Version Reviewed: 1.4
App Reviewed on: iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating:
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As parents of Dino-loving children know, there is a nice selection of books and apps that are dedicated to the combining of dinosaurs and the alphabet - typically including 26 dinosaurs and allowing one to correlate with each letter. Dinosaur Train A to Z is an app of this style, introducing children to many interesting facts about these prehistoric creatures. As the name may imply, this app is based on the hit PBS TV show, Dinosaur Train. Fans of the show will find the highlighted text and included narration familiar and inviting - something I appreciate as I honestly don’t enjoy trying to pronounce the long names that many dinosaurs possess.
Dinosaur Train A to Z includes the very appealing bright and colorful CGI dinosaur images that the show is known for, bridging the gap nicely between realism and stylized, mildly cartoony images that children are drawn to. A tap of one of these creatures will cause some movement and possibly some sound effects as well. Children will also have the ability to see x-ray views of these dinos, as well as a chance to feed these creatures appropriate foods - be it bones to chew or leaves to enjoy. I also appreciate how this app is organized as children can choose to learn about these animals whether they be carnivores, herbivores or omnivores. They can group these dinos together by two- or four-legged creatures or by the time period in which they lived as well, listening to detailed and educational dinosaur fun facts along the way. Children can also make choices by scrolling through each dinosaur alphabetically, but there is a nice amount of content and dinosaur information for older children no longer needing to study the alphabet, now also including a section where children can arrange letters to practice spelling as well.
I am content with the dinosaurs that have been chosen to demonstrate the letters of the alphabet and would have been accepting of this app if only these dinosaurs were available to learn about. What does disappoint me is that some popular dinos are included only within expansion packs offered as in-app purchases that offer ten extra creatures for $0.99 each under such themes as “Big Dinosaurs,” "Horned/Armored/Crested,” or “Winged & Feathered,” packs that are not hidden from view in a “parents only" section, but on a button labeled “Looking For More Dinosaurs.” It's a most intuitive place to tap, drawing the attention of any children who can read. Soon after tapping here, kids may feel as if this app is holding out on them. The button within the app for marine creatures is empty and presumably will remain so unless this pack is purchased, creating what amounts to a dead link directly within the gameplay and making this app less than fully functional for those not interested in extra purchases.
In all fairness, one can tell from the iTunes description that extension packs are included before purchasing, so parents can make purchasing decisions accordingly. Although I can possibly imagine an extra packet of obscure dinosaurs being of interest to certain children, with parents being able to access this add-on from a hidden section, I do believe that the most obvious dinos such as the Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Stegosaurus or Diplodocus being available at an extra cost will be an unexpected disappointment for many. Imagine if Madame Tussauds Wax Museum had a special room of celebrity wax figures that one would have to pay extra for; patrons may wonder what the basic price of admission was for in the first place.
There are certainly many positives within this app as the narration is conversational as well as full of good information, but the use of in-app purchases is a disappointment - especially since it is connected to a PBS show that families rely on to not include TV commercials. I would love to see this courtesy extended to their apps as well.