Tag Archives: puzzles

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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Apps I Like: My Little Pony by Ruckus Media

I have to come clean here. As a parent of two young girls, I am often on the lookout for stories that provide strong female characters and feature empowering, not stereotypical situations. Therefore I frown on, but do not forbid, traditional pink/princess/fluffy stuff like Barbie, the Disney princesses and (gulp) My Little Pony. However, I know both my girls love My Little Pony, and I thought the new app from Ruckus Media deserved a chance at my house. Could it take advantage of the format and provide an experience beyond simple entertainment?

My Little Pony by Ruckus Media

My Little Pony - Twilight Sparkle: Teacher for a Day by Ruckus Media

The app is centered around a My Little Pony story called Twilight Sparkle: Teacher for a Day which I suspect comes from the television show. The story is straightforward enough, and features Twilight Sparkle’s adventure after she is asked by Princess Celestia to share a history lesson with the Cheerilee students about Equestria.

My Little Pony story

The story features all the ponies your child knows from the show and the toy figures.

Word highlighting is included when the ‘Read to Me’ option is selected on the main screen. I think this is a must-have feature for a storybook app and I’m glad to see it here.

There are also little short videos that pop up between pages here and there that follow the story, as well as little bits of hot spot animation that are fun the first few run-throughs but don’t add a whole lot to the experience.

Sprinkled throughout the story are optional activities like mazes and spot-the-difference panels. Completing these correctly wins the reader words, which can be used to fill in the blanks in Twilight Sparkle’s diary. Best of all, there are several of the randomly-generated activities, so kids don’t get bored when going back to try to earn all the words.

My Little Pony maze

Finishing the activities earns you words, which you use later on to complete several pages of Twilight Sparkle's diary.

The diary is my favorite feature of this app, because it could be used to help kids hone reading comprehension skills. The reader uses the words collected along the way to fill in the blanks in the diary. Tapping on a single word reads it to you, and once you’ve placed all the words in their proper spots you have the option to read the entire diary.

My Little Pony diary

Use the words earned by doing the activities to complete Twilight Sparkle's diary.

Of course, you can place any word in any blank you wish–which provides a fun Mad Libs-style wacky reading, if you desire. I admit I felt a little rebellious doing this!

The main theme of the story (friendship and working together leads to great things) is hard to miss, but I liked the secondary theme even better (it’s OK if you’re not great at everything–ask a friend to help you out). And for my youngest daughter who loves all things girly, I’m happy anytime she chooses to interact with an app that aids literacy, even if pink princess pony parties are involved.

Bottom Line: Great production values and familiar characters add up to a solid, if unsurprising, app experience. If your kids like My Little Pony, they will love this app. Reasonably priced in the App Store at $3.99, and the app is universal (designed for both the iPhone and iPad).

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

Apps I Like: Spot the Dot by Ruckus Media

When I heard that David A. Carter had developed an app in conjunction with Ruckus Media, I thought: “This is a match made in heaven!” My kids and I are already big fans of Carter’s pop-up books (I even have a copy of his wonderful Elements of Pop-Up, a hands-on how-to book for aspiring paper engineers) AND other Ruckus apps, so you can imagine how eager I was to try out Spot the Dot. But did it measure up to my high expectations?

The app is not a storybook app–more like an activity book (in line with the other geometric shape pop-up books Carter has developed). There are ten ‘playspaces’ for the user to explore, all featuring a ‘find the colored dot’ activity. A clearly-articulated male voiceover guides folks through each playspace. Lively animation, a beautiful color palette and well-chosen sound effects and music add to the experience.

The presentation is such that people of all ages will find themselves amused while searching for the elusive colored dot. And the icing on the cake: when the app is restarted, the dots will show up in a different location, so the puzzle solutions can’t be memorized! I consider that feature to be a real gift–straight from the app creators to me, adding exponentially to the replay value and entertainment factor.

I don’t give out star ratings for my informal reviews, but if I did, Spot the Dot would get five stars out of five. I just love it! Get your own copy for $3.99 on iTunes (iPad only), or if you’d like to try it out for free before purchase, download the Lite version, which includes three of the ten playspaces for you to sample. What are you waiting for?

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

Swimming Pool Maze

I love how Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. During the hottest time of the year, my kids love splashing in the pool above all else, and this maze activity sheet was created with them in mind. Find your way to the beach ball, and enjoy!

Bartleby’s Book of Buttons: Vol. 1 Now FREE!

I feel compelled to tell all of you that one of my very favorite storybook apps is FREE, now until its sequel is released next month. Bartleby’s Book of Buttons: Volume 1 is wonderful in that it incorporates puzzles on every page that the reader must solve before going on to the next page.

The video above is a walkthrough of the app from Kirkus Reviews (which awarded the app the Kirkus Star–well deserved, IMHO).

My advice to you: run go get this app while it’s FREE. I really can’t recommend it highly enough, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next Bartleby adventure from Octopus Kite!

New Activity Sheet: FREE Easter Maze!

Find your way to the stars in this easy Easter-themed activity. And when your kids are done with the maze, they can color in the rest of the sheet!

Enjoy, and send me a picture of your finished work!

Spring Color-by-Number

At long last, spring has sprung around here, and we’ve been enjoying warmer days, flowers in bloom and the much-heralded return of daylight savings time. Here’s a FREE color-by-number activity sheet to help with spring fever!