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Fluke HD Review

Posted by Nick Papageorge on July 5th, 2011
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Fluke HD is, in my opinion, one of the best Sorry/Ludo clones on the app store today. It is one that has held my daughters' attention for months now, and one that we absolutely love coming back to quite regularly to play as a family.

The game, as you can imagine, is quite simple. You have 4 tokens that you need to get from the star to the finish. You can play by yourself with computer controlled players (easy, medium or hard difficulties) or with up to 6(!) people... that would be one heck of a full iPad to huddle around! Multiplayer through Game Center is also an option, not a bad idea if you've got 2 devices and want to play separately.

There are currently 4 different boards to choose from: Alien World (which was newly added), Carnival, Mediaeval and Race Track. There's also a promise of more boards to come, which I'd love to see. Included is a link to Fluke's Facebook page where you can chime in on what you'd like to see included for the new boards. The developer is very active here, a fact that is quite promising. For parents who are concerned with their children clicking out to external sites, I need to advise that this is an easy link to click on, even mistakenly so.

Anyway, back to the game. If you've played Sorry, you know the basics. Once into the game, you need to roll a 6 to add another token onto the board. This then gives you another chance to roll the dice. As for the play on the board, if you roll and land on another player's token, it captures it and sends it back to the start. There are also 2 different unqieu actions spaces on the board. The first is a "Special" tile that requires the person who lands on it to follow its instructions. The second is the "Teleport" device, which will send your token off to another teleport space of the same color, possibly sending you back some spaces.

Fluke honestly surprised me. I knew from what I'd seen that I would like it, but I thought it would get boring rather quickly. Well, it hasn't, and for an app at this price, that's an impressive feat.

I am a firm believer that the iPad is the answer for board gaming on the go, and Fluke is further proof to that. It provides a simple and easy way to access a very high quality "Sorry" clone no matter where you are. No longer do I have to worry that I've lost a piece to the game (I STILL can't find where a red Trouble token is and haven't touched the game since that happened!), and I never have to worry about cleaning it up afterwards. Also, unlike the board game, you get the variety of having multiple board selections here that don't just change how the game looks, but the strategy in how the game plays. A short board is a short, simple game versus a longer board that allows for more strategy. It's simple, but it's something that seriously adds to the longevity of the game.

My say is that if you want to enjoy a really great and fun family board game, Fluke is without a doubt the way to go. The developer cares about the title, and has succeeded in creating something that's easy for a wide age range (it require no reading skill) but also succeeds for adults. It's neither unattractive nor boring, an unfortunate fate of many clones on the app marketplace. You really can't go wrong, and as of my writing it's $0.99 - I cannot think of a better way to spend a buck.

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz Review

Posted by Nick Papageorge on June 22nd, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Yes, the name of the app I'm reviewing today is the entire alphabet. From this point on, I'll refer to it as abcdefg for the sake of my fingers.

I stumbled across this app thanks to the title, it initially seemed like a unique way to learn the alphabet and practice word sounds, but I soon found it was that plus a lot more and it turned into a favorite of mine and my daughters very quickly.

Upon opening abcdefg and hitting play, you're presented with a simple and easy to access play field. The alphabet is split into 2 halves, one on each side, running lengthwise on your device. At the top 4 different words: "Gravity", "Crickets", "Vehicles" and "Birds". At the bottom are 5 buttons, "Recycle", "Arrow", "Bomb", "Camera" and "Info". Honestly, this is all that you need to know to get started.

Simply take a letter from either side and drag it into the middle of the screen. When you let go, the letter will go off on its merry way. When my daughters first grabbed it, they dragged a few letters and nothing happened. Once the letters hit the edge of the screen, everything changed.

With gravity (the option selected by default), the letters simply move with your device. Each time the letters hit an edge, the "sound" of the letter is played.

Vehicles zip around the screen, making sounds as they move. Crickets skitter and make sounds when they group up together. Birds is the most diverse, with varied sound, tempo and pitch depending on where/how it's placed.

As each letter moves, it leaves a unique trail behind it, making a visual representation of the soundscape you, I mean your kids, are creating and it's easy to stop a single letter, group of letters, erase the whole picture or take a snapshot of the insanity using the buttons below.

People might dismiss abcdefg, but if you look closer at what the app actually provides, I think you'll find that it's an invaluable tool for kids. In the app, you're a conductor of sound, and you learn concepts like pitch and tempo. You also get a quick into to physics, seeing how the different letters move and interact with each other, things you don't often see in "kid" apps these days.

While abcdefg is no replacement for music lessons, it allows children to draw outside the lines of music and just perform these strange experimental mini-concerts with letters. Some of the things I've heard my daughters create simply blow my mind. They have to experiment in combining sounds together, finding ones that match in tone, pitch, whatever to create an appealing and melodic sound. They also end up with these crazy pictures of letters strewn everywhere. They get to interact with art in a way that I've never really seen, at least not in this medium.

I can honestly say that I think any kid would benefit from putting their hands on abcdefg, even if it's just to increase familiarity with the alphabet and word sounds. Beyond that, it's an introduction to physics and a way for kids to create experimental soundscapes, by simply placing letters on a screen, turning that into honest to goodness music.

For the price and for the features offered, abcdefg is much more than a simple novelty. It's an app that I recommend for kids and adults of any age. It's never too early (or too late!) to make crazy music and pictures. I look back in regret, wishing that I'd have had something even close to this as a kid, it might have gotten me that much more interested in creating and experimenting with music and sound.

Highlights My First Hidden Pictures Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 29th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

“Highlights My First Hidden Pictures” brings the hidden picture puzzles from Highlights Magazine onto your device, now in color to make them a little easier than before. There are eight puzzles to start with. Register with Highlights and get two more. Additional puzzles are also available.

In case you don’t know, the idea is to look for objects hidden within the page. Each puzzle has a silly theme, and there is always a lot going on. There is varied music as well as sound effects, all of which which can be turned off, making this a nice quiet game. Make these puzzles harder if you wish by hiding the scrollable row of objects to be found.

I really like that you can zoom in to see details of these pictures, and I think it's great that there are hints that use the zoom feature as well, letting you get closer and closer until the hidden object is right under your nose. Tap on the found object and it will turn black and white as does the corresponding clue from the row showing which objects to look for, which is also then highlighted pink, all of which makes it easier to see what you are still looking for and what you have already found, a nice touch.

I have had a lot of fun with these puzzles, and I do find myself using the hints towards the end. I am glad they are available.

If you enjoy this app, the more challenging "Highlights Hidden Puzzles" is also available.

Charles Peattie's Animal Alphabet Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 14th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

“Charles Peattie's Animal Alphabet” is a new app from the mind of British cartoonist Charles Peattie. Beautifully drawn, this app teaches both letters and animals to children and adults of all ages as you tap your way though "A" to "Z" learning about some great animals along the way. You can also choose your favorite animal as well, or try the quiz mode. A song and video are also included. Music and sound effects add to this app's quality and charm.

I really like the interactivity this app has to offer, as well as the comedic timing of the animated clips. My son loves this app’s humor, and I really like that it is witty and fun for adults as well. I like that some unique animals, like “ibex” and “dormouse” have been chosen.

The one thing I am surprised about is that the text in neither the alphabet or the quiz areas are read out loud. I am more than happy to narrate for my pre-reader, but there are times that this is not possible, like when we are out and about in public. For these situations, this app has limited appeal for my 2.5 year old son, because he knows he is missing something.

Having said this, this is an app we love to do together.

ABC Wildlife! Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 12th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

“ABC Wildlife!” is an app which helps introduce animals and letters to kids with the use of pictures, videos and animal facts. Tap on a letter, and then scroll through corresponding pictures of an animal that starts with the same letter chosen. At the bottom of the screen, the animal will be spelled out and any of these letters can also be chosen as well, or you can choose your favorite from the index. If online, the animal's picture can be tapped, and you are connected to a YouTube video, or just read about your choice by tapping the question mark.

I think the photos and the background music used are nicely done, as are the facts about each animal, and I really like how an index is included which keeps track of what photos you have already looked at.

I do however, think that waiting for the YouTube videos to load can take me out of the experience. We love the aardvarks and the other videos shot in places like zoos, but the quality of some of the other videos can be rough, many of them being without any useful sound, and can sometimes be too long or to short. I am glad the index lets you be selective.

I like the fact that there is a lot to look at and read even without an internet connection. I would like it if they could also add animal sounds. My son would love the facts to be narrated so he can enjoy this section if I am not available to read them to him.

Mother Goose Reader Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 8th, 2010
iPad App - Designed for iPad

"Mother Goose Reader" is a lovely, content-rich children's app for the iPad that introduces 20 classic Mother Goose Rhymes to children. Each rhyme is illustrated nicely, and there are a lot of hidden sounds to tap on and games to play, including shape, letter and size sorting, puzzles, memory games and drum pad. The rhymes can both be sung or spoken, and you have the option of doing your own recordings. The text is highlighted as the rhyme is sung/read, making it easy to follow along.

I really enjoy this app because I want my son (2 1/2) to be exposed to these classics. This app does a nice job in reciting the full versions of these rhymes, not just the first verse. My son really enjoys tapping all over the pages looking for the sounds and music. He also loves the hidden games and sometimes asks me to find them for him as soon as he opens up this application, the index of hidden games makes this easy, a nice touch!

I occasionally have mild problems flipping between pages, either doing so accidentally or not knowing where to tap. Grey triangles are sometimes present in the top corners of the screen to aid in page turning, I wish they were always on the screen to be seen.

Melvin Says There’s Monsters Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 7th, 2010
iPad App - Designed for iPad

"Melvin Says There’s Monsters" is a wonderful story book app! The production value is top notch, with vivid, well-drawn illustrations, effective music and just enough moving animations to add to the story without being distracting. The story has quickly become one of my all-time favorites in any form, application or not.

This story is about a boy named Melvin who convincingly tells stories about monsters to the kids at school, and is told from the point-of-view of one of the other students. The narration and the story are both excellent, reminding me a great deal in both the style and humor of my favorite family movie, Jean Shepherd’s “The Christmas Story.” I also really like that there is a moral to this book about how to treat each other, but it is organic to the story and not at all preachy.

My 2 1/2 year old son enjoys this app, but I think I may enjoy it more than he does. There are many places in this story where I laugh out loud because it is wonderfully written. I really hope the developers come up with more stories; the quality here is as high as it gets.

Mr. Hat and the Magic Cube Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 6th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

"Mr. Hat and the Magic Cube" is a new interactive game for children involving kids being transported to a magical world after playing with a mysterious cube. They can’t go home until they help Mr. Hat find the cube’s stolen pieces.

This app combines both animation and games that help teach spelling and vocabulary, counting, matching, dexterity, and puzzles, getting more difficult each time you play. Being plot-heavy for a kids app, "Mr. Hat and the Magic Cube" contains 3D animated video clips rivaling those of serious adult games.

I do think, however, that it takes too long to be able to go home for a children’s game, and I found it to be tiring and a bit frustrating, even for an adult. I like that the app saves your progress, but when you solve the game, I really wish it would start over from the beginning.

Putting these issues aside, I really enjoy the magical world the developers have created. Part Willy Wonka, part Dr. Seuss, this world is trippy and maybe even a little creepy for some parents. I find this refreshing compared to the other soft and fuzzy learning apps we play. I am curious to see what happens in the next "Mr. Hat" application.

Magnetic Alphabet for iPad Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 5th, 2010
iPad App - Designed for iPad

“Magnetic Alphabet for iPad” is an Ipad app designed like the toy every kid enjoyed playing with - the magnetic board with letters and numbers magnets. This toy has been updated for the iPad to include both lower and upper case letters, numbers, various shapes and even grammar magnetics so now you can write full sentences out correctly. There are also six different colors to choose from. You can also save your work to your iPad or share it on Facebook.

I am pleased that you can use all the characters over and over again because to spell out my son’s full name, we need multiples of some letters, and this is difficult with the original toy. My son, 2.5 years, really enjoys spreading out the different pieces on the board as we work on phonics and has taken my lead, now choosing “m’s” for mom and “d’s”  for dad, telling me he is spelling these words.

It is nice that there are apps like this for parents who prefer their kids to play with traditional, battery-free toys while still embracing the new technology of the iPad. Plus, there are no pieces to lose or pick up off the floor!

Interactive Alphabet for iPad - ABC Flash Cards Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 4th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

“Interactive Alphabet for iPad - ABC Flash Cards” is a new app that teaches letters, words and cause and effect for even the youngest players. It is highly interactive and in a word: Awesome.

This app opens up with a page of letters, bright and bold. After choosing a letter, you move to the interactive page. You hear the name of letter and the corresponding word being illustrated, and you can tap on these words to repeat. Each page has lots of discoveries to make, both with sounds and moving images. The navigation of this app is also very intuitive, and you can either move back and forth among the letters or go back to the main alphabet to choose your favorites. Having three music choices to choose from is also a nice touch, each of them being upbeat and fun, buy you can also turn off the music if you desire.

With so much to tap on, my 2 1/2 year old son just loves exploring this app, and it holds his attention like no other that he plays with. From finding and opening letters left in a mailbox for “mail” to playing a xylophone for “x,” the developers really have an understanding for what interests my son. I love this app myself; even the youngest kids will appreciate the cause and effects from all that tapping.

Meritum Paint Pro Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 30th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

“Meritum Paint Pro” is a creative art application that can turn the most basic scribbles into swirling psychedelic works of art. The use of the app is simple: just draw on the blank background and watch your design begin to morph, swirl, change color, and begin to fan out all over the screen. There are many options to choose from to control how the patterns develop and what colors to use. You can also change the background to a photo of your choice.

My son (2.5 years old) really loves to paint using this app. He will scream, "I made this for you ... I made this for you," every time the color changes, watching as his work takes on a life of its own. He loves to shake my iPhone, saving a copy of the current screen to the camera roll. The sound of a shutter clicking and the feel of vibrations are very satisfying to him, leaving me having to delete hundreds of photos from my camera roll.

I think this app would be a hit with anyone creative. Adults will appreciate the multitude of options there are to control every aspect of how their designs are created. Kids will simply love the ease of use and the beauty that they can create at the flick of a finger.

Pre-K Safari Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 29th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

"Pre-K Safari" is an amazing education app, teaching letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. Each activity has a safari theme and is great for kids who love animals. The music has an African beat, the sound quality is high, and I find it relaxing to listen to. Each game is narrated by a friendly hyena who gives praise for the correct answer and lets the player know when the answer is wrong but is always kind and encouraging. You can also track your child’s progress with an achievement screen.

I don't think I ever taught my son how to use this app. All the activities are very intuitive, and he picked it up very quickly on his own. My son knew all his letters, numbers, shapes, and colors by just over 2 years, and I give this app and ones like it credit for helping him learn these things without any struggle whatsoever. As an adult, I find this app enjoyable as well. The colors game is taught by touching different colored butterflies, and I find their flying around quite lovely. There is also a free lite version to try, but this app is worth much more than $.99.

Colortoons Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 27th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

"Colortoons" is a nice coloring book app for young children. Consisting of four different themes and now twenty four animals to choose from, kids can either use “paint brush” to paint with their finger much like a traditional coloring book or with the “paint bucket” mode where they can fill in shapes with the tap of a finger. There is also a blank page for kids to draw on free-hand. You are able to save the finished page to your photos, but parents can also disable this if they desire.

My son is not a “keep inside the lines” kind of kid, but at 2.5 years, his fine motor skills are still being developed, and sometimes his fingers don’t do what he wants them to do, so for now he mainly chooses the "paint bucket" setting to color in the animals. I do wish there was an “erase” button because sometimes my son will ask me to remove a mistake if he switches over to "paint brush" mode. When I am not able to, he can get frustrated and lose interest. I do like that both the “paint brush” and “paint bucket” features are available, as well as a blank page for him to draw on.

MathGirl Number Garden Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 26th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

"MathGirl Number Garden" is an application designed to help girls gain confidence in math, specifically counting and beginner multiplication. This app is pleasant to look at and has girls in mind with the garden aesthetic. There are twelve levels that increase in difficulty, and the faster you answer the questions, the more points you get. Redeem your points to buy objects such as flowers or butterflies to add to your garden.

I like the fact that although you get more points for speed, there is no time limit to win the base number of points for a right answer, and if you answer wrong at first, you can keep trying. I think adding objects to the garden page is a nice motivation for girls to go back and practice their math skills.

I showed my garden to my 2.5 year old son, and he was really interested in this until he asked me to add a second pink bunny, but I could not. I wish you could just buy whatever you want with the points that you have earned. I do think that this is a fun app and a nice teaching tool that girls will enjoy using.

Sound Shaker Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on July 28th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

"Sound Shaker" is a really exciting sound game from Tickle Tap Apps. There are six different sounds to choose from including the flute, drum, and farm animal sounds.  I really enjoyed giving my 2 1/2 year old  son the phone and watch his face as he explored this app. He soon discovered on his own that you can make balls bounce around the page, making sounds when they knock into each other. He was delighted when he realized you could tap longer to make the ball grow bigger, the sound and color changing as well. If you keep tapping the same ball, it cracks open and becomes a chick that flies away. The look on his face the first time this happened was priceless.  I like the cause-and-effect this game teaches and how every time we play with this game, it is different. This app, as well as other Tickle Tap Apps are worth checking out.