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Peekaboo: Find the Hidden Fun UFO Characters Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 2nd, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Peekaboo: Find the Hidden Fun UFO Characters is a fun game for iPad where players search scenes for colorful, friendly UFO’s who are hiding out and about, playing peek-a-boo on planet Earth. Seven aliens are included, each with a unique look and fun colors among the wonderfully stylized illustrations used here.

I love the look of this app in general; the palette of warm turquoises, oranges, sage greens, golden yellows and complimenting colors are some of my personal favorites, and I really enjoy their use here, as I do all the details used to create a wonderful series of environments for these cheerful UFO’s to hide in.

Ten scenes are included and range from natural landscapes complete with pretty trees that sway slightly as if during a summer breeze to flowers, other fauna and animals which sometimes make noises if tapped. Other scenes involve cityscapes with a lot going on, such as a “rush hour” scene rich with car noises that one can tap on, as well as a nice use of cactuses, rainbows, and other natural elements. A few scenes also include shopping motifs, which are a lot of fun as these UFO’s visit places like a toy store - a nice choice.

Look behind these objects and elsewhere on these sections to find the hiding UFO’s. It is useful that hints can be used if one is stuck looking for these creatures, as a bar at the top of the screen can be opened and the UFO's’s in question can be tapped to see their corresponding pair within the scene become highlighted with sparkly stars.

I like that the background ambient noises and the tappable sound effects each have their own volume controls, always a nice option to have. I also appreciate that if one looks closely at these illustrations, one can see a faint wood grain used to create the feel of a classic wood toy or puzzle, an element I am always fond of seeing.

Kids preschool age and up will enjoy this app for all that there is to look at. The difficulty level is nice for this age group; one must look closely to see these UFO’s, and it is nice that hints can be used as a reference to match from without tapping as well, making the hints suit the needs of different skill levels.

The opening and closing moments of this app introducing the aliens and creating closure are nicely done, but it would be nice if the places used to hide were random and different each time these games were played. Having said this, the landscapes used are busy enough that it is doubtful young children would notice this issue. I think kids will enjoy this peek-a-boo app, and the ten levels offered lend themselves well to nice quiet time with the iPad.

Do check out the other iPad applications by the developers at PopAppFactory. My son and I really enjoy some of their other apps, specifically MosaicHD and Tangram Puzzles; they are a company worth checking out.

Tangram Puzzles Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on July 12th, 2011
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Tangram Puzzles is a wonderfully creative and fun educational iPad app. This is a nice companion to the related app by the same developers, MosaicHD. Instead of creating patterns with the use of small colored pegs like in MosaicHD, here the player uses different shapes together to create larger images.

Based on the classic Chinese puzzle game of Tangram, this app uses basic geometrical shapes together to create interesting images, The original Tangram puzzle consisted of seven shapes that together could be fitted side-by-side to create such shapes as a square, triangle, rectangle, as well as objects like a house, boat, or bird. I like that this app contains not only the various triangles, small squares, and parallelogram that were included in the original seven shapes but also includes circles and half-circles.

The interface is very easy to use here, with options including choosing a template, looking at completed work in the gallery, or creating one’s own design free-hand. The templates consist of 18 images that can be copied, ranging from simple to complex. I appreciate the selection offered a great deal as there is a lot to choose from with some very interesting images included such as Clown or Bear in Snowy Forest, as well as some abstract choices like the very ornate Ornament2, giving the player some nice ideas to create their own patterns.

Once the template is chosen, you will have the option to turn on "Help," creating an outline over the template where the pieces fit. It is nice that this option is included, as my son needs this help here as well as in MosaicHD to be successful, but older children and adults may want to tackle these patterns solely by looking at the small reference picture included. The right side of the screen consists of a vertical scroll bar of the shapes to be used in this pattern; tap and drag the chosen piece to where it belongs in the larger image.

It is nice that each shape has a number showing how many pieces of this specific shape are needed to be filled in, counting each piece as it is used being very helpful, especially when the “Help” is off. Like MosaicHD, the templates are based on a grid and while using the Help, the transparent shapes to be filled in do not fully cover up the grid below, allowing the player to see how the various squares of the grid fit into these various shapes to be used, conveying the geometry taught by Tangrams nicely.

The Gallery contains both past finished work as well as the chance to add personal patterns to a public gallery for other app users to peruse, and I really enjoyed looking at other people’s work. One can also share personal patterns by email or Facebook as well.

Freehand gives the player the option of creating his very own patterns. The vertical scroll bar to the right of the screen is filled with every shape found among these templates, and because flipping or rotating these shapes is not possible here, each shape is presented in every possible rotated or mirrored configuration. Ten color choices are available as well, creating complete personalization of any image one can create with the shapes that are offered.

MosaicHD is a favorite app of my son, as he is captivated by creating pictures based on the templates, as well as creating his own images free-hand. Tangrams is equally creative and fun. The music used here is very well done, hypnotic, and relaxing and very pleasant to listen to as one creates an involved pattern. I like that the music volume levels can be changed independently of the other sound effects, specifically the cheering one hears when a template is filled in, as this may be distracting or encouraging - depending on the player.

The use of tangrams with children has long been thought of as a great way to teach geography and math. Younger children will enjoy exploring shapes and colors as they can easily fill in the templates with the “help” feature, encouraging the use of fine motor skills and imagination along the way. I love the creative template choices available, but it would be nice if the classic seven piece tangrams which create the basic square, triangle, or other shapes were also included to help teach the fundamentals of this classic puzzle.

My son owns a few tangram sets himself, and not all of them work well. Many times the pieces slide around the cards he is working from - very frustrating. Other times, pieces are added to the cutouts of a wood puzzle template. This works well, but the images tend to be simplistic. I really like the ease of use and different levels of details involved in this application. It is always an added bonus to have no pieces to lose or to store when game play is over.

I think both Tangram Puzzles as well as Mosaic HD are good choices for families, as children of all ages as well as adults will also enjoy these apps a great deal.

MosaicHD Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 20th, 2011
iPad App - Designed for iPad

MosaicHD is a wonderful and creative app that lets players make patterns out of different colored pins. Extremely intuitive, children of all ages and adults will enjoy both following included patterns as well as designing their own creations as they fit colored pegs into a blank grid filled with holes.

We are fortunate that our local library has not only books and dvds to borrow, but also has a large selection of classic board games available to play with as well. Every time this opportunity arises and the games are brought out, my son, now three, makes a beeline for the game “Mastermind.” He has no interest in the way this game is traditionally played, but he loves to play with the different colored pins, fitting them in their holes, making all kinds of abstract patterns for extended periods of time.

When I first looked at this app, I knew we had a winner on our hands and that my son and I were going to love this. I love how intuitive this game is. My son understood right away how to choose a pattern and figured out with the help of hints where colored pegs need to go in the grid without any help from me. He loves this app, enjoying very much the different boards there are to choose from, including a ladybug, artist's palette or Himalayan Mountain landscape. This app keeps track of what patterns have already been solved and what is still new to explore.

There are two levels of difficulty, small or large pegs. With small pegs, more pegs can fit on a page and lead to more intricate and detailed pictures. A guide of sorts is shown, being a smaller image in the corner of the screen which gives the player an idea of where to add corresponding pegs to complete the chosen pattern. Hints can also be used, where an outline of what peg goes in corresponding holes can be seen, simplifying game play. It is also nice that wrong peg colors flash, letting players see mistakes easily. As helpful as this is, I do wish the flashing could be turned off as an option, as one may want to change a pattern, changing colors or adding details without any distractions.

One can also choose peg size when creating original masterpieces, and I especially like that one does not have to add pegs one at a time but can also drag a finger across the screen to create a row of pegs in various line or wave formations, something I find very satisfying. It is nice that one can save the work in this apps gallery, as well as share via Facebook or email.

I really enjoy the music also included, bringing this game to another level as this music is hypnotic and beautiful to listen to, many times encouraging me to play with this app much longer than I intended. I like the sound effect used when pegs are added, and one is congratulated as well when a pattern is completed. I am glad that the music and the effects volume levels can be set individually, but it would be nice if the effects and the congratulatory sounds could also be separate also, as I would include the sounds of the pegs being added to my gameplay but the celebratory sounds, although very encouraging for kids, interrupt the mood which the wonderful, trance-like music puts me into.

This is a wonderful app for the very young through adulthood. Toddlers and preschoolers can learn a lot about colors and patterns and increase their fine motor skills and memory as well as simply be creative and artistic. I am sure that many adults and older kids will find themselves mesmerized by this app as I have been, making it a wonderful application for the entire family.