Version Reviewed: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Sago Mini Friends is the charming new app from Sago Sago - a dream team of sorts that has combined the creative minds from developers zinc Roe and Toca Boca. Sago Sago apps are geared towards children younger than many of Toca Boca’s apps, including Sago Mini Friends, a delightful first app to help develop the social skills of toddlers and preschool-aged children.
Here, children can choose from one of five brightly colored and styled animal characters, with a few familiar faces such as Jinga the Cat, Robin the Bird, and Harvey the Dog. After selecting an animal, children are brought to an area of this app styled like a neighborhood where the chosen critter visits the homes of the other animals. A tap to the doorbell will trigger a warm welcome as children are then introduced to ten different, simple, intuitive mini-games. The users of Sago Mini Friends are in many ways a third invisible character who interacts with the items of interest within each of these activities, such as unwrapping presents to expose toys such as a train or car that can be moved around the page, blowing up balloons to give to the two playmates, or playing dress-up with props such as glasses or hats, styling as a stuffed animal included in this scene.
Because these animals are interacting with objects directly, one may note that many of these activities include much parallel play as these characters sit next to each other staring into the camera facing the user instead of each other while completing a cooperative activity. What this app does provide is a chance for two players to take turns playing out these mini-games, sharing the iPad between themselves. Even nicer is the multi- touch feature included within, allowing multiple hands to move about the screen as they accessorize animals or feed them snacks, working together for open-ended playtime. Emotions are expressed by each animal, including joyfulness as well as showing disappointment when they feel snubbed by their other friend being served, encouraging users to take turns including each animal during these mini-games such as feeding them snacks, be it fruit or sandwiches - a cute and witty section complete with belching sound effects that I am quite fond of.
This app, along with the participation of another child or adult, may help demonstrate the give-and-take of a playdate. I do have mixed feelings about how the characters display long faces when their friend gets served food or drink, which can come across as feeling entitled, as children need to learn how to graciously wait their turn. This poor behavior - the idea that one has the right to feel put upon for not being given food first, is a little off-base for the way one would want their children to act in social situations. Instead, I would love to see the animal looking pleased for the friend being fed and slowly, if not being given an equal share over the course of a few turns, becoming notably sad, explaining to children the need for sharing without giving children the option of mimicking spoiled behavior. I also found it a bit odd that animal children are taking naps, tucked into matching twin beds within a scene - not a typical activity I have encountered. In turn, I have not encountered children washing dishes on a playdate, but I appreciate the moment of cooperation between friends as one washes and the other dries - a lovely moment, to be sure.
Like the other Sago Mini apps, there are a lot of fun details that will make this app popular with families - such as the letting go of balloons before they're fully blown up and tied off, allowing them to fly around the room wildly while deflating, complete with sound effects. Surprises are to be discovered, such as the bird living in the birdhouse that these playmates had previously nailed together, as well as other endearing moments that will keep children engaged. Although adults may notice that the number of different mini-games is not unlimited, the variations included as these five friends get together at different houses will keep the attention of the target audience for quite some time. I also really appreciate how one can choose a different animal as visitor by taking a balloon ride up to a character menu in the sky to swap out critters at will.
Sago Mini Friends is an app that can easily be played alone, but the true magic will occur when a friend or family member shares this app with young children, making it easy to recommend.