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Money Management App iBank Gets an Update that Adds Search Functionality - is on Sale for a Limited Time

Posted by Tre Lawrence on April 8th, 2014
iPad App - Designed for iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: FULLY FEATURED :: Read Review »

IGG Software, makers of mobile money management app iBank for iPad, has updated the app with some new features. Now users can search transactions by a specific account or globally, use new management categories, and enjoy auto-fill functionality.

To mark the update, iBank is going on sale for a limited time. From now through Thursday, April 10, you can grab it from the App Store for 50% off ($9.99).

DISCOSALT Magazine For Independent Music, Film, and Art

Posted by Rob LeFebvre on May 29th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Fancy yourself somewhat of a hip, artsy kind of person? Like to listen to and know about bands way before your friends do? You may be a hipster, but you may also be the perfect match for a new iPad app named DISCOSALT. All Caps included with purchase price.

The DISCOSALT website offers in-depth articles, reviews, event calendars, photography, and a ton of music to listen to. The app promises to bring exclusive video content as well as interactivity with feature articles and interviews.

The app is free to download, but issues will cost anywhere from $2.99 to $4.99 to purchase and view. Within the free download, issues have the contents page for browing, and purchasing is a simple tap. Once the individual issues are downloaded, they may be viewed offline as well, according to the app's support page.

The DISCOSALT app is available now, is free, and only able to be used on iPad.


Color Buddies Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on July 14th, 2011
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Color Buddies is an interesting app, because it combines skills for different ages at the same time. In fact, preschoolers, even in the easy mode, would not be able to do this game by themselves. They could easily find some of the colors when hearing the word, such as “Select color yellow.” They are not going to know some of the other colors at sight, such as “maroon,” or “indigo,” for example. Also, they are too young to read the color of the words or even sound them out. Thus, this color activity is for first or second graders to do by themselves or for younger children to do with older children or adults. This is possible, in fact, since the game calls for either 1 or 2 players.

In addition to reviewing the standard colors and learning some new ones that are not used as frequently, this app teaches a couple of other skills. The first is graphing. Remember the aptitude tests where it was necessary to put certain icons or words in various parts of a map or chart? The square would be divided into four equal parts. On the top two squares left to right you see the numbers “1” and “2.” On the left top and bottom, you see the letters “A” and “B.” You would be asked to put a circle in the 1A area, or the top left quadrant. The easiest mode for Color Buddies is the square divided into four sections. The hardest is a rectangle divided into 25 different boxes up to E5.

You choose from a variety of different topics, such as zoo animals. Then you are presented with a blank screen divided into the number of different quadrants. The female narrator (with a very bland but easy-to-understand voice) asks you to select a certain color of paint. When you have done that correctly, she asks you to put that color in a certain box, for example, 1C. Then part of that box is colored. Slowly, as you find different colors, your picture builds up. It is fun to guess what the final picture is going to be as parts of it are colored and become more and more visible. This is a great cognitive test. Once again, the older children will do better filling in the missing parts in their mind than the younger ones. Perhaps once the adult or older child knows what picture is being drawn, he or she can give clues to the younger player.

Color Buddies is not as mindless as some “shoot down the balloon” games, so expect that your children may need to give some serious thought to their response. The narrator nicely tells them to “try again.” They are going to be challenged and will need help. After a while, however, they will get the hang of it, depending on their age and cognitive abilities, and enjoy the challenges.

Yoku-Gami Review

Posted by Nick Papageorge on July 8th, 2011
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Yoku-Gami is a game that represents, to me as a parent, everything that is right in the app store, in relation to games for kids. It's a puzzle game that looks and plays like a standard match-3 game but is, in reality, anything but.

It is designed by the great mind of Reiner Knizia, a German board game designer heralded for his simple designs that lead for complex gameplay. Being a fan of his, I jumped on Yoku Gami and it's been a game my daughters and I have enjoyed immensely, and I feel happy in knowing that they're not just playing a mindless game, but instead are really working their brains as they play.

The entire goal of the game is similar to match games, clear the tiles. But how Yoku-Gami works is this: "If the greatest number in the group equals the total of all the other numbers in the group, you have a successful turn". So if you select a 3, 2 and a 5, your 3 and 2 equal 5 and you remove those tiles and get a score. That score is based on how many numbers are in the group and if you create groups of 5 or more numbers, you then get a bonus.

There are 3 different modes. Endless is just that, it continues until you can go no further. In Arcade, your goal is to clear a whole role or column of numbers, the game also ends when you can go no further. In Level Mode you try to clear as many numbers in each grid. You start with 24 levels, and at the end of each level when there are no more turns, you lose as many lives as there are numbers left. You gain lives when you create groups of 4 or more. As long as you have lives, you continue progressing in the game.

I was incredibly surprised with how far my 6 year olds got in the game, but for some reason, they were able to go quite far for their age and math skills. I know they are a bit young for it, and it isn't a game they can play for hours, as the difficulty does continue to ramp up, but they have enjoyed what we do play together quite a bit. As well, a nice touch to make it kid-friendly, is that good old "Yoki" is always there to tap on and get a hint from when needed.

If you have a child that might be struggling with math, or one that loves math and just wants a fun way to put his/her skill to the test, I honestly believe Yoku-Gami is a stellar choice. I'd never want to leave a child in front of any gaming system for hours, but this really is an honest-to-goodness learn-while-playing gaming that does exactly what it sets out to do, and I do not doubt that it will certainly be a help to those kids who struggle with math.

I'd also like to make it clear that it is equally great for parents. As silly as it might sound, I've seen an honest increase in my math skills through playing it, and honestly that's worth the price of entry right there. All-in-all, Yoku-Gami is a hidden gem that I wish more people knew about, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

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.

Fruit Memory HD Review

Posted by Nick Papageorge on June 23rd, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Fruit Memory HD is, in my opinion, one of the nicest Memory-type games available on the app store, and is one that my daughters and I have a ton of fun with on a regular basis.

The thing that first caught my eye with Fruit Memory was its very clean and attractive art style that really stands out on the app store in comparison to other apps of its type. That, plus, it was all of a dollar. And because of the price, I didn't have huge expectations as all I wanted was a simple, attractive memory game. But once I loaded it up and started playing it with my daughters, I realized very quickly that every now and then a dollar provides a lot more than a dollar's worth of fun and entertainment.

When you start up Fruit Memory you're presented with an selection page that contains quite a few options, but is incredibly easy to navigate. The game can start with as few as 12 cards or as many as 40, scaling the cards in size to accommodate.

The next option allows for the selection of players. You can play on your own and keep a local leader board of how long it took to complete as well as how many moves it takes. There are separate entries for 12, 28 and 40 cards, and there are unique fruits to be found even at the 40 card level.

Once you start everything up, you get to pick your character, avatar, however you want to describe it. There are 16 options and, wouldn't you know it my twins always argue about which character they want to pick. The character designs don't seem like they make much of an impact, but they really do. The faces are made up of various internet emoticons (>.<, o.O, ^_^, T_T) and so on. Very, very cute.

The options make it really easy for even younger children who are not able to read to start up the game. The buttons are large, and very clearly marked, making it very easy for even a 2 year old to set up a game.

After you're done and you jump into the game, the layout is, simply, perfect. Each person has a tab at the bottom of the screen showing their avatar and their score. If you get a match in a turn, you can go again, otherwise it moves to the next player. It's designed nicely for a tabletop mode, and when you have 4 players it becomes 2 on 2, just great for families. One thing that I absolutely love is that each time you guess right, your avatar jumps up and down in happiness. Again, it's a simple touch, but it adds to the attractiveness of the app.

The card backs are, as the title suggests, fruits. The shapes are easy to recognize and differentiate and are very colorful. There will be no issues if your child is color-blind, either, as there is no repetition based on fruit color.

I've had my hands on quite a few other memory apps, some that are much more expensive or much fancier, just out of curiosity to see if they improve upon Fruit Memory and, at this point, I've yet to find one that I would pick in its place. The clean, simple and very visually pleasing aesthetic of the app combined with the attractive sound effects and adorable "characters" is something that is a huge hit with my whole family and, without a doubt, will be for yours too. Heck, it's a buck! You can't go wrong!

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.

Moo, Baa, La, La, La Book Review

Posted by Nick Papageorge on June 9th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

I'm going to come right out and say this. I love Sandra Boynton. To me, she is the most prolific children's story writers to come out in this generation, specifically for younger children. I put her alongside Dr. Seuss and Robert Munsch, and that's high praise.

"Moo, Baa, La, La, La" is produced by Loud Crow, the makers of the PopOut! book series (Peter Rabbit, Night Before Christmas, etc). Their books have been showcased by Apple for a reason, they are top notch in quality and production values. Designed to simulate a real "pop-up" type book, they include characters that spring when you touch them, tabs that move various parts of the book, and windows, doors and such that open and close. It really does give the books a tactile feel, and I honestly believe these books have more interactive elements than most on the app store.

It's clear that "Moo, Baa" is a silly book. It starts out normal, with a cow saying "Moo", a sheep saying "Baa", but the next page you lift up a curtain and it's 3 singing pigs saying "La, La, La!".

Like with most books in the app store, you can choose to read it yourself or have "The Big Guy Read it" for you. This book has an especially special narrator, Sandra Boynton's son, Keith (trivia fact, Sandra's middle name is Keith).

Inside, interaction ranges from touching Rinos to hear them Snort and Snuff, pulling back dogs like a slingshot to send them running at 2 cats saying "Meow". As the dogs leap after them, they leave their collars behind to hang in mid-air, a very cute touch.

Like most "board books", it's short, coming it at about 12 pages, but it's no slouch. Each page offers so much to the touch, almost everything you see does something, even if it's as little as a sound. My daughters spent probably twice as long enjoying the pages, the interaction, the art and the humorous sounds as they did of just the story. Hearing them laugh while touching each of the singing pigs at the start never gets old.

Now, the story itself is probably targeted to younger children around the age of 1 - 4, because of its simple language. The sentences are simple and they mostly consist of animal sounds except for the last of the book. It's a magical ending and one that will yield different results for everyone who reads it.

I would like to make it clear that even though the book is designed for younger children, you don't have to be young to enjoy it. My daughters are 6 and it is still one of their favorites. Because they're now fairly advanced readers, they're able to read the entire story easily and without having to struggle. In the path to learn how to read, I find this is far more important than pushing kids to read longer words before they're ready. I figure they'll probably be done with the book in a year, but between the physical book and this, I've gotten an easy 5 years out of it, not a lot of books that have that kind of staying power.

So, is "Moo, Baa, La, La, La" worth your $3? Yes, yes and yes. It's a simple story that's an amazing read for children, especially ones who are very young. It scales to older children who are learning how to read, and allows for easy comprehension. The app design is great, and the interaction is one of the best on the app store. You owe it to yourself, and your kids, to check it out.

Tilly's Petting Farm Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on June 8th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

With Tilly’s Petting Farm, we are back to the farm again. There is some regret here. I do like some parts of this app, as you will see below. I would just like to have some different venues for children’s apps besides the zoo and farm and something different for them to see than animals. How about looking at buildings, or plants or vehicles? With that said, this app does teach the children about the animals on the farm and their purpose. They learn that cheese and butter are made from milk, for instance.

There are four different scenes of the farm, some with different animals. The children are either asked to point out a certain animal, “Where is the cow?” or something about what they see, “Where do you find the eggs?” When the children tap on the right answer, they are given a positive answer. When wrong, they get several more tries with clues. The animal artwork is cute and colorful, as is the animation. I also like the fact that the children need to answer questions, which teaches listening skills as well as vocabulary. The narrator even says, “Pay attention,” before asking the question.

Overall, the app is easy for a preschooler to use. A toddler is going to need more help. It’s just a tap on the right answer. In some cases, it is difficult to see the item; the hay, or what is called “dried grass,” is way in the distance in one farm setting, for example. When learning about each animal, there is a good amount of variety in the animation and the answers. The app developers say that there are 300 sentences or questions included in the app, which provides greater variety as well.

The narrator has an easy-to-understand English accent. If you speak American English, you will find some differences in the words and the questions. For example, instead of “Where is the male goat?” the question is “Where is the man goat?” The narrator asks, “Which plant is shaped like a cigar?” This question is not cross-cultural. For several reasons, you should do this app with your child the first time around. First, there are many new words, such as “buck” and “heron.” Also, some of the questions can be tricky, such as “Where is the female goat?” It is difficult to tell if the baby goat is male or female. When it asks, “Which animal brays?” I would have liked to hear the bray. You may need to make some of these sound effects.

Tilly's was a favorite Dutch app when it was first introduced. Your children will learn some new facts that are not typically included in farm apps, such as different birds like “heron” and “crane.” It’s a good way for you to talk about some of these new words, animals and activities taking place in a farm setting.

The Going to Bed Book Review

Posted by Nick Papageorge on June 7th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

"The Going to Bed Book" is one of two Sandra Boynton books available on the app store (the other is "Moo, Baa, La, La, La") and like "Moo, Baa" it is a fantastic book with top notch production value that takes a great story and adds some unique and wonderful interactive elements, making it a joy to read both as a parent and for our children.

"The Going to Bed Book" is produced by Loud Crow Interactive, the makers of the PopOut! series (Peter Rabbit, Night Before Christmas, etc). Loud Crow has been featured in the app of the week as well as New And Noteworthy because they're fantastic. They are designed to simulate a real "pop-up" type book, with characters that spring from the page, tabs to move back and forth, windows/doors to open. It really does give the books a tactile feel, and I honestly believe there is more interactivity in their books than almost any on the app store to date.

As with most of Sandra Boynton's books, they are very silly, and "Going to Bed" is no different. It's a story about a boat full of about 10 animals getting ready to go to bed. You get to follow them through quite a few different activities to get them there, starting with scrubbing them clean in the bath to scrubbing their teeth in the sink.

This interaction in the book is similar, in a very good way, to the PopOut! book series. There's not a single page that's left out from interaction. You can tilt your iPad and it'll swing a chain that's hanging, you can touch on an animal and they'll bounce like they're on a spring. Another you touch will squeak, moo or make some other sound. I hate to spoil this, but it's too good not to talk about... At one point in the bathroom, you get to turn on the hot water tap and very slowly and subtly, it starts to fog up the entire iPad screen. It's terrifically realistic and once it's done, you... I mean, your kids, get to use their fingers as a squeegee to clean off the screen. Yes, it's silly, but it's a really nice touch.

The story is about 13 pages long and allows you to either read it yourself or "Have the Big Guy Read It". The narrator is perfect as his voice is deep, warm and inviting, like the perfect grandpa. With the narration off, you can touch on each of the words to hear them spoken aloud, something I find important in the path to learning how to read.

On that note, the language in the book is very simple. There is more of a complete story here than you'll find in "Moo, Baa", but the language is still very easy to understand and comprehend. I'd still say the age range for the direct target would be 1 - 4, but I can confidently say that this would be a hit for children as young as 6 months to as old as 6 or 7 years old. My daughters still absolutely love it and I believe they will at 7, a testament to the quality of the story and humor.

It is clear by now that I'm smitten with these books. But it's not that I'm blinded by the author, if the books weren't good I'd be the first to say it. But they are good. No, they're great. They're experiences that shaped my daughter's early years of reading, and I hope that you'll find they do the same for yours, too.

Halli Galli Review

Posted by Nick Papageorge on June 3rd, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

I know, Halli Galli is probably one of the silliest names for a game on the app store, but I urge you to look past that and spend some time with a simple and incredibly fun set-collection card game for the entire family.

I have to say that this is one of the most frequently played and one of our most requested. Its execution, while simple, provides flexibility that will work as a great challenge for adults, but is easily played with children as young as 3 years old.

Halli Galli is broken into 3 modes, and although the goal in each version is to collect all the cards, how you go about it varies. In each game, you have a split set of cards, and each turn one card from every player's deck is placed on the board. When playing against other players, it's a race to ring the bell, and I'll explain further how each mode works below:

Junior mode - Our MOST played mode and the most accessible mode in the game. In this mode, you watch the cards until you see 2 smiling clowns that are of the same color. If you're wrong, you give one card to each other player. If you run out of cards, you're out of the game and the first player to collect all the cards, wins.

For more complex playing and for older kids and adults, the other 2 modes are great.

Classic - In this mode, each card is of a type of fruit and has a specific number of fruits on each card. Once you see a a set of cards that totals exactly 5 fruits of one kind you ring the bell. The same rules for Junior apply for winning.

Extreme - This is where it gets really complex and challenging. The cards deal faster than other modes, and you ring the bell when you see 2 identical cards or when a monkey appears and there are no lemons, an elephant appears and there are no strawberries and when only a pig appears. Another difference is if you're wrong, you "Go to Jail" and your cards get placed under the bell. The next round you win, you only get your jail cards back. Lose a round while in jail you're out. Everything else is the same.

Each version has 3 different modes. Arcade, Single Player and Multiplayer. With Arcade, you're the only player and if you're wrong, you lose 3 cards (there's no Jail in Extreme). Single Player pits you against 4 computer players with 3 difficulty levels and Multiplayer allows you to play with 2 - 4 people.

I have had so much fun playing this with my 6 year old twins. Huddling around the iPad makes you realize just how perfect a platform it is for these types of games. And it's great, you don't have to set up any cards, you don't have to worry about the bell not working, or someone missing hitting it. You just get to really bond as a family and play a unique and fun game.

I also think it's an excellent educational tool that will get your kids (and you!) to really learn to focus your mind to watch for matches, and is a great way to improve your reflexes and hand-eye coordination.

I cannot recommend Halli Galli highly enough, it's a game that will grow with your family no matter how old they are. And most importantly at the time of this writing both the iPhone and iPad version are on sale for $0.99. You can't even buy a plain deck of cards for that price!

Ricochet Kids Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on May 25th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

There are a number of different categories of apps available in the marketplace for children: Games, just for fun. Educational, like 123’s. Music, singing and dance. Art, coloring and sketching. And, stories for reading and listening. Then, there are apps such as RicochetKids, which are a compilation of games, stories or, in this case, videos.

The parents who built this app for three- to eight-year olds, decided it was much safer to find some of the best YouTube videos and put them on an easy-to-use app than having your children online where they could stumble upon some not-so-kid-friendly sites. So, they reviewed a slew of kid-friendly videos and handpicked the best ones for their app. Each one is safe, so you can download the app on your iPhone or iPad, hand it over to your child without any fear of seeing anything inappropriate.

This is a great app for driving in the car or at the end of the day when things are winding down and it’s time to sit and relax for a few minutes. There are a number of different categories, so your children can easily pick what’s of interest: Animals, Cars & Trucks, Cartoons, Dora, Music, Movies, Transformers, and WB Kids to name a few of the 22 different channels available. New free videos will be added regularly. Actually, I found more on this list than I do when going through my 100s of cable TV stations! (No surprise!)

Which brings up another point: Some of these videos on RicochetKids are for the kids to sit and watch. Other ones, however, you can snuggle right up with your child and play, read, or learn along. This is especially the case, of course, with the larger iPad screen. You can enjoy some good old “Dr. Seuss,” “Clifford” or “Franklin,” sing along with some of the songs, learn about different animals or letters, or laugh at some of the just-for-fun quick hits.

I do think that the age of eight is stretching it a bit. Personally, I would say most of the videos are more for the younger kids. The only other question, and again, this is just my quirkiness: Why did they choose an “R” for the app icon? I know the name is “Ricochet,” but “R” now does often equate to adult-rated movies. I said it was “quirky”! I would have designed it differently, so that parents can automatically know it is a kid-friendly app that has a lot of fun “G” videos for viewing.

The Day the Music Stopped Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on May 16th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Some children’s apps are a breeze to review, since it’s easy to write about all the wonderful things they offer. That’s exactly how I feel about The Day the Music Stopped. The developer of this app, Juno, already received accolades for its Juno Baby Musical ABC’s. Now it added this delightful app for toddlers and preschoolers. These apps demonstrate what really can be accomplished for iPhones and iPads with state-of-the-art technology.

When your children enter the 3D world of The Day the Music Stopped, they will meet Juno and Rai Rai and have time to interact with different items in Juno’s room. Then, it’s off to musical Harmonia Springs with the other cute puppet characters--Bunny, Buzz and Indie. When Murphy describes his new invention the "shush machine," Bunny presses the red button on top and all the music in the town comes to a halt. (If a button says, “Do Not Touch!” you know your preschooler will touch it!)

Now it’s up to your children to bring the music back with entertaining and musically educational activities. The founder of Juno, Belinda Takahashi, a PhD of music, composed the music in the app, which is played by a real live orchestra. Each of the activities teaches a different aspect about music. At the lily pond, the frogs, like a barbershop quartet, teach harmony, and the birds on the fence, which looks just like a musical staff, help the children create their own song either on their own or with a song provided. (Soon to come will be a game that teaches rhythm.)

One of the things that makes this app so delightful, besides the colorful animation, is that it is a story, as well. Many apps are just separate activities that have a theme, like the alphabet or animals, but do not go beyond these activities. With the Juno apps, your children meet new characters, become part of their story, and bring back music to Harmonia Springs. Of course, the other very special aspect of this app is the music. How many times do your children listen to the actual instruments of an orchestra being played instead of coming from a music synthesizer? Then, they can actually learn how to make their own music.

In most cases, the children’s apps created for the mobile units and tablets have not at all been on par with computer CDs and DVDs. Here is an app that clearly shows what can be accomplished with the technology available and should be used as a role model for many of the apps now in the marketplace.

Papa Penguin Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on May 10th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

If you are going to get an app called Papa Penguin, of course you have to learn some new facts about penguins. Your children are more than likely going to ask, “Why is Papa penguin feeding the babies?” “Do only fathers feed the babies?” “Where’s the mother?” “Who takes care of the babies?” Did you know that penguin chicks (I had forgotten they were called this) cannot care for themselves, and they can only survive with their parents’ help? The male emperor penguin stays with his one egg while the female gets the food. All the time that the father penguin is protecting the egg, he does not eat anything but ice. If the egg hatches before mom returns, the male can produce a curd-like substance from his esophagus and feed his baby chick. Once the chicks are hatched, the moms and dads both feed the chicks with regurgitated (have fun explaining that!) food. And, among all those baby chicks, the adults can identify their own by its distinctive call. All human mothers and dads know they can do this, too.

Now it’s time to actually play the game along with its nice and mellow music. The chicks are crying because they are hungry. So, it is necessary to send Papa Penguin off to get some fish for their next meal. Your child moves him around in the water, gobbling up the fish and the bubbles of oxygen and then returning him with the fish to the starving chicks within a time deadline. Of course, just as in real life, there are many things to watch out for when catching those fish. There are different levels with varying challenges, such as seals and polar bears. Each new level increases speed and offers new risks. I’m not so keen on Papa dying or the kids starving when the time runs out or after hitting too many obstacles like poisonous jellyfish, but I guess that is nature at its worst.

Admittedly, just like any other game, it does become addictive. It’s important to keep those penguin babies fed and the new ones hatched. And, of course, the chicks are just like human babies and kids: As soon as dad returns with the fish after his dangerous trip into the sea, the chicks immediately eat up the food and demand more.

For younger children, the iPad is much easier for manipulation. On the smaller screens, it can be difficult getting away from the dangers and catching the necessary fish and bubbles for oxygen. Now, there’s another question you’ll need to answer. How long can a penguin go without breathing?

Cut the Rope HD Review

Posted by Carter Dotson on October 8th, 2010

Developer: Chillingo
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Game Controls Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar


Chillingo seems to have found their next Angry Birds - take a game with a simple yet unique concept, layer complexity on top of it, add some colorful graphics and charming characters, and watch it shoot to the top of the charts. Cut the Rope follows this formula to a T, and it works brilliantly.

Cut the Rope has you trying to get the piece of candy in the level from its starting point into the mouth of Om Nom, the adorable green creature in each level, while trying to collect stars scattered throughout the level to unlock more levels. Your main tool to accomplish this is via cutting the ropes that the candy is suspended from to navigate it through the level. The later levels introduce new tools like bubbles, air gushers, adjustable length rope, and more. Of course, to keep things saucy, you have hazards like spikes, electric fields, and spiders that climb the ropes to keep getting the candy into Om Nom's mouth more than just a simple goal.

Cut the Rope is just simple bliss to play. The way that you have to solve some of the puzzles require planning and/or quick reaction times, and getting all 3 stars on the more challenging levels is extremely satisfying. Succeeding at this game just makes you feel ingenious for having solved something that seems impossible at first glance. It's all a great formula for an addictive game. The graphics and animations are great - the game is very colorful, and Om Nom is very fluidly animated, cutely changing expression whenever the candy gets near. While the game ships with 100 levels, the developer promises more levels coming soon.

The main problem with Cut the Rope is that you often have tight spacing or timing windows, and it can be easy to accidentally slash something you didn't mean to, or to accidentally slash a rope when you wanted to rotate a lever to raise your rope. Although you can easily restart a level, it is still frustrating when you have a plan and can't execute it because something else was slashed when you didn't mean to do it. Also, the game occasionally features large levels that scroll, without any way for you to scroll around and view the rest of the level before you get there besides the view at the beginning of the level.

Cut the Rope is ingenious, following a similar formula to Angry Birds - charming graphics, simple gameplay that gets complexity steadily layered on top of it in a way that feels natural, almost without even feeling like it's getting more difficult. That is just brilliant game design, and with more levels promised, Cut the Rope has an exciting future, but is still great with even just the core game content.

Note: While this game was reviewed on the iPad, the iPhone version has the same gameplay and levels, and is available in the App Store as well.