Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
App Reviewed on: iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Astropolo is a creative new app with a space travel theme that allows children to help astronaut Polo travel from Earth to planet Tropy. Astropolo includes eight mini-games that children will find fun and unique. Adults will appreciate these activities for their educational benefits as they strengthen areas such as fine motor and problem-solving skills. Although these games are intuitive to play once understood, written directions will need to be read in order to be followed - be it by the user or an adult working alongside the child. A short video of the gameplay of each of these sections is also included that children can follow, even if they are not up to fully reading the description - a really nice touch that also may give a few hints on the best way to play these mini-games.
There are some interesting areas that are included as children are sometimes asked to use their own voices as part of this app, from cheering to launch the spaceship into space to singing a lullaby to an alien and also asking them to regulate their volume in order to relax this character and to avoid being so loud that it wakes him. Both of these sections have meters built in to check that the sounds that one makes stay within the green areas, allowing children to be thoughtful in the level of sounds they are producing.
Another interesting area is one where children are asked to draw hearts with a single stroke to calm an angry character Mr Kissnot - a unique exercise in trying to draw this shape as precisely as possible. I also enjoy being able to design one's own spaceship seen in the beginning of this app, as the vehicle created by scrolling through different head, body, and tail options can be seen throughout - a nice touch I really appreciate.
Arcade-like games are also included where children are called upon to collect Santa’s lost reindeer that are running along with other animals as well as moving away obstacles as another character - here a dog named Laika - is driving a space rover looking for her kennel. A later section asks children to aim the space craft at the distant planet, together with choosing the appropriate angle as well as the correct amount of acceleration. Music is also incorporated nicely as children tap to the rhythm, helping Polo dance in another section of the app.
The upbeat space-like music included within Astropolo is very appealing, and I would also like to make note of the look of this app as paper art is used to illustrate things in a way that is bold and creative as well as highly impressive to look at. I do love to look at the intricate details seen from the space landscapes to the details of Mr Kissnot, Zleepy the alien, Laika the dog, and other elements - each of them created by layers of cut paper that include the perfectly imperfect marks made by the tools touching the paper, all showing a wonderful point-of-view as well as a sense of style and wonder that children and adults will really appreciate. The work by French artist Chloé Mazlo truly elevates this children’s app to something quite special, and fans of Astropolo may also be interested in a previous application that also includes the paper art of Mazlo: Albert, a fantastical as well as beautiful arcade game application from a different developer that children and adults may also find interesting.
As much as I have really enjoyed testing Astropolo, I would like to point out that although I find the ability of children to control some of these mini-games with their voices witty and fun, it does make this app not as useful as a game when out and about - not a huge issue as children can play this app simply when making some noise is appropriate. I do wish, however, that a “quiet” mode of some sort was included that could incorporate tapping of some kind when children testing their own volume control is less than appropriate.
Likewise, although the use of a very secular Santa does not offend me as a parent who does not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, I can imagine some families taken aback a bit with the inclusion of Santa, which does not truly fit into this space theme. I have also had some minor difficulty drawing hearts in a way that is acceptable to Mr. Kissnot, and I can see children having the same issues. Because of this, it would also be nice to see different levels of difficulty that would ease up how specific these hearts need be to drawn to be counted.
Even with these notes, the whimsy included within Astropolo and the chance to expose children as well as adults to this amazing paper-cut art makes it an easy app to recommend.