Category Archives: App Developers

Apps I Like: Roxie’s Doors and Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure

I’ve had my iPad2 for more than two years, and I’ve downloaded and tried hundreds of apps. Therefore, you might forgive me if I’ve become slightly jaded and unimpressed with many of them, for various reasons.

This is why I’m so excited to talk about a couple of apps from OCG Studios and the talented author/illustrator Roxie Munro: Roxie’s Doors and Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure. These two apps have rekindled my love for all things iPad, especially for games that the entire family can enjoy.

Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure

Roxie_Maze02

That’s my little red car in the lower left. I’m still looking for the penguin on this screen.

This game app is sort of a cross between Where’s Waldo? and a first-person adventure game. But it’s a devilishly clever maze too–and there are no instructions to tell you what to do (they aren’t needed). You’ll drive, walk, ski, fly and raft from screen to screen, picking up star points along the way and trying to locate objects, letters, penguins and other animals in Munro’s very detailed and beautiful artwork. Just as in real life, you can’t go the wrong way down a one-way street, and construction and other obstructions can keep you from taking the obvious route through a screen. This makes the maze quite challenging at times–in fact, I got stuck at one point and had to get my eight-year-old daughter to show me how to get to parts of the maze I’d been unable to navigate to.

The attention to detail in this app is truly wonderful. I like seeing my name on the side of a blimp!

The attention to detail in this app is truly wonderful.
I like seeing my name on the side of a blimp!

The navigation is intuitive, and there are little goodies (sound effects, etc.) to discover on each screen. The replay value is high, because the objects you’re expected to find change every time you come back to the app. It’s easy to see that both the developer and artist took great pains to get this one right. At three bucks for the iPad version, this one is a steal.

Roxie’s Doors

I’d categorize this app as a book, since there are words on the screen next to the illustrations, and matching narration by the author. But it’s also a delightful lift-the-flap and seek-and-find activity app. Each screen presents the reader with a door of some sort, and the words explain a series of objects which need to be found. What is so interesting about this book is that the doors/flaps/pockets can’t always be opened just by tapping on them. For instance, I needed to unzip a backpack pocket by dragging my finger across the bag–simply tapping it didn’t work. So the reader needs to try different approaches in order to find all the objects.

Roxie_Doors01

An apple and a hat (and a bunch of other objects) are hidden on each page.

One thing that can’t be shown in screen shots is the gorgeous three-dimensional effect built into every page of Roxie’s Doors. The app takes advantage of the iPad’s gyroscope, so readers will get a slightly different view of the room depending on how they tilt the tablet around. In some cases, items are hidden along the doorway edges and the screen will need to be tilted quite a bit in order to locate them.

Some items are hidden on the back of the door, behind the story text!

Some items are hidden on the back of the door, behind the story text! Words change from red to green once the item has been found.

As with Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure, there are sound and other effects that can be activated by tapping (turn the fire engine lights and siren on, for example). Beautiful artwork, engaging play and intuitive presentation make this one a winner, especially at only $2.99.

Both of these apps push the boundaries of what great children’s apps can be. My hat is off to both Roxie Munro and OCG Studios, and I will be on the lookout for their next collaboration.

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T-Shirts from Goodie World!

goodie world tees

The girls and I showing off our new shirts from Goodie World!

I’ve been wanting to show off these cool new t-shirts I won in a Twitter giveaway a while back, but vacation and a few other diversions kept getting in the way.

Do you guys know about Goodie World? This is a team of talented developers who are creating gorgeous learning apps for kids. Goodie Words, their first release, is a nifty little app that explains some common, but perhaps intangible or otherwise hard-to-explain, concepts/words for preschool kids.

I downloaded and tried out the free version of Goodie Words and loved it. First-class artwork and engaging interactivity make for a very endearing, useful and fun app, designed especially for the iPad.

According to their website, Goodie Shapes and Goodie Letters are in development right now–can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for us. Thanks, guys,  for the awesome shirts (and cool apps)!

Apps I Like: Benny the Cat by Touchoo

Benny the Cat by Touchoo

I’m a big fan of the Touchoo apps. These guys have done a marvelous job of creating content for younger kids that truly takes advantage of the touchscreen medium that is the iPad/iPhone (read my review of their One Little Boy app). So their third effort, Benny the Cat, has some big shoes to fill.

This app isn’t a story so much as a ‘slice of life’ book where the child gets to interact with Benny on each page–including feeding him, petting him, and helping him get ready for bed. The art by Tamar Hak is whimsical and is accompanied by amusing sound effects and very simple text. My girls are a tad old for this level of story at ages 5 and 6, but all three of us were charmed by this adorable kitty app. I think it’s just right for toddlers and preschoolers, who will love helping take care of Benny.

Benny the Cat is $2.99 in the iTunes App Store. Have you cuddled YOUR cat today?

(Full disclosure: I received a copy of this app for review purposes.)

Apps I Like: Two French Apps

While the rest of the world was in England last week for the royal wedding, I was in the French Alps! er, I mean Apps. I had a chance to try out two nifty French-themed kids apps, and I think you’ll like them too.

Word Wagon by Duck Duck Moose

Word Wagon: Kids spell words by dragging the letters in place.

The first app is Word Wagon by Duck Duck Moose, an award-winning developer of educational game apps for kids. This app is all about spelling words and is designed for youngsters just learning to read. A cute little rodent named Mozz lives under the Eiffel Tower (and he wears a beret!). He and his bird friend Coco guide kids through each word.

I really liked the artwork, French-themed music and animation, and I also like the fact that the letters are mentioned by name and pronounced as they should sound in the word. When the word is formed correctly, it is spoken and then the word is collected in the wagon.

Kids can see how many words they’ve formed, and along the way they collect stars which can be used to form constellations. There are four levels of difficulty in the app, which is nice because each of my two kids can enjoy the app at their own ability level.

While definitely an educational app, Word Wagon is well designed and makes learning spelling and phonics fun. It’s $1.99 and is designed for the iPhone, although it looks great at 2x on my iPad.

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GoKids Apps: Save Paris! is a clever app for older kids by Fun Educational Apps. You are tasked with saving Paris from evil alien invaders who are focused on ‘Glooping’ everything in sight!

Your mission is to learn about France and Paris, and then use your new knowledge by pairing facts with their definitions in a match card game. If you miss too many it’s Game Over. If not, you’ll be rewarded with a fun ‘whack-a-mole’ game, where the object is to tap on the aliens as fast as they pop up.

I admit I went through only the first three missions of ten. The material covered is wonderfully comprehensive and includes geography, language, culture, history and more. This would be a fantastic resource for kids 8-12, especially those who are visiting France, taking French or doing a unit on France in geography or history class. But the alien invasion theme and the game action would probably draw kids back just for that aspect of the app.

With high-quality art, music and gameplay, GoKids Apps: Save Paris! is a crash course in French culture sandwiched between top-secret missions to defeat green Gloop aliens. What’s more fun than that? Find it in the App Store for $1.99.

(Full disclosure: I received a copy of each of these apps for review purposes.)

I Don’t Like Pink! is LIVE!

I Don't Like Pink is LIVE!

LIVE Now in the App Store: I Don't Like Pink!

I am pleased to announce that my first storybook app I Don’t Like Pink! is now LIVE in the Apple App Store! I am so proud to have teamed up with PicPocket Books, one of my very favorite app publishers even before I decided to develop the story as an app.

The story features a spunky young lady named Gabi who isn’t shy about expressing her displeasure with a gift she receives from her grandmother. A visit from a friend right after the present is opened provides an unexpected resolution to the problem, and a fresh take on the meaning of gift appreciation.

I Don’t Like Pink! is a full-color, interactive storybook app that features original music, subtle animation that follows the story, and a professionally recorded voiceover by yours truly! The app is optimized for iPad (iPhone version coming soon) and priced at $1.99.

I hope you won’t mind if I ask you to please Get It! and please let me know how you like the story! WHOO-HOO! Can you tell I’m excited?!

Apps I Like: My Underwear by Todd Parr

Sometimes I come across something so delightfully ridiculous, so perfectly preposterous, that I find it irresistible. Such is the case with the My Underwear app by Thumb Arcade, featuring artwork by Todd Parr.

This app is all about having fun with underwear! There are four games within the app: a) a painting activity where you first choose your preferred style of underwear, then color, paint and apply stamps (I find this surprisingly addictive) b) match the underwear to the corresponding animal (sometimes by color, sometimes by pattern)–and you can place the underwear on the animal’s head! c) a game where you feed underwear into the waiting mouth of a hungry monster, and d) a version of the old Concentration card game, where you match pairs.

The first video above is the official app trailer, and the second actually shows someone walking you through all four activities.

Both my girls and I find all four activities fun, and I’ve seen both daughters return to the app on their own over and over. The high-quality music is lively and well-suited to the colorful art. The iPad version is appropriately-priced at $2.99, and (because it uses very intuitive navigation and no reading is needed to play the games) is appropriate for ALL ages. Enjoy some silly fun with your kids today!

Apps I Like: Middle School Confidential

When my son was in his tween years, I remember one of my friends describing middle school as ‘that place they send kids while they’re trying to figure out who they are.’ This age can really be rough on everybody–and there are non-trivial issues kids have to deal with. A refreshing new app by Electric Eggplant is designed to address many of these topics.

The team behind the app includes the talents of David and Annie Fox, two experienced designers who’ve worked on many bestselling electronic games. Annie is an authority on parenting and produces a regular podcast called Family Confidential.

The Middle School Confidential app actually started as an award-winning series of print books, but it really shines in app form. The app is a story presented in a graphic novel/comic book format, with appropriate sound effects and music playing in the background. Issues like bullying, self-esteem, body image and fitting in are handled in a sensitive but authentic way with no condescension.

The characters are a group of friends in middle school, and the story follows their interactions with each other. The situations shown in the app rang true to me, and the artwork should appeal to tweens/early teens. At the end of each chapter the main point is repeated, but somehow an appropriate balance is achieved, so it never seems heavy-handed. This app is the first in a series, and if the next installments are as good as the first, I’d recommend Middle School Confidential as a great resource for both kids and their parents.

This video is a trailer for the print book series, but the same artwork and music is found in the app:

My daughters are just entering elementary school, and I admit I look upon their passage into middle school with trepidation. Apps like Middle School Confidential will make the journey a little easier! Designed for the iPad, it’s well-priced at $3.99 in the App Store.

(Full disclosure: I received a copy of this app for review purposes.)