Toontastic Jr. Pirates By Launchpad Toys

I few months back I reviewed the original Toontastic. I thought that the original app was great, even if I had to help the younger children set up the story. We have plenty of stories saved up on our devices, and even as a few days ago my children still played with the original app.

This time around Launchpad Toys tries to bring the same magic of the original app to smaller children. Some of the options have been removed, the guided story making process has been improved and simplified, and even the music selection options have been toned down. The graphics and music are beautiful, thoughtful and not annoying.

To start this time, you select the start, the middle and end of the story. Once selected each scene provides a couple of seconds of non-edible action. After that you are given the opportunity, to add your own action and record your own voice. The next step is to select the music for the scene you just recorded. Once all three scenes have been completed, you are able to save it and run the entire play from the start.

I love the orignal app. I loved it then, and it continues to be one of my favorite apps on the iPad. This one is just as impressive. And at $1.99 it provides many opportunities for learning about creative story telling.

The app was provided by the publisher for review, and is available starting today from the Apple App store for $1.99.

Compare A Twist by App of Approval, LLC

Compare A Twist is a study aid app. The game play consists of dragging items (either pictures or words) to the appropriate category. The set of items and the categories that go with those items is considered a lesson.

The game comes with a set of pre-made lessons, but the power of the app is in the ability to create your own lessons. Lessons could be created, saved and loaded from Google docs. The results of the lessons can be mailed. The report includes data like how many of the items were answered correctly and on what attempt. Teachers, parents and educators can create a generic Google account were they post the lessons and then the students can retrieve the lessons and send back the results.

The graphics are simple but adequate. The app provides audio and visual feedback when you select the appropriate category and when you don’t. When running a lesson you can also select the type of bucket (2 are available) to drop the items into.

I wish the app had the ability to create more than two categories. I can think of many lessons where more than 2 categories would be helpful. The Google log-in screen also does not have a back button. On two occasions, I ended up being stuck in the Google pages without being able to return to the app (had to quit and restart). I also wish the lesson report was in non-editable PDF format instead of text.

A very solid app. I reviewed the iPad version (provided by the publisher). I didn’t find an Android version.

Magi Forest By Ola Games

Magi Forest is a puzzle game where you click on gems to drop animals into their nest. Upon dropping all the animals into their nest you can proceed to the next level.

The background and the characters are beautifully painted. The music is also very nice: not extremely annoying after extended play. There is also enough variations to keep the puzzles interesting (balloons, jellies and other game play variations).

The puzzles get progressively harder, and might get too hard too quickly for younger children. You are not allowed to proceed if any of the animals do not reach the nest (no partial credit). You can purchase the ability to skip a level: for .99 cents or by joining Alfa Circles and earning it (After signing up and logging into the site, I couldn’t figure out how to earn anything). If you don’t want random extra charges, I would recommend turning off in app purchases or telling your kids not to purchase a level.

Overall a pleasant, but not ground breaking puzzle game. If you don’t have enough of them on your tablet, wouldn’t mind another one, and you don’t mind the in-app purchase for skipping a level (or signing up and into a random site) this one can provide a hours of entertainment.

Available on the Apple App Store for 99 cents. I reviewed the iOS version on the iPad (provided by the publisher).

Awesome Upstander! by HealthTeacher, Inc.

Awesome Upstander! is a side scrolling 2D platform game (think of old school Mario). This platform game deals with bullies. By collecting objects and friends you are able to stand up to the bully at the end of the board.

The game re-enforces the idea that you can stand up to bullies if you bring enough friends. Some of the objects you collect also illustrate other things you can do. A phone could be useful for calling the school or a parent if you are about to be bullied. At the very least the game is a way to vent for children that are bullied, and maybe provide a game were they feel they have some control.

The game has some very minor problems. The game got a little repetitive for me (but not sure if this would hold true for a young children), and the burping sound when you eat fruit will probably get old for the parents (although provide hours of giggle for some kids and you can turn it off). I also had problems jumping at times, but as I have said in a few reviews my fingers aren’t that agile.

Overall how can you fault a 2D platform game where a kid that is being bullied comes up on top at the end of the level. I reviewed the iPhone version on my iPad (the app was provided for free by the publisher). An iPad and an Android version also exist. The app is available for $0.99, does not have an in-app store, and appears to work offline.

Dictionary.com by Dictionary.com, LLC

Available from the Apple App Store (version reviewed), Play, and Amazon. This $2.99 version of this dictionary is all the dictionary you might need. Like any good dictionary, it provides  a detail definition of the word, idioms, origin and even sample sentences.

Although I have not reviewed any other dictionary app, two features really stand out. The first one is the ability to do searches when offline. When I place the iPhone in Airplane mode, I am still able to search for words. Although I was no able to test it, it should work great for devices that don’t have permanent internet connections or where it is not permitted.

The second feature that I really liked (and probably not the intended purpose) is the ability to make a list of favorite words. My daughter receives a list of words weekly for a test at the end of the week, and it would be useful to have those definitions handy and quickly accessible throughout the week.

 

It also has many other features of various value. It has a built-in thesaurus, able to hear the word spoken out loud, search by voice (worked great for me), share the word via e-mail, twitter or Facebook (limited value), and word of the day in Spanish and English (not bad to increase your vocabulary).

My only complaints are that on the iPhone 4S it is slow sometimes especially clicking between the button navigational buttons, and that although I like the extra features the interface seems cluttered.

The $2.99 version has no ads except a more page where it promotes other apps.

Shakespeare In Bits By Mindconnex Learning Ltd.

Works of Shakespeare abound for free from online booksellers. You can get them in paperback for less than $8. Plenty of people reading them can be found on YouTube. So why would anybody buy these same works for $14 each on the Apple App Store?

Shakespeare In Bits is beautifully animated, provides a space to write notes as it is read to you, is annotated, provides clarification (in the way of synonyms) for certain words, summary for each act/scene, character relationship map and you can even show the animation on a monitor (via AirPlay). Sure you can cobble together all this information for free on the web, but it wouldn’t be as polished and as enjoyable as this app.

My complaints are minor: No Android version exists, although technically you can use the web browser (I did not test this). In a couple of the scenes it was hard to hear the words over the background music. Perfectly read, but I felt some of the characters didn’t act it out as well as they should have (but this is subjective, and for $14.00 you can’t expect Claire Danes).

For a child struggling to understand any of these great works, I think Shakespeare In Bits is a great addition to the learning tool kit.

It is also available for teachers and teaching institutions online.

Toontastic By Launchpad Toys

Using a simplified story arc you set up a scene, the app guides your children through the creation of an animated story. You build the stories using scene, characters, music and your children recorded voices and sounds.

Some scene are pre-made, others you can buy, and you can even draw your own. So far the animated stories my children have created have used a combination of the provided scenes and their own creation.

Same as the scenes, you have many choices for the characters including creating your own.

The music you select by defining the mood of the scene.

After that: you drop the character on the scene, animate them with your fingers, and tell your story. You can save it locally or share it in multiple ways.

You can see great videos of kids creating movies at the publisher website.

My gripes are small: the time limit of one minute per scene (my daughter’s only complaint), no transitions between the scenes, not available on the Android platform (currently available on Apple App Store.

As an aid to teach/learn the story arc, I don’t know of any app that is this much fun.

Scribblenauts Remix

Immersed in virtual world you create objects to solve puzzles: need a rope to get a star, type the word rope and it appears. As the level progress, the objects you need to type and the puzzles get harder and harder. It was a great game on the Nintendo DS, and it made the transition to iOS devices beautifully. It is also a fraction of the cost of the Nintendo DS game.

Although targeted to children that can spell, it also has playgrounds that younger children with a help of an adult can create objects to play with. The publisher continues to update the app with different playgrounds. The latest involves a classroom for the back to school season.

Only complaint I have heard from my daughter: limited selection of girl players and you have to buy them. I would also love to see it for Android devices.

It is a spelling puzzle game that my kids enjoy playing again and again again.

Available only on Apple App Store for .99.

AJG

Minecraft – Pocket Edition

In creative mode you can build anything you want out of blocks. In survival mode there are animals, zombies, and mummies and you try to survive.

You can build anything you want, there is no limit. You can go into the same world as other people and build with them.

I wish that you could customize your character and that you can see people connected to a different wifi.

LMG

Additional Notes from AJG:

Allows you to build structures of any sizes. Houses, Tunnels and basically anything else you can imagine in a 3D world.

Other than the educational building aspects (think of Lego blocks), some school districts (at least in North Carolina) are using the full version as a way for children to build items that they plan and design.

Available on Play and the Apple App Store for $6.99.

Stack the States

States drop from top of screen, and the player is prompted to touch the correct state. Doing it correctly enough times clears the board and you are awarded a particular state. The awarded state is displayed on the USA map.

Even as an adult I enjoy the game. Great sound effects, graphics, and addictive elements make it a game you and your children would come back to again and again. My children love the game and all of them get something out of it (even the youngest, who can’t read).

At a price of 99 cents it is a bargain. A free version is available (not reviewed). The game is available on iOS and Windows phones, and works perfectly well when not connected (perfect for road trips). An outstanding educational game for the entire family. You are never to old to learn your states.

Review by AJG.