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Category: High School + »

David Wiesner’s Spot Review

iPad App - Designed for iPad
By Amy Solomon on March 17th, 2015
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: SPOT ON ILLUSTRATIONS
David Wiesner’s Spot is a clever storybook for all ages containing no words, but it delivers fantastical illustrations.
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Robot School - Programming for Kids Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on March 13th, 2015
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: CODING MADE INTERESTING
Robot School is a great app for teaching coding to kids in a way that helps them visualize what is being taught.
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9 Months! Review

iPad App - Designed for iPad
By Amy Solomon on February 12th, 2015
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: HIGHLY EDUCATIONAL
9 Months! is a highly detailed application about how a baby develops within their mother's body, also including information about conception.
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Winky Think Logic Puzzles Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on January 28th, 2015
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: WINKY THINK MAKES YOU THINK
Winky Think Logic Puzzles include numerous tactile puzzles that will challenge all age groups.
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Naailde the Witch Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on October 30th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: PITCH-PERFECT STORYTELLING
Marvelous storytelling, narration, and moving illustrations make this storybook worth a download.
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Salis Escapes - Salisedine Episode 1 Review

iPad App - Designed for iPad
By Amy Solomon on June 17th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: PRE-TEEN STORYBOOK
Salis Escapes - Salisedine Episode 1 is a beautifully illustrated storybook for pre-teens with tough dystopian themes.
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Silly Family Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on June 2nd, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: MEET THE FAMILY
Silly Family is a puzzle game with a unique family tree theme that will keep players focused and thinking logically.
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Sudoku Junior Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on May 27th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: SUDOKU WITH PICTURES
Sudoku Junior includes different levels of difficulty as well as a choice of picture icons.
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Coolson’s Pocket Pack Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on May 9th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: WORDPLAY FUN
Coolson’s Pocket Pack is a polished word game, a great distraction for adults.
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Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on December 4th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: PERFECT PUZZLES FOR ALL
Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure is a perfect puzzle app for both young child as well as seasoned puzzle users.
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Coolson's Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on July 3rd, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

As some readers may have noticed, I do not personally review many word games. Very few word games gain my attention because I am terrible at these types of puzzles, finding them for the most part frustrating and demoralizing.

Therefore, it is quite a compliment from me to have enjoyed reviewing Coolson's Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet as it is a word game that has won me over with a charming narrative, wonderful sense of style and an abundance of whimsy that I have greatly enjoyed.

This app can be played as a straight word game with the Whimsy mode turned off or kept on to enjoy this game in a charming and fun context of a young adult looking for work when he is hired by Coolson’s chocolate factory where artisan chocolate squares are produced. Your job is to pack boxes with these chocolates, but you take it upon yourself to pack these boxes creating 2-5 letter words, many of which interconnect to create crossword-style shapes.

Simply drag the letters one wishes to play off the conveyer belt and place them in empty letter boxes, but do try not to let any chocolates fall off the conveyer belt and into the garbage as one loses accomplishment stars, although this game can be played long after these stars are lost.

For many levels, this game works for me, as the building of 2-5 letter words is less about spelling and the understanding of English language nuances such as where vowels and consonants are most commonly placed to think ahead, especially in terms of the interconnecting words one tries to plan ahead for.

I adore the charming illustrations that tell this story, the character of the boss, Mr. Coolson, a penguin with a gruff demeanor, and the scenes showing how the main character in this story spends the weekend - all delightful moments that kept me playing.

These illustrations, drawn by hand and presumably outlined in ink and colored with watercolors, are splendid, with lettering just as appealing, telling this very nice story that really drew me into this game.

I must confess that I have only finished the first month of this game, structured into three months as seen on a calendar of days that one works at Coolson’s. At first I really enjoyed the challenge and although I was not always quick at these tasks, I was able to happily muddle through these crossword-styled puzzles.

I do feel it is best to think about these word games fluidly as if one is married to a specific that one is trying to spell, as this way the game can seem dragged out and difficult, so it is far better to let the letters inspire words, finding the balance between planning ahead and the willingness to move things around when new letters become available.

Having said this, there are points later in this game where I have multiple intersecting words completed, and I am looking for a single letter which never comes - typical letters such as a “T,” “N,” or “S,” letters often chosen at the end of Wheel of Fortune for their commonness, including vowels such as “A’” or “E.”

Now I am all for changing the word I am trying to spell from “STOLE,” to “STORE,” or “SPOKE,” maintaining the other intersected word's wholeness, but there are times when none of these letters I need are offered, only the same letters unhelpful in the situation seen multiple times repeated, so I change the word I am trying to spell - if not the entire intersecting puzzle itself - and now new letters which are not useful are offered, including those I could have used before changes.

There are moments when this plays out where I ask for not easier game play, not fewer intersecting words, or fewer five-letter spellings, but for more, dare I say, “fairness” in these puzzles, as it can feel as if one is playing against a child who enjoys cheating, as I wait for minutes, as a test, for a letter remotely useable sent onto the conveyer belt, delayed as if by spite.

Harsh words, I know. Do understand that I find creating the word “cat” during Scrabble an accomplishment, so I am not truly the core audience for this or other apps like it, although I am pleased to say I had my moments while being on a roll where I collected achievement stars - moments I am proud of, making the delightful narrative scenes directly after all the more satisfying.

I am sure that seasoned word puzzlers would not have the level of difficulty any other way, and it is a compliment, even if a backwards one, to say that this app has upset me, as I typically would never get involved enough in a word puzzle app to care before deleting it from my iPad.

I would love to see a “relax” mode where the letters are found on the conveyer belt that represent how often the letter is used in the English language, with no letter being unseen within 26 random letters offered, instead of the withholding of important letters that I came across during these later puzzle levels.

On another note, I am very happy to report that the cut scenes starring the lead of this game and Coolson himself be seen in the Break Room found on the main menu of this app - good to know if you would prefer to play this game without interruption or would like to view the witty animation without completing each of these levels. I would also love to see how each weekend is spent as well - illustrations I greatly enjoy - as well as any other illustrated moments possible not already shown in the Break Room.

Also of note is the chance to battle both another player sharing the same iPad or with a stranger over the internet mode that I for obvious reasons have never tried. I will do so, however with my son when he gets old enough to play this game - in late grade school I assume. Soon after he will probably leave me in the dust unless he too inherits my lack of spelling ability.

Although I found frustration during parts of this game, I cannot talk highly enough about Coolson's Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet, especially for those good at word puzzles in general, as I am not.

I do, however, greatly and whole-heartedly appreciate the included narrative and cartoon-like, hand-drawn illustrations. This app is wonderfully realized for the app these developers envisioned. I would love to see a “Beginner” mode included in the future as well.

Pettson’s Inventions Deluxe Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on June 3rd, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Pettson’s Inventions Deluxe is a unique and highly engaging problem solving puzzle app for children as well as adults.

Meet Pettson and his cat Findus, and help them build fantastical contraptions while keeping in mind the laws of physics as players add different parts to the machine-like cogs and belts as well as unique items such as a ramp made out of cheese or a flower pot.

It is tempting to compare Pettson’s Intentions to a Rube Goldberg machine, and although I think this comparison has some merit, I do not believe it is spot-on as Rube Goldberg device solve simple daily problems such as turning on a light switch with the use of a convoluted and over-built invention. Here, however, there is more of a sense of nonsense as one may devise a way to open and close monster cages as the creatures when loose may scare an animal making it run, pulling a lever behind them, watering flowers to make them instantly grow which may lure a cow to graze, as well as tasks that could include washing a pig or making it snow around the house with the use of an ice cream cone and a windmill.

This deluxe app consists of the content of Pettson’s inventions 1 and 2 and includes six new puzzles as well as the ability to race the clock to play against someone as the screen of the iPad is then split and users play head-to-head on the same device.

It is worth noting that this app has a few really important options, as one can get a visual hint of how to solve the problem at hand by not just being told the object, but by also seeing a visual clue allowing users to see what it looks like to make a dragon happy instead of just hearing the description. Another option is to having only the parts needed for the specific invention or including other items that will not be needed for the puzzle, thus increasing the difficulty of these sections.

When ready to work on these puzzles, one will note that certain clues are given throughout, as pins to attach gears may be included, or there may already be gears within the invention that one needs to attach a belt to as well as pipes in need of being fitted or pulleys which take shape when dragged onto the invention area of the page, center screen, as all the items to be used in these contraptions can be seen lining the perimeter of the page.

As one becomes more familiar with these puzzles, the tools one can add to the inventions will become more familiar as they work consistently the same way from puzzle to puzzle, also noting that there is some color coding that is also included - a nice touch.

I also appreciate how the power to these inventions can be turned on while building to see how the plans are working so far, allowing players to see what more needs to be done.

For the most part, I find the level of difficulty in this app good, and I have been able to solve the majority of these puzzles on my own without too much frustration.

It is nice to know that one can find walk-throughs of much of this app on line if needed, as I did for a scene where one needs to suspend a weight in mid air, and I could not find the sweet spot from which to hang the anvil. It would be nice if the app had help like this within the app as well for children who may feel stuck.

Pettson’s Inventions Deluxe is a wonderful app for logic and problem solving. The inventions one creates are highly creative, and I am quite fond of all the quirky details found within.

Little Dead Riding Hood Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on May 2nd, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

When I first read about the app Little Dead Riding Hood, I assumed that it was a novelty platformer with zombie elements, as these types of apps can easily be found in iTunes, typically devoid of any educational value.

I am so very happy that I gave this app a closer look because my assumptions were totally wrong, as Little Dead Riding Hood is an interactive storybook app with both English and Spanish translations included as well as the highest of production values - a refreshing tale on this classic story of Little Red Riding Hood. Although I highly recommend this app, this recommendation is a qualified one, and here is why.

There is a lot of the macabre in Little Dead Riding Hood, and as I was enjoying this app, I did say to myself a few times with a smile, “Well, they went for it” in ways that will please or displease families depending on their sensibilities.

This is the re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, who has died many years ago, along with her parents, who from the grave want to kill Grandma and steal her inheritance. To do so, they come up with a plan to poison Grandma by sending the corpse of Little Red to Grandma complete with utterly poisoned food and drink. Grandma does get poisoned, dying a gruesome death, after first having defended herself from Little Red, living up to her old nick-name “Ramba” using any and all fire weapons in a scene that is glorious with presumed cartoon violence that also made me smile.

Styled with equal parts Tim Burton, Eddie the Mummy and Seth McFarlane, this app, with wonderful, top-notch black and white illustrations and bold pops of color, is an acquired taste that will offend some families a great deal. Others will really appreciate the humor and biting wit that this irreverent app offers.

The included narration is perfection, as is the included music and I appreciate how the book of this app is lengthy, with a page of text found on pages complete with beautifully hand-crafted and sepia-toned drawings, lovingly distressed in keeping with the style of this app. Do also tap these characters to read speech bubbles that add to the richness and fun of this rather odd application.

This is a highly cinematic app, so it is a real treat that this app also includes the original sketches and productions while still showing the making of this app - quite interesting indeed. Also appreciated is the menu of pages, always helpful to readers.

Make no mistake, this app included a rather dead and decaying Little Red, the graphically poisoning of a family member, guns and other military-inspired weapons which get pointed and shot at Little Red, a vividly farting wolf who later gets attacked by snakes, maimed in a metal animal trap and stepping on a bomb which explodes and launches the animal into the air, plus other details I am sure I have overlooked - all at the height of storytelling.

This is an app that I have chosen not to show to my five year old son, as he is a sensitive soul who would not enjoy this adaptation at this time, and I can understand parents of toddlers and the preschool set not having much interest in downloading this app as well, but for grade school and older children through adulthood who have acquired a taste for gruesome humor and parody, this is a perfectly realized application in every way possible.

Even though this app is one that many families will disregard as maybe they should, I would like to recommend this app for older grade school if not middle and high school students, especially those in media study, as great thought was put into the developing of this app as is seen in the included sketches, and adults can talk a lot about the choices made in this app, from modernizing a classic story to the satire as well as the dramatic structure - well-crafted in every way.

This app demonstrates to older children that the envelope can be pushed while maintaining a level of quality that cannot be denied, even if certain subject matter may not be for everyone.

Families will need to make up their own minds about whether or not this app is for their family, but I can say that I personally enjoyed Little Dead Riding Hood immensely, and I welcome other tales like this from an incredibly talented group of developers.

DragonBox+ Algebra Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 30th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

DragonBox+ Algebra is an interesting puzzle game that focuses on teaching children the basic principles of basic algebra along the way.

This is a an app which I have completed, and my feelings towards it varied depending on how far I had gotten during this game.

This app consists of five chapters, each with twenty levels that each include a fantasy creature who slowly evolves as these questions are completed. Four personalized accounts can be created, complete with an avatar to keep track of different players' progress - ideal for school settings as well as home with multiple players as well. An important bonus section, also including five chapters, is also included, as is a variety of different languishes.

The first impression is how high quality a game this is, with soothing yet suspenseful music and a mildly distressed, textured and pleasing-to-the-eye background screen which is the backdrop for these puzzle questions that users will be gazing at for some time.

This app is scripted, and one follows along the text explaining first how there are two sides of the screen and one box, plus other tiles that have a variety of images such as monster faces, birds, dragons or dice. The object is to isolate the box, removing the other tiles from the box side, until this box stands alone. To do so, add the opposite tile, removing this from the puzzle.

It is here that those with a background in algebra will understand how these puzzles are slowly forming algebraic equations, adding opposite tiles together, much like one would add negative numbers in the interest of subtraction, or how one must add the same tiles to both sides of the screen as you would to both sides of an equation. Later, the box is changed to a “X” and division of fractions is also touched upon as is multiplication.

I do wonder if this app is not overly theoretical as very little to no math is included in this app. This application is not about solving these questions but whittling down these problems until the equation reads “X = ...” Now students could presumably use their math skills to solve these problems, making my mind journey back to high school math with a teacher who would only take a point off if the last line of addition was incorrect but the other work shown was accurate.

To me as an adult, this app is a very nice exercise in answering these problems “algebraically” instead of with arithmetic - a concept this same teacher was at a loss to articulate, a failing of his I remember to this day.

I have enjoyed this app a great deal, feeling that it would have gone a very long way if I had been taught with this app during this math class. I do have my doubts that although children with no math basics will find this app fun and novel, they will not also find DragonBox overly theoretical in terms of being able to understand math beyond being some sort of parlor trick. I also feel the idea that a child as young as my five year old son could solve or truly understand a math question reserved for high schoolers dubious as these questions do not solve any real math, being devoid of numbers, while teaching these concepts in a way that some may take to heart, possibly with very good results.

Having gone through the first two chapters, it is too early to tell if my son will gain an understanding of algebra from this app, even with my explanations of how this app relates to later math - an important insight for this app to be anything more than an interesting exercise in problem solving. I do believe that this is a time that “not knowing the child is learning math” takes away from this experience. It would also be nice if these problems could include the solutions as without any hints or answers, users can hit a frustrating impasse.

I do highly, however, recommend this app to top math teachers who can thoughtfully explain how this app relates to algebra, alongside questions that include numbers which can follow through and solve during the teaching of algebra itself.

I also recommend this app to homes where parents or other adults can sit with their children and help them work through these levels, explaining how these parameters relate to later math, giving them a bit of a head start, but I do not think this app can live up to its potential without added instructions.

I would also like to note the importance of the bonus levels, not only as the content here is quite high (including five complete chapters, much more that I expected from a “bonus” section of an app), but it is here that much of what is being taught “clicked” for me in terms of true algebraic significance.

Even if my son is too young to fully grasp what this app ultimately has to offer, I would still be quite happy for him to complete these puzzles as an exercise in logic instead of algebra - still thought-provoking and still wonderful for pre-math and thinking skills in general.

I do hope that what my son may learn from this app he takes with him into algebra, such as performing the same functions on one side of an equation as the other, but I do think he would need to re-visit this app at a later time to gain full insight into what this app has to offer.

I do not find these points flaws in this app, but please do not expect preschoolers to truly solve high school algebra. They may possibly be able to isolate X, but this is not to equate an answer for what X represents, and I am ambivalent as to could recreate the experience with a pen and paper. I prefer for my son to look at this app as a unique logic game for now and an algebraic teaching tool later on when this app can take on more relevance.

One note I would like to make, however, is that this app can be at times un-responsive when adding tiles together, to the point that those not certain of their correct answers may try another way of solving these problems - an issue that I hope can be smoothed out in an update soon.

Cheesy Chess Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 24th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Cheesy Chess is a creative and fun mouse-themed logic game with heavy chess elements.

This app reminds me a lot of the slider puzzles I had as a kid where plastic tiles will ultimately make up an image but needed to be slid within this puzzle, keeping in mind that only one piece can be moved at once.

Here, imagine a mouse king who needs to progress through this slider puzzle at the top center to leave this board, but the other puzzle pieces need to be moved out of his way to do so.

The interesting chess elements included are that the pieces are each styled to look like chess pieces, with the option to view these puzzles using classic chess piece stylings or using mice which dressed as these pieces, such as king, queen, bishop or pawns.

As one may expect, these pieces move according to the rules of the classic game of chess - an interesting, effective set of parameters for this game of logic.

I appreciate how as each piece is moved, the other pieces now opened up are highlighted in green, and one can drag or simply tap these pieces to move them to their next spot on the board.

This is a very nice game for children new to chess, as it will re-enforce how these pieces as well as the other pieces move as well as how to look at the bigger picture of the chess board, planning future moves as well as seeing multiple options.

It is worth noting, however, that these puzzles become increasingly difficult rather quickly, so I would hope early chess players will be able to share this app with adults.

It would also be nice if each of these levels has the correct answer or hints available - an important inclusion often overlooked in puzzle apps such as this, but I do appreciate the chance to take a step back when the board is deadlocked to try more changes for a better outcome.

The mouse-player board is fun and charming with minor animation included as a reward for a completed puzzle - fun for children. The classic puzzle pieces mode will appeal to adults and older children, and with 100 levels among five stages, there is certainly a lot of content that older players will gravitate towards.

Although I can recommend Cheesy Chess to children new to the rules of chess, don’t let the name fool adults into thinking that this is simply a children’s game, as adults and teens will feel challenged in these upper levels as well, making this an interesting logic puzzle game that I can recommend to a wide age range.