Picky Kid Rating: 2.9
Summer is almost here, and we have gardening on our minds! So to prepare the Picky Kids for gardening in our tiny urban plot, we picked up Dr. Panda’s Veggie Garden for the iPad to help us get in the spirit. In this app, kids can help grow and harvest different kinds of produce. Not as yummy as the real thing, but still a fun activity for those days when it’s too wet to be in the real garden.
Dr. Panda’s Veggie Garden is quite straightforward to get started. When it first launches, you’ll see a pulsing orange arrow on the screen. Tap it to enter the game. Or, tap the less-prominent “For Parents” button in the upper left where you can review the game, subscribe to the developer’s newsletter, like them on Facebook, turn off the promotion screen (recommended if you want to avoid seeing promos for other apps), and toggle sound and music. The For Parents area and the links within it are not protected, so it’s quite easy for kids to leave the game and end up on other web sites. But since the orange pulsing button is so much more compelling that the For Parents button, most kids will probably go straight for the game.
When you start the game, you’ll see a rural landscape with Dr. Panda’s produce stand. If you haven’t met Dr. Panda before, he’s a charismatic panda bear with tiny little spectacles, and in this case, a straw hat. I think the “Dr.” refers to the fact that he’s a professorial character in other games. At any rate, a customer will soon come driving up to the produce stand, and they’ll want to buy something (indicated by a thought balloon).
The first time you play, it’s not immediately obvious what to do when the customer comes. Our customer wanted potatoes, and there are potatoes in the stand, so we tried tapping and dragging the potatoes to give to her. This isn’t what you need to do — you need to grow the potatoes instead! Good thing the customers are patient and that growing happens rather quickly in this virtual world. To grow what the customer wants, tap the customer.
You need to do different things to grow different kinds of produce. (And, in the one of the pickiest of Picky Kid observations, the game’s name should really be Dr. Panda’s Produce Stand or just Dr. Panda’s Garden, because it’s not just vegetables that are grown!) For example, if it’s a root crop, like potatoes or carrots, you’ll have to get the moles out of the garden before you can plant. Yep, “Whack-a-mole” with a purpose! Then you’ll need to dig holes, plant seeds, and water your plants until they grow enough for harvest. You’ll know you’ve completed a step in the growing process when you hear a sort of jingly noise and things sparkle.
For fruits that grow on trees, like bananas, coconuts, and apples, you’ll need to dig a big hole, plant the tree, fill the dirt back in, then water and fertilize the tree before it will grow any fruit. Grain crops, like corn and wheat, need rain to grow. Berries and tomatoes are planted in a greenhouse, and each plant must be rotated in the sun before the fruits will all ripen.
There are times too, where you’ll need to protect your crops from pests, like crows, spiders, snails and worms. Sadly, you must also “kill” the ladybugs when they appear. Since ladybugs are beneficial in a real-life garden, it would be nice to leave them alone in this game!
Just as there are different ways to grow different crops, there are also different ways to harvest them. Some things need to be pulled, others picked, corn needs to be shucked, and wheat is harvested with a combine. When you’ve finished harvesting your crop, it will appear in Dr. Panda’s wheelbarrow. Tap it to send the happy customer off along their way!
Occasionally, you’ll be asked to do a garden chore before you can start growing produce. You may need to rake and mow a section of the grass, or organize the tools in the garden shed by dragging them into the correct positions. The interactions between objects in the garden shed activity can be a bit buggy — sometimes tools get stuck together, and once they wouldn’t stop shaking — but we’ve always been able to complete the activity.
If you ever get stuck, you can tap the orange arrow in the upper left-hand corner of the screen to exit the activity and go back to the produce stand scene, where you’ll get a new customer. The load time in between scenes is a bit long though, so be patient! One thing to note: You cannot choose what you want to grow — you just will have to keep waiting for a customer to want it. For some reason B is obsessed with growing bananas, and she sometimes gets frustrated when she doesn’t get the chance!
The graphics are pretty good in this app. We like the fact that, for the most part, the plants are reasonably accurate looking. Animations are simple, but fairly good as well. The sound effects and music are decent, though you may appreciate the separate toggles in the For Parents area so you can turn the peppy music off now and then. There are no verbal cues or voiceovers, so language is not a barrier in this game.
Expect to help kids — especially those who aren’t comfortable experimenting and exploring on the iPad, or who’ve never taken care of plants before — play a few times before they can grow all the food on their own. Younger or more inexperienced players may have some trouble with the trickier hand-eye coordination tasks, such as whacking moles or tapping moving spiders. We’ve also found some of the shoveling tasks a bit awkward for left-handed players.
Overall, Dr. Panda’s Veggie Garden is a relatively engaging game that can help kids learn about growing, caring for, and harvesting plants, and where fruits and vegetables come from. We’re finding its long term appeal a bit limited though. There are twelve different things you can grow, but only so many ways to grow them!Review: Dr. Panda's Veggie Garden iPad App,
Dr. Panda's Veggie Garden
Played on: iPad2, iOS6