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Gesundheit!

Gesundheit!

Gesundheit!

Gesundheit!

Revolutionary Concepts

Reviewed on 02/19/18
Freemium on | iTunes

This oddball app straddles the line between adorable and gross while challenging logic skills and dexterity.  Help the little green piggy escape from the hungry red monster by luring the monster into a trap.  What does the monster like to eat besides the piggy himself?  Why, the giant green goobers that the pig sneezes out, of course! As you conquer the levels, the difficulties increase with more predators added, trickier maps to navigate, fields of sneezy flowers that make the pig sneeze even harder. Although there are no time limits, some of the levels involve tricky timing to make sure the monster can’t see the pig while he’s being lured into a trap. If you have a child that would be upset by seeing a giant mosquito suck the piggy dry (like a deflation balloon) or get too easily frustrated when the piggy gets eaten and the level starts again, this might not be the right app for you.  Otherwise, this is an excellent one for kids and adults to play together (as long as you’re not too grossed out by the goobers!).

Age group: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
Tags: Animals, Engineering, Family Play, Games, Puzzles, STEM

Under Leaves

Under Leaves

Under Leaves

Under Leaves

Circus Atos

Reviewed on 01/19/18
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Windows

A serene seek-and-find pictures app.  Under Leaves features hand drawn, watercolor collage scenes and with each new level, an animal shows you what you’re looking for and how many of them you’ll find in that scene. The scenes themselves are not flat pictures, but have subtle movement like waving leaves or the underground ripples of water. Once you’ve found the hidden objects (and it’s surprisingly challenging!) you’re rewarded with the most beautifully subtle addition to the artwork -- maybe the ice crystals in the polar bear’s cave begin to twinkle softly pink instead of just blue.  Or perhaps a small school of bright orange fish swims through the deep blue underwater reef you just explored.  There are no time limits, no scores kept, and the only audio is nature sounds unique to each scene.  If you get stuck, tap the question mark, solve a classic slider puzzle and the app will give you a hint to help you find the next object. Gorgeous, relaxing and just so nicely designed, this app is great for quiet times together.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Animals, Art, Concepts, Google Play, Math, Nature, NBC15, STEM

Gorogoa

Gorogoa

Gorogoa

Gorogoa

Annapurna Interactive

Reviewed on 01/12/18
Paid on | iOS | Windows

A unique puzzler game for older kids through adults. Enter the world of Gorogoa and explore.  You’ll find lots of recurring images, a slowly unfolding story full of mystery and intrigue, challenging puzzles that are just right for older kids or for doing together as a family.  There will be moments when you struggle, but when you figure out the solution, you’ll experience a delicious “a-ha!” moment of wonder. The content does include some images of buildings that have been damaged (though the cause of destruction is unclear) and injured people (one person falls from a height, someone is on crutches, someone is in a wheelchair) and some of the music lends a slightly spooky atmosphere, so it might be disturbing for very young children or kids who are sensitive to intense movie moments, but there is no explicitly adult-level content in the storyline.  The beauty of this app lies in the unique gameplay.  Move anywhere from 1-4 tiles around a four-square grid and watch as the image changes.  You can zoom in or zoom out to adjust your point of view and watch for moment when multiple tiles might match up and interact with each other.  A few of the solutions involve timing movements just right and younger children may need adult help with that. The gorgeous artwork, the groundbreaking gameplay and the clean, smooth game design and programming were all done by one single person (amazing!).  Definitely a favorite game of 2017!  *note: this game is also available for Nintendo

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Art, Family Play, Favorites, Games, Growing Up, Nature, NBC15, Puzzles

Toca Life: Hospital

Toca Life: Hospital

Toca Life: Hospital

Toca Life: Hospital

Toca Boca

Reviewed on 12/14/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

The Toca Life series tackles the sometimes difficult topic of hospitals in this very well-made app.  As in all Toca Life apps, it’s all about open-ended play.  There’s a location (the hospital, with 5 levels), people (everyone from newborns to elderly in various medical states of health) and stuff to play with (bandages, extra body organs, radios, glasses of water, pretty much everything you’d expect to find in a hospital) and users decide what’s going to happen by moving the characters around within the space and handing them various objects or putting them on beds (or toilets or whatever) and creating their own stories. Unlike most “doctor” apps for kids, Toca Life is brave enough to even allow space for talking about death and dying by including two different quiet spaces with candles (one indoors, one outdoors) as sort of reflection/meditation rooms. If you are anticipating a hospital visit (new baby? Ailing grandparent? Sick kiddo?) or if you find yourself at the hospital or even if you just want to give your child the opportunity to play within that environment before life requires that you spend time in an actual hospital, this app is a really great way to do that. This would be an excellent app to play side-by-side with a grown-up who can talk to the child about the different (and sometimes mysterious) items they’ll encounter in the app (like the MRI machine).  Be sure to also discover the ability to make your own mini-movies within this app!

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Amazon, Creativity, Family Play, Google Play, Growing Up, Things that Go

Windosill

Windosill

Windosill

Windosill

Vectorpark

Reviewed on 11/14/17
Paid on | iOS | Windows

Beautifully bizarre, surrealist puzzles that are great for adults and children to work on together. With no time limits, very little sound and a quiet atmosphere, this app is perfect for quiet afternoons or evenings at home, snuggled together on the couch. Explore this app together and my guess is that you’ll find that your child can solve the puzzles at least as often as you yourself can. If you get stuck on one, put away until another day and perhaps when you come back to it again you’ll have a new idea to try out.

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Art, Concepts, Engineering, Family Play, Games, Puzzles, STEM, Things that Go

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

Scholastic

Reviewed on 09/17/17
Paid on | iOS

Fans of Captain Underpants will love this app!  The app contains a slightly animated version of the entire first book in the Captain Underpants series (you can choose to read it yourself or have the narrator read it to you) as well as an avatar generator (complete with ridiculous and somewhat crass silly names) and four fun mini-games.  The mini-games include one where players try to aim the hypno ring at Principal Krupp, one where they maneuver a skateboard through a maze to reach Captain Underpants, one where they slingshot pairs of underpants at robots (Space Invaders style), and a sound mixer full of all of the grossest sounds you can imagine set to some funky beats.  The longer you play, the more features will be unlocked. Perfect for kids who think fart noises are the funniest thing ever! *Side note: Scholastic also has a free app called Planet Pilkey which includes more content for fans, but also features a complicated coin-earning/spending system (boo!) and a comics generator (yay!) and overall is somewhat less user-friendly than the app reviewed here.

 

Age group: Grades 3-5
Tags: Book App, Characters, Games, Stories

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Broken Rules

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Windows

Invite kids to take a journey with an old man in this beautiful, calming app. Follow along with this wordless story and help the old man move through his journey by raising and lowering hills. As the old man reaches resting spots, he reflects back on his life in memory scenes. Parents should be aware that death via illness (not the old man) is an element of the game, but the ultimate ending is uplifting. The game was not created for children, but the self-determined pace, the simple game mechanics, the calming soundtrack and the gorgeous artwork add up to a great game for parents and children to play together. In fact, playing from the perspective of the old man might just give your kids a little more empathy or might spark some interesting conversations between the two of you!

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Engineering, Family Play, Games, Google Play, Growing Up, NBC15, Stories, Things that Go

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Alike Studio

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS

Although the game begins with Kosmo’s robot girlfriend, Nova, getting blasted into pieces that are scattered throughout the galaxy, this game is actually charmingly cute and relaxing to play. The goal of the game is to travel throughout the universe helping Kosmo to collect pieces of Nova as well as mementos of their relationship that will help to restore her memories of them together when she’s been rebuilt. Each planet that Kosmo travels to has a different scenario, but most of them are fairly familiar (like a children’s park or a library) with a few extraterrestrial elements (robot dogs, aliens of all sorts, etc.). Parents should be aware that one of the searches takes place in a bar, but it’s fairly tame (there is mellow banjo music on this level) and a few of the side characters shoot laser guns. Also, the front page of the app allows access to social media, so keep an eye on this unless you want your twitter feed to suddenly be all about this game. This is a fun one for kids and parents to play together!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
Tags: Engineering, Family Play, Games, Growing Up, Puzzles, STEM, Things that Go

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Ustwo

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS

One of the best games in app-land now has a sequel! This app was not specifically created for children, but it’s kid-safe and a wonderful app for kids and adults to use together.  Since the first Monument Valley game came out years ago, other companies have been trying to copy it, using similar design elements and color schemes and dreamy music, but nothing has ever been quite as good as the original until now.  This sequel has all of the beloved elements of Monument Valley (mind-twisting 3D labyrinths, sherbet colors, self-pacing and a thread of a storyline), and it builds on those in ways that brought gasps of delight from both me and my son when we played through it together. You’ll see new friends, old friends, and encounter new game twists that keep the whole concept fresh and new.  If you liked Monument Valley, you will not be disappointed in Monument Valley 2.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
Tags: Art, Concepts, Engineering, Family Play, Favorites, Games, Growing Up, Math, Puzzles, STEM, Things that Go

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

Tinybop

Reviewed on 07/10/17
Paid on | iOS

Mix and match body parts from all different kinds of animals (including humans!) to create a new creature, then take it for a test run to see how well it works!  This app is set up similar to TInybop’s Robot Factory app, but instead of building something with mechanical parts, players build a creature using a variety of biological bits.  First, a creature body is hatched from a colorful egg, then you choose what sorts of legs, arms, wings, fins, tail, head, eyes, ears, mouth, tusks or horns your creature should have.  A zebra body with 4 sets of kangaroo legs?  A caterpillar body with a flamingo head and a gecko tail?  Why not?  Once you’ve designed your creature, try it out on the treadmill.  Does it move most easily on land, sea or water?  If your creature is really struggling to move quickly, what changes can you make to improve it? Once you’re satisfied with your creature’s design, give it a name, then set it loose in the wild where you can feed it, play a game with it, create a habitat for it or race it against other creatures you’ve designed.  There are so many different levels of creation in this game -- will you spend your time trying to make the fastest animal possible?  The most elaborately fancy animal?  Or will you throw together a few quick hodge-podge creatures and then spend your time playing in their “real world” environment with them? Whatever you choose, this app is rich with potential and inspiration.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Animals, Concepts, Creativity, Engineering, Nature, Science, STEM