Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
As readers can imagine, my son is fortunate to have a chance to test a variety of educational apps that I download as part of my review process. Typically for him, this is alone-time when he chooses not to have a lot of interaction with others as he becomes deeply involved with an app of his choice. Gro Flowers, an app from a favorite developer of ours - Gro Play - is a unique case, as my boy invites me into his world while working with this application. It's a lovely combination of art and ecology, allowing children to decorate their own flowers to later be pollinated by bees that also produce honey in need of being caught as it drips from the hive. Do shoo away bug spray bottles with a tap, keeping the bees safe and happy.
I would first like to point out that Gro Flowers, along with other Gro Play apps, allows multiple players to explore and interact at the same time - working together decorating flowers as well as dragging bees to like-flowers in the interest of pollination, as well as collecting honey and discouraging the use of pesticides, making this app a lovely exercise in cooperation that my son really enjoys sharing with others. The pacing of Gro Flowers, also like the other Gro Play apps, is a little on the slow side compared to arcade games some children play with these days, but I do admire this choice. It allows my son to slow down as well - a lovely nod to the time it takes nature to grow a field of flowers or create honey one drop at a time.
I also really appreciate how children are not rewarded with distracting stickers that take away from game play but instead earn a multitude of different bright and pleasing colors and brush tips, including those that contain geometric that which can also be used like stamps - all of which players can experiment with when decorating their flowers. We also genuinely appreciate how every stroke from a finger is also seen within each of the other petals to create a wonderful kaleidoscope effect that the youngest of children can use with ease, as well as allowing older children to be quite thoughtful while adding details to these flower petals.
It would be nice, however, if more flower variations were available to beautify than just the basic five petals of a daisy-like plant. As a treat, we have noted a few templates with more pointed petals, but this flower option is unfortunately rare. Other flower shapes would also be a welcome sight - be it fennel, tulips, lilacs, or clovers. It would also be interesting to have the chance to cross-pollinate between different blossoms yet within the same basic flower family to create unique hybrids.
Once a flower is completed, children are then brought to a lush landscape where pollination occurs as they help navigate bees to the same flowers, allowing them to both collect nectar and to create new blossoms. Here, the second flower that becomes pollinated disappears and two other flowers takes its place randomly on the screen, adding to the visual interest. I do wonder though if this would lead children to believe that the recently pollinated flower dies during this process before allowing pollinated seeds to grow into new flora. It would also be nice to see more of a nod to plant fertilization, possibly allowing children to see pollen of any color stuck to the bee and having it land on a sister flower to then create new ones of this same color and pattern. Likewise, I do feel like it is a bit of a lost opportunity to have the bee turn its back to the screen to collect nectar from each blossom. I would have enjoyed seeing a long tubular tongue-like mouthpart actually collect nectar from each flower, bringing more details and a little more science education into this creative and charming app.
As open-ended as Gro Flowers is, the session must come to a close when the landscape is filled with flowers. Before tapping a button releasing them into the wind, do take a few moments to tap each flower variety to hear them sing - a musical element that I found pitch-perfect if not a little moving. Although at first we had some mixed feelings about having to, in effect, delete the flowers that we designed to start over again, my son was quite relieved to see that each flower he had created has been saved in a gallery. In the future, I would love to be able to choose a previous bud to reuse in these pre-designed colors and patterns as well.
Even with these notes, we really enjoy the process of creating new flowers in Gro Flowers and controlling a blooming landscape by choosing which flowers are to be fertilized. My son takes every drop of honey to be collected very personally, as well as stopping the bug spray before any bugs are left dazed but not terribly harmed, keeping this app utterly family-friendly. I am eager to see what new ecology-themed apps will be designed in the future by Gro Play. Their apps are colorful and engaging, and they include nice messages for children to learn, making their apps very easy to recommend.