and phone calls between your cartoon friends. The program lets you write about your adventures and create a scrapbook, and even has an area to store secrets - just the thing for those Fame fantasies.
In an entirely different theme for girls is Cosmopolitan Fashion Makeover (age 10 to adult). Enter your measurements into the program and an image pops up on-screen to provide figure-specific advice on fashions. Then it's time to try on clothing from the program's shops. You can rummage for new clothes on the Internet and for added realism can import an image of your face from Cosmopolitan Virtual Makeover 2, which lets you play with hairstyles and makeup. Due out next year, this latter title is expected to come with a digital camera for about pound;70.
Back in the boys' camp, Lego Racers (age eight-plus), with its Lego-themed tracks and great model cars, is a high-adrenalin game that lets you choose a car and a driver, and even lets you build them yourself. To come pole position means learning the quirks of each track or dropping an oil slick - bad news for other drivers. A win rewards you with choice bits of other cars, including the top-notch Joan of Cart. With 3D graphics which let you view the race from all angles and set in a world of bricks, this is all good fun.
For a mix of story, fantasy and science Masters Of The Elements (age eight-plus) is a must-see. Another BAFTA winner, it tackles time, gravity, light and electricity in a story which unfolds as you wander through a castle. Much depends on solving puzzles, experimenting, wiring upI even juggling. The game, from Tivola, is challenging, well thought-out and a great science-based title. Of more educational value is Millie Metre's Adventures In The Giant's Belly (age eight-plus). Also from Tivola, this narrated, cartoon tour of the digestive system and intestine is wacky and memorable.
Lego Friends. Price: pound;24.99. Lego Racers. Price: pound;39.99. www.lego.com. Cosmopolitan Fashion Makeover. Price: pound;29.99 from Br?derbund, tel: 01293 658300. Cosmopolitan Virtual Makeover 2 details at www.virtualmakeover.com. Masters of the Elements. Price: pound;19.99. Millie Metre's Adventures In The Giant's Belly. Price: pound;19.99. www.tivola.co.uk.