Backyard at Twilight: A Stella and Sam Adventure is a lovely storybook app from the developers at Zinc Roe which also includes three mini-games that work perfectly to let children interact directly within this wonderful story. Based on the Stella and Sam series of books and television show, this interactive app is watched much like a video, also giving the user a chance to be engaged with these activities. A pulldown menu includes the breakdown of this story into both chapters and games, allow for quick access to a specific point in this app, a nice touch.
This is the second Stella and Sam app I have had the pleasure of reviewing, and I must say that my son has become a huge Stella and Sam fan very quickly. This application, like the others in this series of apps, focuses on the relationship of sister and brother duo, Stella and Sam and their adventures engaging in classic activities and exploring the great outdoors.
Here, Stella and Sam are camping out in their backyard. I love Stella’s take on the world around her, as she tells her little brother that “The Night Giant” is coming, this app taking place during dusk as the sun is rapidly going down and the moon is becoming more visible. Her answers to Sam’s myriad of questions is equally charming, explaining such things as how fireflies are not on fire but carry very tiny night lights. I have come to really appreciate banter between these two children - so very imaginative - not just the questions that younger Sam is always asking, but in the answers older sister Stella comes up with.
The children who lend their voices for these characters do great jobs, with the voices bringing a richness to this story that I really enjoy. I find the social aspect of how Stella takes care of Sam quite charming, loving the stylized choice of excluding adults within these stories.
The visual look of this app is as delightful as the story itself, containing wonderful, colorful illustrations and watercolor skies which I love to look at. I appreciate the choice to set this story at twilight, allowing the sky in one of the mini-games involving the tapping of fireflies to make shapes, to be a sunset with an effect both subtle and grand at the same time. It is also very nice that as one taps these fireflies, they make lovely chime sounds - very relaxing to listen to. I also like that it is mildly challenging to tap these moving fireflies, perfect for preschoolers, as are the geometric shapes they create when all creatures have been tapped.
Other mini-games include helping the kids look for bugs caught in their tent with a flashlight, a favorite activity of my son. One is also able to tap stars, which will then connect to each other creating constellations, which also includes soothing chimes as each star is tapped. It is very nice that each activity can be played over again if one chooses, with each new game different from the last. Parents can also use this app as a platform to discuss constellations further if they so choose, as well as additional info about fireflies and the other bugs found in the earlier game, adding to the educational value of this app. This being a new favorite app of my son, my boy has now become very interested in bugs, looking for these imaginary insects all over our house and asking for a flashlight to aid in his searches.
I find this app perfect before bedtime, and I love how the sky in this app gets subtly darker as the story progresses and how the story ends with Stella and Sam heading off to sleep. These stories are so engaging, bringing the viewer into this world, that when Stella tells Sam they are off to bed now, my son follows along and does not fight me when I announce that he too is going to sleep.
My son and I have enjoyed the two Stella and Sam apps, Into the Snow, and Rainy Says very much as well, and I recommend each of them for being of very high quality in every aspect. We are eagerly waiting for the fourth Stella and Sam app, my son asking me often when this is due to be released.