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

My Aquarium, Sam Robertson

Picture this: It's a half hour into a 3-hour car drive. The kids are bouncing all over the backseat. The snacks have all been consumed, the toys are strewn all over, the blaming and crying has begun. You give the younger one a soother, and "pass back" the iPhone to the elder, turned onto the My Aquarium app.

Immediately soothing bubble sounds spread through the car. Junior is focusing on adding fish, subtracting fish, adding seaweed and logs and deep-sea divers, in never-ending combinations. The calm may not last, but boy - while it does? Bliss.

You'll like it because: It's absorbing and easy to play with.
Too bad: It does eventually get dull.
iPhone Apps users gave it 2/5 stars
Cost: Lite is Free, Fullfat is £0.59
Ages: 3-8

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Make a Martian, 3DAL

This is one of those games that is great for boys or girls - boys because it includes monster space aliens, girls because it allows you to "dress them up" with various body parts. The premise of this animated game is simple: you get to Make An Alien by choosing a body shape, wings, eyes, mouth, what colour each element is, etc. - in a kind of never-ending list.

The premise of this game is simple and it is very easy for even the smallest child to play with. All they have to do is start pushing buttons to get the idea.

You'll like it because: You can save a "photo" of favourite combos into your Photo Gallery.
Too bad: You'll be asked to view a new Martian every two minutes.
iPhone Apps users gave it 3/5 stars
Cost: £0.59
Ages: 2-8

iClean, Xtremize Software

This is one of those apps that proves that Kids Think Different(ly). My daughter and her friends think iClean is the funniest thing in the entire world - they have designed dances around it and play it endlessly, singing along with the tunes. Why they love it, I couldn't say. What is it? That's a bit simpler.

It's basically just a bunch of videos of real animals - a crew of "screen cleaners" including dogs, cats, and one drunk-looking hamster - licking a glass wall, so it appears to be "cleaning" the iPhone screen from the inside. Each animal has its own music-to-lick-by theme music, which spans a wide range (salsa, vaudeville, blues, and my favourite - the Hamster Dance for Stitch to lick by).

What are they putting on the glass to make those animals lick it so blissfully? Who thought this idea up? Why is it still entertaining after 74 viewings? We may never know. But it kept my daughter giggling and entertained for almost a 1/2 hour on a busy highway, so as far as I'm concerned, it was money well spent.

You'll like it because: Well, you won't like it, but the small fry will, which is the whole reason anyway, isn't it?
Too bad: Good luck getting "I got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart" song out of your head. Ever.
iPhone Apps users gave it 2.5/5 stars
Cost: £.059
Ages: All ages

Monday, 21 September 2009

My Makeup, AppsNMinded (blogged by Kate)

Part of the natural girlie triology (including My Nails and My Hair, natch), My Makeup features 4 girls from the shoulders up. Each girl has a different hair, eye, skin colouring and the player chooses one (each with Gossip Girl-style names like Blake, Tia, Tessa and Brooke) and gets to decide how to make her up. There are at least four choices each of mascara, eyeshadow, blusher, lipstick and nail varish. Add on the earrings and body art and you can create a completely different look each go - especially as you can design each side differently. A facial option complete with cucumber eyes and a facepack finishes off the game. Ahhh.

Our 5 year old daughter loves this app. She spends hours trying out colours and hearing the girls' comments - all in slightly bizzare English accents - "toodles, righty ho, ohhh, that was smashing ..." - and the other sound effects. She is sometimes disappointed that she can't save or send her efforts, although her dad (whose phone it is) is relieved as another of her favourites - a bunny dressing game that you can save - has taken up too much of his memory. I sometimes find it a bit flakey - some of the options never seem to work, and others only intermittently. That doesn't seem to bother our girl though, who just moves onto the next colour.

You'll like it because: It's girly, creative, with an almost unending number of colour combinations.

Too bad: Some of the options don't seem to work and you can't send your creation.

iPhone Apps users gave it 2.5/5 stars

Cost: £0.59

Ages: 3-8

Sunday, 13 September 2009

UpThere, Veiled Games

One of the first apps I ever heard about, UpThere is actually quite esoteric. The first screen shows a Victorian room, decorated with curliqued window decorations and ornate wallpapers. A round cage contains a red balloon that bounces madly around, desperately trying to escape. Press Start and the balloon begins its ascent into the worlds above, trying to maneuver through book shelves, rat mazes, etc. - accompanied by a falsely soothing song.

Your job is to tilt the phone to and fro, guiding the balloon on its increasily speedy journey. If you get to the bottom of the screen, you've timed out. A clock keeps track of the time in corner of the screen, which inexplicably gets your heart racing. Great for older children, although little ones can figure it out as well (there's an Easy/Hard setting).

You'll like it because: It's elegant, unexpected, slightly strange and unique.
Too bad: It is either repetitive or addictive, depending on your mindset.
iPhone Apps users gave it 3/5 stars
Cost: £0.59
Ages: 4-8

ColoringBook, Beach House Software

Besides my natural desire to like an application that comes from a developer with a name like Beach House, this is easy to use and does what it says on the tin: Presents you with a series of "pages," each with a different outlined pictures just waiting to be colored in. You can choose a pirate, lion, fairy, etc. - choose a crayon from the box - even erase your booboos. At the end, you can save it (a function I didn't know existed until I was scrolling through my photo gallery and encountered a variety of half-filled-in pictures). And it's simple to figure out; my friends 3 and a 1/2 year old had sorted it five seconds after getting his hands on my phone.

You'll like it because: Simple to figure out and most no pens to leak in your bag.
Too bad: Some of the pictures are kind of creepy and amateurish (the fairy needs a re-draw).
iPhone Apps users gave it 3.5/5 stars
Cost: £0.59
Ages: 2-5

Preschool Adventure, 3DAL

One of the biggest problems with entertaining toddlers is their ridiculously short attention span. What better then, than a 5-in-1 game. Preschool Adventure consists of 5 separate, quick apps:
  • Colors: An underwater scene with 7 color blobs. Clicking on each reveals an sea friend.
  • Body: A monkey with body parts floating all around (no, not as gross as that sounds!); click on the body part and it flies to the correct place, with a perky voice identifying the part.
  • Matching: An animal divided into 3 parts; flick one of the parts and another flies in. Align all the parts of one animal.
  • Sounds: Click on a farm animal and hear its voice.
  • Shapes: Five little moon creatures - click on them to hear their shape and color.
You'll like it because: If they don't like one game, they'll probably like another. Excellent graphics, fairly educational.
Too bad: The super-American voices are a bit OTT.
iPhone Apps users gave it 3.5/5 stars
Cost: £0.59
Ages: 2-5

Friday, 21 August 2009

Trace, Kevin Calderone

Trace. Even saying it kicks off the soundtrack in my head. One of the first games I downloaded for my daughter to play, Trace allows children to problemsolve while playing, as they work to get a little red stick man on a journey to the sun. Each "world" (volcano, flame, water, space, etc.) initiates a different background setting, with its own theme tunes and challenges.

Your job is to trace a path with your finger around a landscape with various moving obstacles. Each screen gets harder, but small achievements along the way make it very satisfying. You can erase errant lines, hop over gaps and try as many times as it takes to achieve success. This is one game we come back to time and again.

You'll like it because
: As fun for adults as for children.
Too bad: The soundtrack will stay in your head long after the game is shut down.
iPhone Apps users gave it 4/5 stars
Cost: FREE
Ages: 4-9

Pet Playpen, Sparebytes

When I faced the thought of the 8-hour flight from our home in London to my mother's house, in Washington D.C., it was not without trepidation - living away from my family, we do this a lot. All of which would be tolerable - if not for the bored child sitting next to me.

But for the first time, I was in for an unexpected moment of ease. I was loaded up with a portable DVD player, coloring pencils, sticker books, etc. Turns out, I needed none of them. Because, I have an iPhone.

The week before we left, I loaded up the phone with as many kid-friendly apps as I could find (and stand paying for - often the best ones do cost) from the Apps Store. I added traditional games, like Checkers ("Draughts"), coloring apps, memory games, etc. but the one that got the most traction, and left me free to read my book for hours at a time, was the Pet Playpen.

This Tamagotchi-style game offers the chance to "adopt" a penguin, kitten, dog or rock and watch over it using Food, Toys or Hygiene (read: washing and pooper-scooper style activities). Clean, simple cartoon graphics plus an ongoing requirement to "care" for your pet kept my daughter engrossed for a huge chunk of time. Which made it our favorite new apps; plane and simple.

You'll like it because: As addictive as jellybeans - for kids or adults.
Too bad: If your kid doesn't move fast to keep that pet happy, the animals run away.
iPhone Apps users gave it 3.5/5 stars
Cost: £1.19
Ages: 4-9

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Balloonimals, IDEO Toy Lab

This app is simply for fun, a silly balloon animal game that takes full advantage of the iPhone's various functions, like allowing players to "blow up" balloons,shake them into animal shapes and then pump them up with air until they explode.

My daughter's favourite bit was how the completed animals made various silly noises and motions if you poke them into different places. A good game for a variety of ages, as even small children can play and the instructions are very clear. There's also a teaser "LITE" version available for free, to trial it out.

You'll like it because
: The animation is fantastic, great sense of humor
Too bad: There's a limited number of balloon animals, meaning the product has an attention-span shelf-life.
iPhone Apps users gave it 3/5 stars
Cost: Lite is FREE, Full-fat is £1.19
Ages: Any age can play

Saturday, 15 August 2009


Welcome to our first official blog here on KiddyApp, a site designed to help you find the very best iPhone applications for your children. The idea for the site came at a brainstorming meeting myself and friend Patrick were having. We both work in mobile/wireless internet companies in London, UK and both have a passion for the iPhone. In between idea sessions, we talked about what we were up to, our families, kids, the usual. The conversation moved to our mutual love affair with the iPhone, and how it had ended up being something we and our children used in equal measure. We shared our frustration with the limitations of the iPhone Apps Store, and how difficult it was to find quality applications to share with little ones.

Next thing you know, we were making lists of what apps we each had found on our phones. We wondered how people were finding apps for a market like this, and started to snoop around online. We found some sites, mostly fellow bloggers who were parents who wanted to "pass it back" but not too much variety among them.

So here we are. If you're a developer who can't figure out how to get your family-friendly app promoted, a parent who is trying to find the next best "pass back" game or just someone who is passionate about the "small-fry"Phone, come along with us. Let's find and present the best the iPhone has to offer.