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Photo Book Decoration Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on December 29th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Photo Book Decoration allows you to doodle on and decorate photos imported from your photo library or taken on the fly, and email them or export altered images back to the photo libary. Available tools include pen, stamp, and background templates, each containing multiple colors, sizes and options for decorating photos.

Detailed instructions are available under the i icon on the top bar of the app, but honestly they weren't of much help. The app was unresponsive, and I could not figure out how to change the color of the pen. The app is not intuitive for an adult and would be even more frustrating for a child. For your money, there are far better photo-decorating tools out there. Don't waste your time and money on this one.

iMatryoshka Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on December 10th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Matryoshka are those cute little wooden nesting dolls with beautiful painted exteriors that are a key feature of Russian folk art. iMatryoshka is a strange twist on that heritage, turning the Matryoshka into vampiric nesting dolls that eviscerate into smoke if they are flung together properly. I have a sneaking suspicion this game is based on some strange and ancient Ukrainian myth handed down and twisted over the generations. In any case, it makes for a fun and entertaining, if odd and slightly disturbing, iPhone app.

Two fingers are required to fling together matching top and bottom pieces, and matching pieces must collide together to incinerate into a puffball of smoke. Easy and Hard modes of play are available for two options: "Smooth" and "Mad" Matryoshka. As Matryoshka incinerate, more and more dolls fill the screen, increasing the level of difficulty. Scores and game options are displayed over a cutting board decorated in a traditional Russian flower engraving.

The game is so strange and odd that it compels you to play; my five year old liked it quite a bit. I say "Да" (Da- yes in Russian).

YummyBurgers Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on December 9th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

YummyBurgers is a fun, challenging game that illuminates the difficulty of life as a short order cook. If you're kid is thinking of dropping out of high school for a career at McDonald's, this might be just what the doctor ordered. Assembling burgers to order in a timely fashion is no easy task, and if you're too slow or make mistakes, you'll quickly lose your impatient customers, who quickly turn disgruntled and walk away accompanied by sad music.

YummyBurgers consists of four progressively difficult modes of play which must be unlocked: Stand, Restaurant, Time Trial & Endurance. You must earn set levels of money to progress to the next level. I wasn't able to earn any money on Stand. Of course, my five-year old progressed to Restaurant in a short time.

The game starts out with a tutorial in which the items for layering are displayed along the bottom, and an arrow cues the finger to the correct ingredient. After a few successful runs, the arrow disappears and you are left to your own devices.

Just for fun and very challenging!

GopherPop Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on December 8th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

File this one under "awesome."

In our house, whack-a-mole is a daily game with Daddy, his large hands smacking down little munchkins as they pop up from the ground. So GopherPop was intuitive for our kids. Simple and addictive; the game starts out with two gopher holes which you must "pop" with your fingers, while upbeat music plays and mountains rise in the background. if you miss the gopher, he slides back down his hole with a sad, whistling sound.

As you progress and pop more gophers, additional holes appear and the game becomes gradually more difficult. Though the game seems to start out a little slow, and seems perhaps too easy, as more gopher holes appear soon you will be struggling to hit all of your gophers.

Sometimes the simplest games are the best!

What To Do Today - September Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on December 7th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

My sister and I represent the two ends of the mommy creativity spectrum. She has an entire arts & craft area in her basement that could outfit a preschool. When we go to her house, she pulls crafty, educational, hands-on ideas out of the air that keep the kids occupied for hours. Me? Not so much.

So I was very skeptical but interested in the What to Do Today? iPhone app. And I was pleasantly surprised. The app is organized like a map in which characters offer activities with complete verbal and graphic, multi-page instructions. Activities complement the season; the September app includes back-to-school activities like a collage organizer and a bookmark. Eleven crafts are included for the month.

Crafty mamas (like my sister) may look down their noses on this app, but for creatively-challenged mamas like myself, it's just about perfect. Definitely worth the money (though the craft supplies may set you back a bit more!).

The Maze Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on December 6th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

The Maze is, as you would expect from the name, a maze game for iPhone. It is extrememly simple; four joystick-like controls at the bottom control the leading edge of the maze. The pathway is filled up with color as you progress through the maze. A hint button is available which reveals the next few steps on the pathway. Four layouts are available; a standard maze and mazes with barricades in the form of a dog's footprint, a smiley face, or a blue background with center barricades. If you feel like giving up, just hit Solve and a red path will show the solution.

The game is simple but fun; my 5-year old has been fascinated by mazes ever since we visited the corn maze before Halloween, so this app is perfect for him. The price is right and the level of difficulty is about right for his age. For the price, this app is worth a try.

Sparky the Dog Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on November 18th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Sparky the Dog is a fun little game that my 5-year old really enjoys. The game consists of 12 levels; the object of the game is to move a hungry dog named Sparky through a pastoral landscape while gaining points by jumping and popping bubbles with treats in them (cupcakes, doggy bones, doughnuts, etc.) and absorbing the treats (thus gaining points) before a treat-stealing mouse makes off with the bounty.

Sparky must also defend against a prickly porcupine, who exacts two points from Sparky each time he runs into him. The main method of defense is his bark, which is available on demand and sends threatening creatures scurrying in a hurry.

Sparky must consume more points than he expends before finishing the level in order to move on to the next one. Yet another example of iPhone fun that keeps my 5-year old entertained!

Basic Math with Mathaliens Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on November 11th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

This is a great math study app suitable for the entire elementary school spectrum. Mathaliens covers addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and has two play modes: Mathaliens Bingo and Hunting Mathaliens, with three levels of difficulty (Easy, Medium, Hard).

In Mathaliens Bingo, a Bingo field is presented with an array of twenty numbers. A math problem is presented, and the player must select the correct answer from the field while striving to get a "Bingo", a horizontal or vertical line of correct answers. Each time a correct answer is selected, the number is replaced by a spunky-looking alien. Scoring depends on how quickly the correct answer is selected; 50 points are attainable within the first second and 5 points are subtracted every second thereafter. Incorrect answers deduct 50 points from the totals. High scores are retained in a list accessible from within the app.

Hunting Mathaliens consists of five levels of progressing difficulty which must be passed through by correctly answering math problems. Two initial lives are given; one life is deducted when a question is answered incorrectly, and an additional life is granted each time a level is completed. In each subsequent level, answer times are shorter and the number of available answers increases. The minimum time for answering in the final level can be adjusted in the settings. A Mathalien is caught and stored in a Mathalien gallery accessible by the My Mathaliens button.

I highly recommend this app as a fun way to practice and sharpen "head math" skills.

Talking Perry the Penguin Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on November 9th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Oh boy, this one is a major hit with my kids (2 and 4 years old)! Talking Perry the Penguin is nothing more (and nothing less) than a digital voice recorder, which takes input from te microphone and converts it to a voice emanating from the megaphone of a pudgy and cute little Penguin named Perry. Hours of fun sending parroted message via Perry can be had with this app.

Options include a slider to control microphone sensitivity and another to control output voice pitch. Interestingly, the voice pitch slider also controls the size of Perry, so a high pitched Perry is small whereas a low-pitched Perry is large.

What more can be said? I hope the developers add more features for voice modification and additional creature options. Great idea- we want more!

Squirrel Goes Nuts Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on November 5th, 2010

This is a fun and challenging little game that requires the user to move a squirrel across a landscape to consume as many acorns as possible, and finally to grab the key nut (literally the nut with the key in it). The squirrel's motions are a little tricky to master at first; basically you fling him across the screen (he does a series of rather un-squirrel like somersaults as he flies).

The squirrel moves up the tree, balancing on red and green oak leafs as he ascends, or sticking to the sides of the screen. Red oak leafs give his jumps a normal bounce, green ones give a shorter jump, red rubies give him a normal jump but make him slide downward, yellow and purple rubies slide you off.

My chief complaint is the instructions which are absolutely illegible. Other than that, this is another addictive, just-for-fun game theta employs a little strategy and a lot of fun.

Young Reader - QuickReader Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on November 4th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Young Reader is the QuickReader edition for children, and features thousands of classic children's books for free. Authors such as Coelho, Twain, Dickens, Kipling, Wilde, and London fill out the available catalog. Additional books can be loaded from online catalogs. Quick Reader features a highly elegant and customizable interface, and includes normal reading and speed reading modes.

In speed reading, a highlighted guide illuminates the text at a preselected rate of words per minute (ranging from 100-4000), making this an ideal tool on which to practice speed reading. The interface includes a variety of color contrast schemes (my favorite is chlorophyll), and the guide, page and text color can also be modified from a palette. Font type, size, margin width, line spacing, right justification, lock rotation, sleep, restore on startup, and restore defaults are all available in the Settings section of the app, accessible from the Home Screen.

This is a very elegant little e-reading application for older children who want to work on speed and comprehension.

MindSnacks Spanish - Language Learning Program Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on October 28th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: GREAT STUFF :: Read Review »

I'm on my way to learning Spanish! This is a unique and very addictive Spanish learning iphone app that is, in my opinion, well worth the price of admission. The app begins by requiring a profile set-up, including email address, then assigns a starting level by administering a short diagnostic quiz. I started at level two: days of the week and colors.

The player begins with a study session in which the material is presented and read with correct pronunciation. The goal then is to progress through a set of dynamic, engaging and fast-paced challenge games which truly test your knowledge of the material. After each game is completed, the user can see how many points are accrued toward unlocking the next level, and how many words have been mastered, which is a great motivator and contributes to the addictive quality of the game.

I haven't yet made it our of level two, but according to the website, the game consists of 50 lessons with over 1400 words and phrases to master, with regular updates and additions. Although Spanish is the only language currently offered, the MindSnacks website indicates French, Spanish, and Mandarin are on the horizon. It would be nice if the developers included the ability to set up multiple profiles; this is a serious limitation for families with multiple language learners.

This would be a great augmentation to any student's Spanish studies, from elementary school through university.

CitiStroller Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on October 25th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

As a mom who moonlights as an urban planner, I have a strong interest in urban walkability and mobility issues, especially related to mobility with kids and strollers. So I was very excited to delve into CitiStroller, an app whose goal is to provide "a guide for navigating cities on wheels…stroller-friendly public transportation, diaper change locations, nursing spots, restaurants & more."

CitiStroller is built on a Google Maps platform and is searchable for a variety of urban parenting necessities, including Trains, Changing Tables, Nursing Spots, Parks, Playgrounds, Indoor Play & Activities, Restaurants, Cafe's, Baby & Kid's Gear, and Stroller Repair & Service. The data is "expertly curated" by the developers, and users can register with CitiRoller (the sister site/app that charts urban mobility for those in wheelchairs) to add their own sites to the database.

The major shortcoming: in this early release of CitiStroller, data is available only for Boston, MA, with preview data available for New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington D.C. I am hoping this app expands quickly into other areas because it is much needed anywhere parents, kids, and cities overlap!

Shape Skills Level 1 Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on October 20th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

This is a very nice skills app that develops a child's ability not only to to identify shapes but to discern similarities and differences among shapes and similar objects. Six options are available: Tracing, What's That, The Right One, Odd One Out, The Same, and Free Draw.

The first three work on basic shape familiarization and identification skills. In Tracing, the child traces over outlines of shapes with his finger. In The Right One?, the child is asked to identify a shape from a set when given its name. In What's That? the child is shown a shape and asked to select the correct name. If the wrong answer is selected, another chance is given until the correct answer is selected.

Odd One Out and the The Same build complexity to basic skills. In Odd One Out, the child is shown a set of objects and asked to identify which does not belong. In The Same, the child is shown an object and asked to identity which among a set of objects is the same; although the correct answer is not identical to the original item and requires some discernment to recognize similarity in shape or form. Free Draw is pretty self-explanatory; merely a blank canvas onto which the child can draw.

This is a great app, but I have one simple upgrade request for the developers: add narration! My four-year old could easily play this independently if the instructions and questions were read aloud.

Gingerbread Fun! Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on October 13th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

I knew upon first glance that this app was made for my four-year old son, who loves to bake anything and is especially fond of gingerbread men. Gingerbread Fun! allows two paths to cookie glory: Make and Bake or Straight to Decorate.

If you select Make and Bake, you begin with rolling the dough, using two fingers, then moving a stencil with one finger to place the shape (a choice of classic gingerbread man, gingerwoman, pudgy gingerman, heart, or star), pressing down with two fingers to cut into the dough, and finally shaking the phone to free the excess dough. Guided by the chef, you then place the cutout dough on a pallet into a wood-fired oven, taking care to remove before the "ding" of the oven timer, or you will have your cookie burnt and smoking. Next, your decorate the cookie (or you start here, if you chose Straight to Decorate), with options for face, hair, buttons, clothes, extras, and letters, by selecting the accoutrement from a menu up top, placing it in position, and dragging your finger to place the feature on the cookie. Finally, you may eat the cookie by chomping it with your finger, save it to the photo gallery, email it to grandma or share it on Facebook.

As of all this were not enough, a bonus game is also available, in which you slide the chef across the floor so that he "eats" falling gingerbread men and avoids falling stock pots.

A lot of baking fun is packed into this fun little app... we reccommend!