Picky Kid Rating: 4.2
Farm 123 teaches kids to count to ten and sort animals in a highly engaging app styled like a pop-up board book. Don’t let our list of minor issues below deter you… This is currently one of our favorite games for 2- to 3- year olds… And we’re simply living up to our reputation as picky kids!
The first time you start (or restart) the app, you’ll encounter several splash screens as the game loads. This may be to cover load time, which is fairly long. The first splash screen is the developer’s logo. The second one looks like an advertisement for Farm 123 (the game we’ve already started) — and it’s unclear whether or not you need to tap to continue (you don’t). This screen is confusing, and the app would be better without it.
When the game actually starts, it looks like a board book sitting on a table. You have three game-play options: Read, Autoplay and Games; options for language (English, German, French, or Dutch), a music toggle and info button, and the Story Toys logo. You may find yourself toggling the music off — it’s a version of “Old MacDonald” played on bells, and it can get old fast. I also recommend tapping the info button and turning off “News” — if you don’t do this, the opening screen will sometimes get hijacked with promos for other apps from Story Toys.
The three game-play options are pretty straightforward, though we’d like to see the order rearranged so that they progress more naturally — “Autoplay” should come before “Read” since it requires less interaction. Selecting any option “opens” the board book, which is rendered in 3-D with pop-up features and looks quite convincing! In Autoplay mode, the book will play and turn pages by itself. In Read mode, you don’t actually do any reading (the voiceover still narrates the text), but you’ll be prompted to tap to count animals, and you can turn pages yourself. Turning pages can be a bit challenging… because of the 3-D nature of the book you must grab the lower-right corner of the page and sweep it “up” in an arc. It’s quite easy to accidentally grab the edge of the book instead, which rotates the entire book!
As you tap animals to count them, a voiceover and numeral labels each one, and they are “grayed out” so that you don’t try to count them twice. The concepts are reinforced by a number drawn on the chalkboard at the bottom of the screen and the corresponding quantity shown next to it in little ovals. When you have successfully counted all the animals on a page, you’ll be rewarded with a fun animation (though some are a bit slow), and prompted to go to the next page by a pulsing arrow in the lower right (which gets around the somewhat awkward page-turning action).
If you select Games from the home screen (or if you count up to 10 in Read mode), you can select from seven activities: counting, catching, patting, finding, moving, spotting, and cleaning (though they aren’t labeled, so you’ll have to learn which is which!). All are variations on a theme: Can you count/catch/pat/find/move/spot/clean X number of X animals? In many of the activities, you must sort the animals as well as count them. For example, you’re prompted to “Move four pigs into the pen” but you’ll have to pick them out from the other animals wandering around. Completing activities earns stars of different colors. I can’t tell if the different colored stars correspond to the difficulty of the activity or not.
In general, we like Farm 123’s concept and the design. The illustrations and animations are cute and generally well-executed. There are a few odd things that happen because the illustrations are essentially flat (2-D) in a 3-D space — for example, when the animals turn around they just flip over like pieces of paper! Also, there a few details that could be better — for example, when B puts animals into the pen in the “moving” game, she drags them in through the gate (very logical, but not necessary — they can hop the fence!) — and in doing so, she drags them out of the book’s plane where they momentarily disappear.
The biggest complaint we have is with the English-language voiceover. It’s accented, which I don’t mind, but something about the accent bothered me. I asked a linguist friend listen to it… Her diagnosis? “It sounds like someone faking a Texas accent.” I can’t discern the accent in the other languages… but I’m not sure my French is good enough to hear “fake Texas” in French!
Review: Farm 123 iPad App,
Overall, we recommend Farm 123 for 2- to 3- year olds. It is a fun and creative learning experience with a lot of positive reinforcement for learning to count. Plus, it starts to teach numerals and quantities. On the downside, this game only counts to ten, so it has a limited life-span. There is a free version, so you can preview before purchasing.
Played on: iPad 2, iOS4
- Story Toys