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Monster Physics Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on July 3rd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Monster Physics is a wonderfully creative and educational universal app which teaches about physics and building concepts to young engineers ages ten and up. This app, part of a library of applications from developer Dan Russell-Pinson, is a terrific choice for parents and teachers alike as this app requires focus and concentration as well as being a lot of fun.

There are many components to this app that children must understand in order to be successful with their builds, so I encourage adults to familiarize themselves with this application before showing it to their children. It is great how multiple players can save their game, making this app ideal for classroom settings as well as for families, and it is also cute and fun to have the ability to personalize the monster associated with a player’s individual account.

I would like to encourage users to start off by visiting the Learn section, which covers basic principles of physics such as gravity, friction, speed and velocity with the use of a simple, well-written explanation and animated scenes demonstrating what is being taught using the different pieces that one can later use in their creations.

After players study this section, there are two basic areas one can build machines in. A Build section allows children to create their own devices in an open-ended fashion, and it is wonderful that one can save and modify these machines for later, Yet I think players may have a hard time starting off in this section without a lot of building experience. Instead, I recommend the Missions area that will take players through sections of mini-games where they must build a contraption with various parts to unite monsters with the fruit they are trying to eat. The use of physics, as the title may imply, is top notch, making this a must-have application for young engineers, with the upper difficulty levels such as Challenge and Advanced great mental workouts for adults.

I admire all the work that must have gone into the developing of Monster Physics as the amount of content, assuming that one has the aptitude to complete this application, is impressive. I would like, however, to be able to see more tips given such as those found within the Training section throughout, possibly including even more specific hints as well for those who need it, with the use of helpful text and even a template that one can complete to give players a basic framework to follow while still needing to trouble-shoot the exact details. Even without adding more hints, I do find it a flaw within this app that the answer is not included for those who can’t continue within a missions from a section and need help. I don’t think one should underestimate the educational value of having challenges such as these explained - much more so than being stuck and walking away after hitting an impasse. Luckily, all the included mini-games are unlocked, and one can skip over a problem if need be. Do take as long or try as many times as needed to get things correct. There are no timers or points of any sorts, making this a great app for those who like to take their time and focus on the task at hand.

Even with this note, there is a lot to really appreciate about this application. I enjoy the look of these monsters, and I am impressed with different parts, connectors and special pieces one can use to create working machines both simple and complex making this a stellar application for teaching problem solving skills and critical thinking.

This is also a relatively quiet game that uses ambient nature sounds to a nice effect as all of these building exercises take place within an outdoor landscape. The other sound effects used to bring the different elements alive also bring a lot to this experience, but be aware that one can turn off these effects as well as the music used individually - always a nice touch.

It is easy to recommend the apps developed by Dan Russell-Pinson. They are go-to apps for anyone looking for an engaging education for older children and are-must have applications for teachers who use apps within their classrooms.

Presidents vs. Aliens Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on July 21st, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: SECRETARY OF EDUCATION :: Read Review »

Presidents vs. Aliens is another fabulous universal educational app from developer Dan Russell-Pinson, who also created the hit apps Stack the States, Rocket Math, and Stack the Countries.

This app focuses on the knowledge of U.S. presidents, as correct answers gives the player a chance to defend national landmarks from an alien invasion.

A variety of questions is included within this app, including the identifying of the 44 U.S. presidents by their picture, political party. nicknames, quotes, as well as general facts, historical events, and their predecessors and successors. Questions can be chosen from these categories randomly or from selected areas of knowledge, a nice touch which also changes the degree of difficulty.

When a correct answer is made, one has a chance to fight an army of invading aliens that can be seen in formation across the sky, and it is nice that a famous landmark is included as the backdrop for this game, further adding to the educational aspect of this game as well as added fun.

To defeat these aliens, fling a president's head at these invaders, trying to knock as many down as possible. It may take a few tries to get all of them and this game allows the players to keep trying with new heads until the level is complete.

I like that a physics engine is used here, something to keep in mind as one lines up the head toss with the use of an arrow showing the angle at which the head will be thrown, as the president heads thrown and aliens being hit respond as if gravity is a factor in their reactions. If one is lucky, aliens will bounce into each other, taking themselves out as well having the presidents bounce off red brick structures that are included for the purpose of ricocheting off of and hitting more aliens, but be aware that these structures can also be lost if shot at directly.

If three questions are answered correctly, one gets to use “executive powers,” allowing three head tosses at once. Finally, when all the aliens have been defeated, the level is over and the player wins a president for his personal collection in the interest of collecting all 44.

It is great that this app, like Russell-Pinson’s others, includes up to five players and one guest allowing large families or small classes to create personal profiles, and kids will enjoy choosing their personal president avatar to distinguish their saved info from others'.

Two other mini-games are included as well that one must unlock by earning enough presidents, "Heads of State" and "Executive Orders" to further learn about president identification as well as arranging them in correct order.

An excellent resource is also provided, namely a set of presidential flash cards complete with all the information needed to be able to answer these questions, nicely outlined in a very clear and useful style that will aid in the retention of these facts.

I have had a lot of fun with this app; so will children grade school and up. Undoubtably there is a lot to be learned a lot from playing Presidents vs. Aliens, and I appreciate the level of difficulty offered when tossing president heads at the aliens, as there is no time limit in deciding what angle a good toss would be and that persistence will be rewarded, as one can answer as many questions as needed, earning and tossing heads as needed to win the level.

The physics used in Dan Russell-Pinson games is always an educational experience itself, and this is no exception. This game is a must-have for grade schooler, as well as for anyone learning about the U.S. presidents or interested in history. Great for families, parents and older kids, all will find themselves drawn to this app as much as I was, playing long after I needed to for the sake of this review.

Do also check out the other apps by this amazing developer. His ability to mix educational content with fun and engaging games is top-notch, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. I think his applications are some of the best educational interactive games available in tunes.

Presidents vs. Aliens Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on July 8th, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: SECRETARY OF EDUCATION
Presidents vs. Aliens is an edutainment game that is a combination of a puzzle game and presidential factions.
Read The Full Review »

Stack the Countries Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 7th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: LEARN TO STACK! :: Read Review »

Stack the Countries is a universal app and a wonderful sequel to the fabulous Stack the States application. Like Stack the States, Stack the Countries mixes a vast amount of geographical and related information together with a fun physics-based puzzle game that adults as well as grade schoolers and beyond will really enjoy.

The basic game play goes as follows: Answer a question about a specific country, the subject being chosen from a variety of topics that may include such things as capitals, landmarks, flags, or country recognition based on shape. A correct answer will allow this country to drop onto a platform at the bottom of the screen. Keep answering questions, and the states will stack on top of each other until they tower over a finish line mid-screen. The strategy comes in the actual stacking, as most of these countries are not close to shapes that stack cleanly. Rotate each country to make stacking easier, and do keep in mind that the laws of gravity and physics will decide if the stacking is successful. If not, the entire tower may fall, even knocking the countries off the platform itself.

What is impressive about this app is the sheer amount of information included in this very fun and educational application. A learning section is included that is wonderful. Here, each continent has a map filled with countries that you can tap to find more information about, such as country name and flag design. The scale used is excellent, but I would love to be able to zoom in and enlarge the map to see smaller countries in detail as some of them are quite small and difficult to tap on.

One can learn even more about these countries by viewing flash cards also arranged by continents. After choosing a continent, one can tap a country and read in great detail information about their chosen country of which the player will later be tested on, such as capital, map, languages spoken, major cities, and landmarks. This is a important section to explore as it will help greatly in the answering of questions that allows countries to be stacked - kids will be studying without even realizing it! It is also nice that when playing the game portion of the app, one can choose to focus the question on two or more subjects, but I wish you could confine the questions on a specific continent or country as well.

As one continues to play this game and stack countries past the finish line, the player will win a personal country for his individual map, which will be slowly filled in as more and more countries are earned. Two mini games, "Map It" and "Pile up," are included and become to be unlocked as the states are collected.

As with Stack the States, Stack the Countries allows six players and one guest to keep track of their personal maps and countries won, a really great inclusion for large families or small groups of students. Wonderfully shot photos of famous landmarks are used here as background images as one stacks countries to one's heart's desire, something I have enjoyed both here and in Stack the States. This is an amazing educational experience that kids as well as adults will become addicted to. I have been impressed with all of developer Dan Russell-Pinson three apps for both their educational value, creative and fun game-play. I hope he continues to make apps long into the future.

Stack the Countries Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on March 3rd, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: LEARN TO STACK!
Stack the Countries is a game that tries to blend education with physics puzzler gameplay, making you answer questions about the facts of the world's countries and trying to stack those countries on top of each other to reach the goal height.
Read The Full Review »

Rocket Math Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on January 3rd, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Rocket Math is a new universal game involving rocket-building and launching, where one plays math games to earn the money that is used to buy rocket parts. Once your rocket is built and makes its way to space, 56 math based missions can be played with medals that can be won for completed missions, including concepts like square roots and advanced multiplication and division, as well as basic math concepts, making this game great for the entire family.

This is an absorbing game, very involved in terms of the building and launching of the rockets, with both altitude as well as air time being factors for a successful flight. Playing math games in the interest of earning money towards rocket parts is a great motivator, and I am glad that there is not a specific time limit here. The missions are very stimulating and can have an almost frantic pace, a player being able to play only as long as one’s rocket remains in orbit.

I hope that a page of building tips can be added to this app soon. As of now, there is no real explanation as to how to build a successful rocket, and for a long time I was not able to leave the earth’s atmosphere in order to go on the missions.

After watching the YouTube video associated with this game and at first copying their rocket design, I was able to go on a mission, but I wish that I did not have to go hunting for information not supplied in the app to make this game a successful experience. There is info on building the rocket in terms of how to make rocket parts bigger or smaller, as well as other adjustments and other options, and I like the very gracious option that lets the player sell back rocket parts at full price after one tries them out. However, I would really like to see a tutorial added explaining what the basic parts of the rockets do, and what it takes to make a successful rocket, and some basic principles of physics that are used in propelling the rocket.

I do think kids of all ages, from pre-schoolers to adults will enjoy this game very much once they fully understand how the different rocket parts are used. When fully comfortable with how this game works, it is addicting as well as educational.

Stack the States Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on October 29th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Stack the States is a fun and unique educational game which mixes both U.S. geography trivia as well as an impressive stacking game. Answer questions about specific U.S. states and if you get the answer right, that state drops to a platform at the bottom of the screen where these states are stacked. Keep answering questions correctly and more states will be added to the pile until it is stacked past the finish line that is placed mid-screen. Be aware that the laws of gravity and physics play a large roll in how these states react to being stacked. Will it stack easily or fall down, collapsing the tower, or maybe falling off the platform completely?

The states to be stacked are the correct shape you would expect to find on any U.S. map so some more squarish states like Colorado or the Dakotas may stack easily, but others not so much. Also, the scale is very good here, and you can really see the difference in size between states like California and Delaware, something I really appreciate. After you pile your states past the line, you have earned a state for a U.S. map which gets filled in the more you play. There are also three mini games to unlock as you continue to collect states, and this app will store the info of up to six players - great for families.

I do wish there was more to learn here about the U.S. map as a whole, not just as separate states. As you play, you do add states to a map which slowly becomes completed, but this takes a really long time to fill and this is a feature not likely to be studied much. I would like to see a full U.S. map with all the questions’ answers available to use as a reference. I think looking up facts this way and studying the map in order to answer questions correctly would add to the learning process. All in all, a fun game that both adults and kids will enjoy.