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Busy Shapes 2
Reviewed on 02/06/17
Paid on | iOS
This sequel to Busy Shapes adds a new dimension to the play. In the first highly rated app, players match shapes to the hole that most closely matches the shape (sometimes just by shape, sometimes also by color, texture or pattern). In this sequel, the holes are often found on different, moving planes than the shapes and players must not only match the shape to the hole, but find a way to get the shape safely past the obstacles and across the moving platforms without falling off. Thankfully, there is still no stress-inducing path to “failure” at this game since a new copy of the shape will reappear in the initial position if your shape falls off the edge of one of the platforms. Part of some of the puzzles involves exploding “bombs” (classic black sphere with a wick), so if those are too violent for your child, avoid this game. There are also catapults, icy spots, rivers and barriers to add to the challenge of moving your shape towards its corresponding hole. Great practice for understanding timing and depth as well as shapes and cause and effect.
Reviewed on 08/20/16
Paid on | iOS
Play with the physics of water in a series of increasingly challenging puzzles while saving the life of a cute little goldfish. Starting with simple pipes that are straight or at right angles, then working your way through freefall mazes (gravity plays a role and players must turn their devices accordingly to make the water fall where they want it to go), gates that need to be opened, water cannons, freezers and heaters and sensors that turn on using either water, ice or steam, some of the puzzles can be truly challenging even for an adult, making this an excellent app for a child and parent to work through together, collaboratively. Most puzzles have multiple solutions making this app fun to play over and over again. The best part is that once you’ve completed levels 1-4, you unlock Build Mode when you can create your own maze puzzles for Archie the fish to swim through (and share your levels with your friends)! Fantastic value with tons of play value and learning opportunities!
Attributes by Math Doodles
Reviewed on 07/22/16
Paid on | iOS
A hand-drawn app about math skills with surprisingly few numerals. Daren Carstens of Carstens Studios wanted to show kids how genuinely fun and engaging math could be and so he designed this app. Users choose one of seven different puzzles, whether to play in a timed mode or not, they can choose the types of images or let the selection be random AND (and this is surprisingly rare in kids’ logic-related puzzle apps) they get to choose the level of difficulty they’d like to start at. Almost every other puzzle-type app on the market slowly builds the user’s skills by introducing new elements as the user progresses through the levels. This is excellent in theory, but in practice it can mean that if you’re feeling confident about your abilities and you want to jump ahead to the more challenging levels, there’s no way to do that without putting in the hours to play through the easier levels to “unlock” the more difficult ones. This self-determination of leveling is a feature that really sets this app above the rest because even if users try a level that’s too challenging, that just motivates them to back a little bit and see what they’ll need to learn to be able to solve the “too difficult” puzzle! The seven different puzzles themselves range in difficulty from relatively simple (pattern circles) to tricky to get the hang of (Category Stack was a bit challenging for me!). Some of the drawings are easier to differentiate than others (buttons of different shapes, colors and patterns are easy, complicated robots are a little harder), but since you can always opt to choose which drawings are used, you can always opt out of any that are frustrating to you. All-in-all, this is a beautiful app with very thoughtful design features and if you’re looking for an attractive way to get kids some math skills practice, this is an excellent choice.
Help a tiny robot navigate three-dimensional mazes, then create some mazes yourself! If you love Monument Valley, there is a good chance you’ll enjoy Mekorama. This is one of those rare apps that can be equally engaging for both adults and kids and is therefore perfect to play together! In each of the 50 levels provided, a robot needs to find his way towards a red button to advance to the next level. He might need to go underwater, stand on moving mechanisms, avoid getting knocked off of the mechanisms, avoid getting shocked and try to steer clear of the roadblocking red robot. While I enjoyed working my way through the levels and discovering new challenges, I was most excited when I began exploring the options and discovered the DIY section. That’s right--you (or your kids) can create your own mazes, buildings and obstacles for a little yellow robot to explore (I’m pretty sure Minecraft fans will enjoy this part of the app!). You can save the mazes you create and share them with other Mekorama fans (be aware that the app does allow users to instantly share levels via social media, but they can also just be saved as an image of the QR code and then parents can monitor the sharing options). The app creator has also quite generously made this app free to download, but gives users the in-app opportunity to choose-your-own-price if you’d like to support the developer. I will certainly be supporting this developer as I’d like to see him make many more apps in the future!
Mystery Math Town
Reviewed on 03/23/16
Paid on | iOS
Fireflies have been scattered throughout Mystery Math Town. You help a chipper little floating ghost search through funky abandoned houses in town to gather them back up. To get through doorways and passages you must build equations to solve math problems. As you play you will discover hanging portraits that speak to you and offer bits of background information about what is actually happening in this town. Once you find all of the fireflies, you gain bonus play in which you can find coins so you can collect the portraits in your own gallery. Unlimited user accounts means that you can set up different games for different children and customize the level of math for each player. This game is scalable through a child’s elementary education as you can begin with addition 1-10 and slowly add levels all the way through division by 10s making it a good investment. (guest post written by Jane Kelly)
Play with DNA and watch your monster change before your eyes! Each game session starts with a sort of blank-slate monster and some “DNA” pieces (four shapes, that represent the four basic building elements of DNA -- A, T, C, & G) that need to be pieced back into their puzzle spots. As the user puts the puzzle pieces where the belong, this monster’s unique characteristics emerge -- body shape, head shape, eyes, legs, arms, etc. Once all of the puzzle pieces have been put into place, players can move the DNA pieces around to create entirely new characteristics, or just tap on the body part they want to change for a random selection. Throughout gameplay, random elements are offered to the monster (a boombox with dance music, a skateboard to skate around town, etc.) and when players tap on those elements, the monsters interact. Some features (very short legs) may not lend themselves to certain activities (dancing) and users may decide to alter their monster to improve their performance, or just watch to see what your monster’s special skills are! When you’re done, take a photo of your monster or save it to play again in the future. A playful and amusing introduction to a big STEM concept!
Reviewed on 10/09/15
Paid on | iOS
A puzzle app like no other! There are lots of puzzle apps on the market. Most have jigsaw shaped pieces like a physical puzzle would and they feature a single image that you piece back together like a traditional puzzle. With AZZL, the puzzles are a looping video clip (about 1-2 seconds long) and there are 9 different types of puzzles (squares, vertical stripes, concentric rings, etc.) and none of them have interlocking jigsaw shaped pieces. The animated pictures feature super cute and happy monsters engaging in silly antics. Once you’ve solved the puzzle, the animated loop leads into a longer, 30 second animated short that often reveals a surprise ending. Although some of these puzzles can be rather challenging, even for adults, this is a great app to enjoy together with a child, perhaps taking turns moving pieces into their proper orientation. There is also a "kid mode" that locks a puzzle piece in place once it's correct.
Three dimensional mazes with optical illusion solutions reminiscent of the artwork of M.C. Escher elevate this app above other puzzle apps. The ethereal mood and gorgeous color scheme are just icing on the cake. This is one of those rare apps that are equally engaging for parents and children. As we played it together, my son (4 years old) would often discover the solution before I did (I am not surprised by the results of this scientific study). There are occasional encounters with mystic gurus along the path who say mysterious things that aren't crucial to gameplay, but other than that and a few instructions very early in the game, it is wordless. We were excited when an expansion pack was released recently, but users with very sensitive children should be aware that there is some "hot lava" and slightly more menacing music in the first game of the expansion pack and a few other somewhat more tense moments than exist in the original set of mazes, but as long as you're playing side-by-side, sensitive children should be fine.
Odd Bot Out
Help a small robot work his way through 100 levels of increasingly challenging obstacle courses. Each level presents logic challenges where the players must think through the order of their actions and sometimes employ trial and error as they learn new techniques to maneuver through the bot’s world. No scorekeeping or time limits and the levels are relatively short so if you need to restart the level, it’s not really a big deal. This is a great one for adults and children to work together on-- you might be surprised at how often your child discovers the solution before you do! Great conversations and insight into how your child’s mind works can be gained if you let them take the lead in solving the puzzles.
A tiny bird is stuck in a cage with 7 colorful locks and players must earn the keys for each lock to release the bird. This wordless app with utterly charming illustrations challenges users to figure out what they must do with each new scene (tune staticky televisions by coaxing birds onto the antennae, direct a traffic concert, play a memory game with shuttered windows that open when you tap them, etc.) and once each puzzle is solved, they are rewarded with a different colored key. Gameplay is simple enough for very young children, but the artwork is beautiful enough to engage adults to play alongside.