Sir Benfro’s Brilliant Balloon, designed by Tim Fishlock and developed by Explore and Create Limited, is an extremely unique and visually impressive universal app that will most likely capture the attention of children ages 7 and older. Click on “Meet Sir Benfro,” and you will learn that, “Sir Benfro has made some of the most scientific discoveries of his generation…Naturalist, Scientist, and Explorer, Sir Benfro is more than happy to invent creatures to support his theories.” This strange background information is just an example of how quirky and original this app actually is, although younger children will surely find this narrative confusing (as did I, actually). Complete with a Spotter’s Guide to new creatures, and an option to send a postcard via Facebook or Twitter, what can I say other than you have to play it to believe it.
The game play is quite simple in that players must tap Sir Benfro (who I’m guessing got his name due to his large Afro hairstyle) to make him float, while releasing him to make him sink. Sir Benfro is powered by fireflies and it is possible to collect them as you go by steering over them, thereby adding them to your balloon. Bump into objects and you will lose fireflies. Once all of your fireflies are gone, the journey is over. The goal of the game, therefore, is to collect fireflies, avoid obstacles and make your way through a beautifully illustrated landscape until you have made it through the level. Sounds easy, right? Well, not exactly.
Although there are only four different levels (adventures), it is quite challenging to make it through each one. Each time you fail, Sir Benfro will show you what percentage of the total distance you were able to complete. It took myself, my 10-year old and 7-year-old multiple attempts to clear the first level, “Yellow Leaves.” To date, we have not been able to clear level two, “Forest.” Both levels are beautiful to look at and have a dream-like quality. True to his word, players will encounter unusual, imaginary animals as they travel through the landscapes. We are all very curious to see what level three, “Islands,” and level four, “Underground,” look like and the animals we will meet.
While I would hesitate to call Sir Benfro educational, I praise the developers for creating something truly different and interesting for both children and adults. The pace is relaxing and the artwork is really quite beautiful. The music is upbeat and folksy, and apparently, an official soundtrack is also available on iTunes! This app would not be a good fit for younger kids who enjoy a faster, action-style type of game, as they would probably be bored. However, kids who can appreciate a more artistic and creative style of game will in all likelihood become very engaged with this whimsical app.