App Reviewed on: iPad 3
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I am always very happy to hear when a new roleplaying app from Dr. Panda has been released, and the new Dr. Panda's Airport is no exception.
For those who do not know, the Dr. Panda apps are universal interactive apps for children which allow them to pretend to take on many adult roles from running a daycare, working on a farm or in a supermarket, to being a handyman, restaurateur, doctor, or art class teacher. These apps star a series of animals and sometimes their children - cartoony creatures such as a hippo, monkey, raccoon, or elephant - who children help in a number of ways in specific themed mini-games or tasks.
Here, one helps these familiar animals with many different airport-themed activities such as adding money to a pay phone and dialing a telephone number reminiscent of the involved dialing when calling overseas. Help the animals line up to get their passports stamped adding cute puzzle-shaped elements along the way as well. I really enjoy the Lost and Found section of this app which works much like a hidden object activity as a character will request help in finding a lost object within a space cluttered with items which one will need to search through.
Animals may need help locating their bags via working their way through a maze or simply finding their bag on the luggage carousel, and some animals will need help being shuttled to their gates, allowing children to match the letters asked about within speech bubbles to the differently labeled airport gates. Do help these characters go through security as well, placing their bags on the conveyer belt to be x-rayed as well as help to empty their pockets of items such as a nail file or lighter if the metal detector is triggered.
I appreciate how a few activities also take place behind the public eye on the tarmac - be it washing a plane and filling its tires with air, transporting the baggage to the plane, or working with air traffic control to help planes safely land in another maze-like section.
My son has really taken to these activities, and the layout is a good representation of an airport for children. Like an airport, at first glance the amount going on may seem overwhelming and parents may have a hard time figuring out where these ten mini-game sections are to be found, which may seem flawed to some. My boy, however, has really enjoyed exploring all that there is to see and do, as other interactive hot spots are to be found within the terminal as well. A luggage bag is also included that one can add a sticker to when a series of activities has been accomplished.
I think that this is a cute and charming app for young children to familiarize themselves with airports, but I do wish that some animals would be screened by hand to give children a chance to get used to the idea of possibly being patted down at the airport as children may be asked to. I can appreciate reasons why developers who create apps related to travel may not want to include such details, but I would want my son to know that this is standard and not because he is in any sort of trouble, as it is his perception of this kind of search that will set the tone for how he responds for rest of the journey.
I would, however love to see the gameplay involving security to be more randomized as the with Hippo with Dreadlocks from Kenya as well as the raccoon from Saudi Arabia are, from what I have seen, the two main animals stopped as they pass through what is here a hybrid of a metal detector and a body scanner, as a button tapped will highlight the mistaken items being carried. I have tested this section many times and I have seen few other characters from other countries fail this search, but please do note that this section of this app is super cute and fun, and the items found on these animals are totally innocuous such as car keys or a nail clipper. I enjoy this area very much, but I would appreciate seeing each of these animals making these same mistakes equally, such as the female cow character from China or the monkey wearing the cowboy hat and the America flag sweater, instead of a disproportionately large number of characters who in real life may be profiled in such places as airports.
Even with these notes, Dr. Panda Airport is a welcome addition to this series; keeping these activities unique to themselves yet related and familiar to the other Panda apps that my son really enjoys. I look forward to more of these roleplaying apps, especially as they demonstrate activities from the public side as well as the point-of-view of the airport workers - always a nice touch.