Thursday, 8 October 2009

MouthOff, ustwo

The fun with MouthOff starts with the icon on your phone: Unlike the usual "tile-shaped" look and feel, the designers of this game have cleverly used the color scheme to make it appear as if there's a little alien creature peaking at you from in between the other icons. It makes it very easy to find, and my daughter giggles whenever she sees him. Click on our friend Mr. Spaceman and the phone immediately launches a home page, in horizontal mode (holding your phone sideways). Your choices are "signature mouths" or "original mouths;" click on one and you are presented with an illustrated gallery of tiles.

But what a weird gallery!! It's made up of 25 mouths. A tooth-filled shark mouth, like you found with Bruce in Little Mermaid, a jowly dog mouth, a mouth that looks like it's a set of false teeth, a robot mouth that looks a bit like Bender. But then the magic begins: choose one, hold it up in front of your mouth (facing outwards) and start talking. The mouth moves along with your words. It's inexplicable, and hilarious. I had to pry my phone out of my daughter's hand, as she sat in front of a mirror, trying each one and singing a little song. It's also the first app that made my husband laugh, which gives it a gold star in my book. Finally, this is one of those apps that showcases the iPhone's endless lists of random functions (linking sound to action) and is just plain fun. People are even making videos of themselves using the phones; that says it all really doesn't it?

You'll like it because: It really is funny, and the "mouths" cover an extremely creative range of options.
Too bad: The joke gets old eventually.
iPhone Apps users gave it 3/5 stars
Cost: Lite version for FREE, full version for £0.59
Ages: All ages.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Crayon Doodle, Y Lau

I'm a mom, so I always have certain things in my bag; colored pencils, random soft toys, tissues/wet wipes, spare pants and some random bag of kiddie treats. Sometimes though, in the rush to shove all of the stuff from one bag to another, something gets left behind, and it's almost always the one thing I need. But now, on the days that I forget the crayons or pencils, I have a backup plan - Crayon Doodle on my iPhone.

This app is dead basic, and only does one thing: makes your finger into a crayon. You can choose a colour from 6 basic shades and off you go. You can draw whatever your imagination decides. Whizzy bits? You can save your picture, and then, if you're feeling wild, hit "replay" and watch the picture re-draw itself. Basic? Yes. Fit to purpose? Also a big yes.

You'll like it because: It's easy to figure out, and open to plain ole imagination.
Too bad: It's a one-trick pony.
iPhone Apps users gave it 3.5/5 stars
Cost: £0.59
Ages: 2-5

Spot the Difference, ReignDesign

I'm not sure if I can recommend this game, as it humiliated me in my very first play! Seriously, this is a great game to help kids focus and learn to pay attention to detail. It's based on the newspaper/magazine feature where two photos are placed side-by-side with some things in one photo either added or omitted.

Your job is to figure out where the differences *are* and then highlight them with your tapping finger, resulting in a happy yellow circle around the feature, while a clock in the corner counts down your time. But be careful where you tap - if you tap even slightly off the correct area, a red X hits the screen with a crash sound and a vibration so loud and intense, my daughter jumped out of her chair the first time it happened. She laughed immediately after, but still! Zowie.

The Lite version doesn't allow you to choose difficulty level and after 2 plays it asks you to buy, but a good game for a quiet play moment.

You'll like it because: Great to keep your child quietly engrossed.
Too bad: It's actually very difficult, even at the Easy stage, to find all the differences, which can be frustrating.
iPhone Apps users gave it 3/5 stars
Cost: Lite for FREE, £0.59 for all features
Ages: 4-9

TicTacFree, Optime Software

Known as Noughts and Crosses in the good ole UK, this does very well what it says it does; allows 1-2 players to enjoy a well-known online version of a standard favourite game. It's another one of the ad-funded ones (hence it's lack of cost) but the ads I saw were only slightly objectionable (Bruce Willis looking crusty in one of them), so I wasn't too fussed. As stated before, on the fence on this business model and keeping a very close eye on what actually gets served up to the small people.

The game itself it easy to play, very nicely-drawn and adds nice sound effects and visuals so real, you can almost smell the chalk. There's even a cheer from the crowd when someone wins.

You'll like it because: Simple pleasures.
Too bad: Not very exciting after a bit, just like the game itself.
iPhone Apps users gave it 3/5 stars
Cost: FREE
Ages: All ages

Monday, 28 September 2009

Bolt RhinoBall, AvatarLabs

If your child loved the film Bolt, they will love this app. At least my daughter did. It consists of two activites: a game where Rhino (the hamster in his ball) dodges city traffic to some serious rock music and "videos", which are really just the movie previews. Regardless, my little one watched these clips over and over, and played the game at length.

Disney and Pixar seem to be coming a bit late to the Apps game, but what they are producing (in this case via AvatarLabs) is naturally of very high quality and represent some of the better quality Free content in Appsland. The game uses the Stay tuned!

You'll like it because: Extremely high quality images - what do you expect when Disney is involved? Engrossing.
Too bad: If you child hasn't seen Bolt they might not get it.
iPhone Apps users gave it 4.5/5 stars
Cost: FREE
Ages: All ages for video, 4-7 for game

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Sliderz, Decane

The first game I encountered with obvious "in-game advertising" was Sliderz. I'm not overly sure how I feel about ads inside my apps; on the one hand, I don't mind it defraying the cost (although apps are pretty cheap). On the other, I used to work in advertising and am very, very aware of how those subliminal little messages get into young minds. And I'm not wild about making an overt consumer out of someone whose too young to own a wallet. Also, I don't feel 100% confident that developers are taking a lot of care about the content of those ads, which could get dodgy.

Beyond that, and the name (which I hate, it's up there with "cheez" and "olde worlde"), the this was a decent game. You can change the picture (an illustration of giraffe face, some photos of fruit and numbers) and the utility is just like a real-world slider puzzle. The pieces move with authenticity and even the ones with pictures have tiny numbers in the corner, so you can tell which order the pieces go in.

You'll like it because: It's absorbing once you get going.
Too bad: It's too hard for little ones; 6-7 and up only.
iPhone Apps users gave it 2.5/5 stars
Cost: FREE
Ages: 2-5

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Peekaboo Barn, Night & Day Studios

Set to the tune of Old McDonald, this charmingly animated game starts with a red barn set in a pastoral setting, underneath a cheerful sun. The barn shakes, inviting your child to tap on the doors, opening them to showcase what is inside. A duck! Tap again: A cow! The word is displayed, and a (very American) voice says the word. The animal makes its signature noise.

Simple, but effective, and very pleasing to a toddler, this app is educational and a great distraction for the littler ones.

You'll like it because: The animations are sweet, like a great picture book.
Too bad: The voices grate a bit, and mine is a big buggy (but what barn isn't?!).
iPhone Apps users gave it 4.5/5 stars
Cost: FREE for Lite version, £1.19 for fullfat
Ages: 2-5