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Jim B.

Status: Beta reviewer - Video Reviewer

Categories of apps she/he wants to review: Books - Education - Entertainment - Games - Productivity

iDevices she/he owns: - iPad2- iPhone4

Description: I'm a 20 year IT veteran and parent of 3 year old twin girls. I have written electronic/computer gadget and video game reviews for websites and the local newspaper in the early 2000s. Lately, ever since my twins started using the iPads, I have been checking out hundreds of educational apps, games, puzzles and interactive books.

Profile categories: Can test apps with kids ages 0-2 - Can test apps with kids ages 3-5 - Can test apps with kids ages 6-10 - Gamer

Date when her/his profile was validated: 2012-08-08

User who invited him/her: Jean-Eudes L.

Total review Karma: + 4     ?

Each time a developer thinks a review from a reviewer is useful, he give to this reviewer +1 in review Karma. The more Karma a reviewer has, the better her/his reviews are assessed!

Her/His app reviews

PrestoBingo Shapes v1.4 [text]

Link to the App Store

What I liked Universal app - Worked fine on iPad2 and iPhone4 (with or without zoom). Fast startup. Small footprint. No ad or in-app purchase. No facebook, twitter, or external links (except for the rating request). Responsive control. Beautiful illustrations (though seems to gear more toward girls). Good explananation of each shape. Counting out loud from 1 to up to 20.
Improvements Continue (and promise) to add more illustrations. May be considering flipping the existing illustrations, or moving objects around, or replacing some items, to avoid repetitiveness and enhance replay value. The rectangle around the clock looks square which may confuse the kids. The red outlines of selected shapes blend into some illustrations that have similar shades. Announce the number of shapes the player needs to find instead of asking how many the player can find. Add encouragements like clapping, cheering or congratulation at the end of each round.
General review Toddlers must know the name of shapes to play on their own or parents must play along to teach them. Replay value is an issue if no new illustrations get added on a regular basis - once you have the included illustrations memorized, there isn't much fun to revisit them. Overall, it's a clean and polished looking app with responsive control for kids to learn to count and identify shapes.

Animal Puzzle for Kids and Toddlers [text]

Link to the App Store

What I liked Intuitive drag-and-drop control. Simple gameplay for targeted audience - my 2.5 year old twins could just pick up and play with no parental guidance. Good number of puzzles (23) with 3 different play styles to mix it up. Can start from any puzzle. Required Press&Hold to get to external links.
Improvements Need extra audio such as animal sound and name. Eliminate the annoying and noticeable 'loading...' pop up between every puzzle. Make the Press&Hold button less colorful to avoid the toddlers' attention. Make the X smaller and don't float balloons over it to avoid accidental presses. Limit the number balloons to 10 so kids have the satisfaction of poping them all. Remove the similar 'Animal Puzzle for Toddlers and Preschool Kids' from the app store to avoid confusion - I couldn't figure out the difference between the 2 except for the names. Drop the price of the full version to $.99.
General review While the app offers a good number of puzzles, it isn't unique or robust enough to stand out in the crowded field of kid puzzlers. It plays well with pleasing graphics and intuitive control but lacks extras such as animal names and sounds. My toddler twins could just pick it up and play without parental guidance but since they have already played a dozen of similar and better puzzlers, they seem satisfied with the 5 free puzzles and moved on

Preschool Kitty 1.4 [text]

Link to the App Store

What I liked $.99 universal app. No in-app purchase. Press and Hold to get into settings, external links, report, etc. Huge variety of games to keep things interesting. All 7 game types can be turned off and difficulty levels can be adjusted. Able to repeat the request by pressing the question mark.
Improvements Narration and encouragements are too monotonic. Volume level of narration is inconsistent. Music can be turned off but I'd would rather have it adjustable so it can be lowered and doesn't drown out the narration. Add animation to the prizes (car moves,ball rolls, fish swims in bowl, etc)... and having some physics in the bedroom would be more educational (no ball on the wall, no fishbowl on the ceiling, etc.). Locations of the standard Arrow, Rewards and Question Mark should stay consistent throughout the app. Fix the 'Reset Awards Screens' so it does not says "Preschool Christmas Kitty"
General review The clipart-style graphics are colorful but not exciting. Design and presentation are rudimentary (basic) but the main games should appeal to most of the target audience. The child needs to have a good grasp of language, shapes, numbers, colors, etc. to take full advantage of the game. It's good that any of the 7 game types can be turned off and difficulty levels can be adjusted to make the app more accessible.

Pencilicious v.1.2 [text] [video]

Link to the App Store

What I liked Clean and good looking interface. Customization options such as paper type, lines, colors, etc. make using and creating notebooks fun. Options are easily accessed either from the tool bars or drop downs. The vector object manipulation is unique. Numerous 'export' options.
Improvements Zoom mode needs to auto-scroll as I write. Add support for other popular clould services other than Dropbox (Skydrive, Pogoplug, etc.). Support both Import and Export to the cloulds. Add optional keyboard entry. Add Read-Only option to protect notebooks from being further edited or deleted. The homepage should look the same in both portrait and landscape mode.
General review The app is a late entry into the category but it brought something new to the table (vector based manipulation) so it's somewhat unique. The name Pencilicious may keep professionals from choosing it over a couple of more established app in the category. Pencilcious is stable and easy to use but in term of features, it is in the middle of the pack so it will have to play catch up.
First 5 minutes video review
Video review once the app was mastered

Lulu in the Amazon [text]

Link to the App Store

What I liked The app is insightful and very interactive. Players can start anywhere on the trip. Fun mini games to keep things interesting. The app is universal (iPhone/iPad) and has smaller footprint than previous 2 Lulu apps which is good because disk space is limited on my twins' 16 GB iPad2s. No in-app purchase
Improvements The font used on each screen is generic and boring. There is not enough emphasis on text - only one or two sentences of text on each screen. The rest are spoken words. I would like to see more (if not all) words displayed with each word highlighted as it's being read. May be even bold the important words/names and provide the ability to hear the sentence(s) repeated or hear a single word pronounced by touching it. If the app is meant to be educational, let's go all the way.
General review The app is educational and is well-intentioned but wasn't interesting enough to keep the attention of my 3 year old twin girls especially if they use it on their own (my girls are in their Barbie and Princess phases no matter how much we try a avoid it). The app itself is well done and provides exactly what the description listed. However, with very little emphasis on text, my girls didn't get exposed to too many written words.

Splash Money [text]

Link to the App Store

What I liked * The app has really good coverage of all aspects of money from identifying to using
* Contents are expansive and seem like they could keep the child busy and learning for a long time
* Having the ability to buy prizes with coins earned from tests to dress up the monkey and have the monkey wear those things during the game were great
* Various report views give quick overviews of the child's strengths and weaknesses
Improvements * The game is only for a single player - keeping track of multiple players/profiles would be nice for household or classes with multiple kids.
* Doing visual math in the last few activities could be tough for younger kids - probably should bring over the scratch pad from other Spash Math apps here too.
* No second chance for wrong answers - the app shows the correct answer right away.
* On the report, the 'achievements' were broken down to 8 sections corresponding to the eight activities but for 'history', it's hard to figure out which tasks came from which of those 8 sections.
* Top left icon (to skip between lessons and tests), only displayed the question "Are you sure you want to skip..." just once or twice - all other times it just has the Yes/No options.
* Exiting the app (using the iPad's home button) and coming back in some times lock the app (on iOS 5.1.1) - had to kill the app from memory (double click the home button and delete from the task bar)
* Spoken words were shorten for longer questions - would be nice to have the entire word problem spoken out loud.
* The monkey does not have much personality and his speech is annoying - may be because it's louder and higher pitched than the narrator's voice.
* The monkey also needs a few more vocabulary than just 'great', 'woo hoo', and 'no, no'.
* If this app is rated as 4+, it may be too young. I think the player (child) needs to be at least in the first grade (6+) to finish the later activities (which include word problems/addition/subtraction/etc.).
* I did not like the external links (share, rate, more apps, etc.) - apps that are used by kids should not contain them in my opinion.
General review The app is very educational and it's coverage of money is second to none. The navigation and flow of the app could be better - use auto advance instead of showing the navigation menu and requiring the user to press advance every time. Other apps in the same category, though not as complete, are either $1 or $2 so if this latest app is priced like other Splash Math apps ($10 or with in-app purchases), it will be overlooked by most buyers including myself.

Paddle Duck in Where's Carrie Cat? An Interactive Story V1.2 [text]

Link to the App Store

What I liked - Cute characters, animation and colorful illustrations
- The hints (circles of stars) are good for kids who don't understand spoken instructions yet
- Emphasized on counting 1,2,3
- The parents section that required a long press to access
- Fun Paddle Duck Waddle song at the end
Improvements - I prefer swiping to turn pages rather than clicking the triangle.
- The environments could be more interactive and it would be nice to be able to click on items and hear their names (sun, bee, flower, grass, tree, etc.)
- Each word needs to be highlighted as it's being read
- Clicking on the sentence should repeat the sentence
- I could not tell if Paddle Duck or Gabby Goat was talking when they are together - need to have balloon text or something similar
- Need to display words for the Paddle Duck Waddle song at the end or when the duck sang so readers/kids can easily sing along
General review The illustrations were cute and colorful but the story was only so-so. It wasn't that interesting and did not make a lasting impression with my kids. For $4, I expected a bit more interaction and features such as highlighted+clickable text and clickable items that pronounce their names. The song didn't even display words for us to sing along. Overall, this is just an average book with some light animation and interaction.

Weather and Clock for Kids [text]

Link to the App Store

What I liked The app has good intention - teaching kids about weather and time. Interactive items around the room kept the little ones interested. Kids can learn from both analog and digital versions of the clock. The various radio stations and the changing environment (depending on the time of day and weather) kept the singular screen engaging.
Improvements The mouse character is too small to notice the outfit changes. Would be nice to have more characters to choose from and more than 1 scene (add kitchen, bedroom, or even the backyard). Make the clocks and weather more prominent - they need to be the focal points in the room. Time announcement isn't traditional-instead of 2:30PM it announces 2 hours 30 minutes. I wish there were a 'freeplay' screen where the player could adjust the time - my twins only get to play their iPads at a fixed time each day so they only get exposed to that same hour. The Settings screen is too easy for kids to get in
General review The app isn't robust enough to keep each of my twins interest for more than 5 minutes. They barely noticed the mouse holding the temperature sign. The interactive items are nice but not enough of them. The ability to switch to selected locations in the world is a plus but I doubt that a kid can understand the concept the way it is presented in the app. The app needs a lot of improvements and refinements.

Cutie Monsters-Jigsaw Puzzles [text]

Link to the App Store

What I liked The learning angle makes the app relevant. The puzzles make the app more fun and interesting to toddlers. The app contains nice and cute monsters (although my twin 3-year old girls did NOT seem too engaged in the subject matter - may be boys would be more interested)
Improvements I didn't like having 3 separate start options - it would be nice to have just one integrated app. Here is how I imagine it should work: my toddler clicks Play to begin, she clicks on individuals words or clicks on the monster and causes the app to hide the text and breaks the monster up to pieces; after she completes the puzzle, the app should read the entire sentence and emphasize the number and flash the associated monster part. Other improvements would be to add 1 more monster (for a total of 10) and use 1 for each number (only 7 are used now), and add dotted guidelines for puzzle pieces.
General review 3.5 stars. The app looks great and is very well made. However, I'd like to see this as one integrated app instead of presented as 3 separate options on the menu screen (Read it myself, Touch read words, and Jigsaw puzzles). It should be as simple as possible for toddlers to start playing and learning and not get bogged down by options. In my opinion, this app gets the contents right but the presentation needs work.