Many educational games are either too concerned with the graphics and the play-mechanic or overly dependent on drills. In the first case, the education is secondary to the game. In the second, Jack becomes a bulled boy.

Fortunately, the Preschool IQ Builders from PDI commit neither sin.

Essentially, both programs in the series deal with pattern recognition. They both provide for positive reinforcement and allow the preschooler to continue guessing until the correct answer is found. In addition, the child's progress can be checked at any point in the lesson.

In six (color, shape, big letters, capital letters, figures and small letters) of the eight lessons in Preschool IQ Builder 1, the recognition is simply deciding whether two objects are the same or different. The child registers the answer through the joystick. A push forward signifies the figures are the same. A correct answer is rewarded with a smiling face. Should the child answer incorrectly, the face frowns. In the last two lessons (capital letter match and small letter match), three letters appear on the screen - one in the center of the screen and two on the bottom. The child moves the joystick either left or right to light up the matching letter on the bottom and pushes the fire button to register the match.

In Preschool IQ Builder 2, which consists of six lessons, the child guides the letter, number, shape or word in the center of the screen over the matching object at the bottom of the screen and registers the answer with the fire button. If the match is correct, the child is rewarded with an animated character and a song. Incorrect answers elicit a question mark and a noise. Nine skill levels, from two to ten, provide for the child's development growth. With each of the levels, an additional figure is added to those on the bottom of the screen.

The educators at PDI are so serious about education that they include, in the documentation, activities the parents can conduct with their children to reinforce the concepts taught in the programs. Also, they had their programs tested and found they truly do teach - see January's Hotline. Few other software companies can make the same claim. However, the best part is children seem to enjoy themselves as they learn with the Preschool IQ Builders. And although the name may be a misnomer, it still doesn't affect the games' effectiveness.