Version Reviewed: 1.2
App Reviewed on: iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Recently I became aggravated with my son, now seven years old, as he was spending much of his screen time on a free app that he convinced my husband to download. With the use of a physics engine and the sharpening of fine motor skills, this new app is not mindless, but I was tired of my son downloading additional content and trying to collect gems to obtain new characters. Because of this, I announced that he was done with this app for now and instead he was going to help me test a new application racing monster trucks. My boy became silent and looked at me, then asked, “Can I add ramps to the tracks?” After explaining that yes, he could add ramps, loop-de-loops, corkscrews, and more in the building mode, a big smile washed over his face. I have not seen my boy play the free app since being introduced to Nickelodeon’s Blaze and the Monster Machines HD - an app that allows children to both build as well as race monster trucks to their hearts' desire.
Two sections are included within Blaze and the Monster Machines HD, which allow children to race across already constructed courses as well as creating their own. Three different themes - The Badlands, Snowy Slopes, and Monster Dome - are included, and children will be driving their car Blaze against two other vehicles. Children have the chance to steer with the drag of a finger or by tilting their iPad from side to side. I must admit that I am not the best at driving within these races as my arcade reflexes have suffered with age, but my son really enjoys these tracks, finding the navigation (primarily with a finger) easy to use. I appreciate how one can save up to twelve unique tracks built within each location, allowing children to go back and ride courses previously created as well as continue to work on these driving areas.
Within these courses, science terms like “force” are explored as children push through barrels, "adhesion" as one tried to avoid gum or honey that would make one stick to the track if not using the chains found on the driving area to be used for added traction, or the use of magnets that will attract hubcaps to be used to fill in the “blazing speed meter” and allowing an increase in speed for a short period of time. With fifteen levels included in each of these areas, children will see many STEM concepts at work - be it gaining trajectory from driving over ramps or avoiding the pitfalls of cheating cars who create their own sticky obstacles to avoid, all of which creates dynamic courses that children will enjoy racing through.
My son’s main focus within this app, however, is the chance to build his own tracks within the desert, snow covered course, or stadium sections provided. At first glance, the area where one builds the track seems small and not the best use of space within the available area of the screen as children use a finger to trace a course within a diminutive area between the start and finish lines. Using a finger to zoom out, it becomes apparent that the racing area is actually longer than previously thought, but it would have been nice if the size of the track one first drew had an even smaller footprint, allowing for more maze-like turns that could then be expanded for a more complex experience.
Children will have a chance to add details to their course that they will experience firsthand while driving, including the ability to add two different loops, arrows for acceleration, hubcaps, magnets, and ramps or different angles, as well as obstacles such as water puddles to slide in, gum to get stuck, and boxes and barrels to crash through. I really enjoy the thought process children will go through as they create tracks that will give them an advantage in these races, which at first seemed to me like promoting bad sportsmanship as one loads up the course with the chance to boost one’s speed - an issue I no longer have as the player’s car is by its nature slower than the other two in the race, so children will need to design tracks that will give them a competitive edge as they race for trophies and bragging rights.
I do enjoy the point-of-view seen as one drives around these tracks, with the back of Blaze’s car seen in the foreground. The loop-de-loops are quite effective in making me feel a little ill while traveling upside down - a complement to be sure as we drive around these customizable tracks. I would not call Blaze and the Monster Machines HD an app perfect for quiet time, as this is a loud and kinetic app with enough arcade elements to enthrall young students reluctant to play a game that is “educational.” It does allow parents to feel good about their children spending time in a race and is a much better choice than other simple, sometimes pointless driving apps or other games that can suck children in.
Based on a Nickelodeon show of the same name, Blaze and the Monster Machines HD will suit fans as well as well as newcomers. And although my son and I have not seen an episode, this has not stopped him for being fully engaged by this app. I would like to make note that the current price of $6.99 for the iPad version seems quite high for a child's application, especially with this app not being universal with a separate iPhone version available, which makes the price the only hesitation I have in recommending this application to all families with young children. I do see this app becoming more popular with a more affordable price tag, a change I would love to see in the future.