Picky Kid Rating: 3.9
[9/22/2012: This app scored a 3.7 when this review was written. The rating was changed because several issues mentioned below have been solved by updates. See comments for details.]
Dr. Panda, Teach Me! is a collection of ten (or eleven, if you count exploring the animal scene) activities for toddlers. Kids are guided by Dr. Panda, a professorial-looking character who keeps the engagement factor high with encouraging words, animal sticker rewards and back-flips! This is a good collection for 2- to 3-year-olds, but older children will likely find it too easy.
The game starts on with a splash screen with a very obvious, pulsing start arrow. Kids have no problem finding it! There is also a “For Parents” area that explains the game and the developer’s philosophies to parents, and a settings button that allows you to toggle all ten activities on or off. This is a nice feature; it allows you to tailor the game for your child. You may also toggle the music on or off and change the language. English (American, though the British flag is shown), Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Dutch, German and French are available. You may find yourself turning the music off… it can become pretty annoying.
Upon starting the game, you’ll see an outdoor scene full of animals, plants and objects to explore. Almost every object is interactive, and the scene extends as you swipe left. The game’s activities are accessed via small signs sprinkled throughout the scenes. You may explore these scenes with all activities turned off, which would be a great way to introduce young children to this app, and why I think it can be played with kids under 2 years old.
The activities included are:
- Learn to Count (Count animals by tapping them, up to 10)
- Animal Puzzle (Drag & drop, 3-4 pieces pieces per puzzle)
- Hide and Seek (One or two animals hide underneath four baskets, you need to find them)
- Match the Cards (Four cards are shown face up, your job is to find the ones that match)
- Remember the Cards (Like “Match the Cards” but the cards are upside down, so it’s a memory game too)
- Know the numbers (Tap numbers to advance them, up to 20)
- Big and Small (Find the biggest animal out of up to six choices)
- Know the Colors (Find the animal with the correct color, out of four)
- Shadow Shape Match (Select the animal of a certain shape, out of 2-3 choices)
- Find the Different One (Tap the different animal, out of up to 6 choices)
The developer’s note to parents states that “the activities get progressively harder as your child masters the skills” but we haven’t noticed any change since we started playing this game. So either it’s very subtle, it doesn’t work, or we’ve already topped out at the most difficult levels. (Or… I suppose there’s the possibility that we’re not “mastering” the skills — but I doubt that!) …Which leads me to one of our complaints about this game — it’s not difficult enough to continue challenging children as they learn. It would be nice to see puzzles with more pieces and matching and memory games with more than four cards. [9/22/2012 This has been solved with update.]
Other things we’re not crazy about:
- The game takes too long to load when you first start it, and the loading screen is black for a bit, looking as if the iPad has crashed.
- When you get to the outdoor scene after first starting the tame, there’s an arrow that looks very similar to the start button, but it doesn’t do anything (I think it’s supposed to indicate that you can swipe to move the scene, but it looks like something you’re supposed to tap!) [9/22/12 – Solved with update]
- The background music is pretty annoying. Luckily you can turn it off. But, kids can turn it back on themselves because it’s part of the limited settings available during play.
- The English voiceover is quieter than the sound effects, volume control is difficult.
- I’d like to see more time spent on each activity. The way it’s set up, the activity changes after every three correct answers. After every six correct answers, Dr. Panda will reward you with a backflip and a scene where you can choose an animal to drag into your own zoo. One of the ways the game could progress is to increase these numbers to four and eight.
Overall though, most of these are minor, and B loves this game. She discovered how to change the language herself (it’s available from a limited settings menu that’s shown during game play) and has decided that she only wants to play in Japanese (or occasionally Dutch). The Dr. Panda character is very motivating, clapping when correct choices are made and encouraging kids with words like “Great!” and “Smart!” (or, in Japanese, “Sugoi!” and “Jozu, Jozu”).
Dr. Panda, Teach Me! offers a lot of activities for the price and will certainly entertain toddlers. Its biggest drawbacks are the lack of difficulty and annoying music. There is a “lite” version you can try for free before purchasing the full app to see if it’s right for your family.Review: Dr. Panda, Teach Me! iPad app,
Dr. Panda, Teach Me!
Played on: iPad 2, iOS4