Picky Kid Rating: 2.4
We’re back! We’ve just returned from a well-deserved technology break (aka a camping vacation). That meant lots of family time and interaction, so it’s fitting that we’re reviewing a multiplayer family game today. Happy Geese is an iPad app based on two childrens’ board games, The Game of the Goose and Snakes & Ladders. The games are somewhat complex to set up, but easy to play.
We reviewed the free version, which limits the game board options to two simple boards per game. That’s enough for us right now, but if you want to purchase the more complex game boards, they’re available as in-app purchases ($1.99 per set).
Turn the volume down before starting the game — the music is unusually loud, and we find it annoying as well. When you start the app, you’ll first need to choose which game you want to play. We’re familiar with Snakes & Ladders thanks to the classic Chutes & Ladders board game. We hadn’t ever played The Game of the Goose before, but it’s pretty straightforward. In case you need some extra instructions or game rules, there’s a question mark button on bottom left of the start screen. Tap it for detailed game rules and instructions on how to use the app.
One thing that the instructions on the start screen don’t cover is how to set up players for the games, which you’ll need to do before you can start playing either of them. Upon selecting a game, you’ll come to a game configuration screen, where you get to set up boards, options and players. We tried tapping on the empty “holes” to create players, but that doesn’t work (unless you happen to tap the very small text that says “name” below the hole). The best way to create players is to first tap the pencil button and then drag avatars to the “holes”. Then the keyboard will pop up and you can add a name. (Note: we just found another set of instructions… The question mark icon from the configuration screen has detailed instructions about configuring. D’oh! But in our defense, it’s strange that there are two sets of different instructions that share the same icon.)
Once you have your players set up, things are more straightforward. Drag icons from the players panel at the bottom of the configuration screen to the empty “holes” around the game board. You can have between 1 and 4 players. Then select a game board from the left-hand panel, and options for the game from the right-hand panel. The options are different depending on the game you’re playing. For example, in Snakes & Ladders, you can choose to play without snakes, or without ladders. Both games offer options for the kind of die to use (more about that later), whether or not you must have an exact match to win the game, and board highlighting. When board highlighting is turned on, the square players must move to will flash, helpful for young kids who may have trouble matching patterns or counting accurately.
Once you’ve set up your configuration, press the green arrow in the lower right of the screen to start the game. Side note: your configurations are saved. This is nice because once you’ve set everything up, a pre-schooler can easily start new games. It would be nice if the green start arrow were more prominent on the configuration screen though.
When you start a game, a spinner will randomly determine which player goes first. That player’s avatar/game piece will flash, and the die will be placed on their side of the board/iPad. Tap the die to “roll” it. Then drag your game piece to the correct square, wait for the next player’s turn and repeat. Game play is quite intuitive. One odd thing though, is how pieces are moved “out of the way” so that another player can pass. It would have been better to design the game boards to accommodate all the icons in one square while still allowing player to pass. The motion of the non-active game piece throws B for a loop since it’s “not their turn!”
When somebody wins the game, you’ll see an animation showing their avatar bouncing up and down on a podium with a satisfying cheer. The rest of the players continue the game, and when each person gets to the end of the board, they’ll see a similar animation, so essentially everybody gets a chance to “win”. When all the players have finished, you can go back (to the options screen) or restart the same game.
In our opinion, the best things for preschoolers about this game are:
- They must practice taking turns
- They can learn colors, shapes, symbols, letters (just vowels), and numbers as they practice with the die, and there are many ways to make this learning more challenging. (See the instructions from the start screen for a detailed explanation of the differences in the die options — they’re a bit hard to figure out just by looking.)
The design of the app is polished but boringly functional. What we mean by that is that all the graphic elements are well rendered, but there aren’t any extras to make the game more engaging for kids. For example, the slightly textured blue background behind the game boards are functional (they make the game boards stand out), but B prefers more complexity/interest. That may be one of the reasons this app doesn’t to spontaneously played very often at our house.
There are voiceovers to reinforce the symbol, color or letter that’s been rolled on the die, and these are quite good (American English). But we really don’t like the circus-like music that accompanies the start screen and configuration screens. As mentioned before, it’s too loud, and there are also various animal noises in it (quacks?) that are pretty annoying. Luckily it stops when you start a game!
Happy Geese isn’t super popular in our one-child household. It would likely be played more if there were multiple kids around. It’s worth downloading (c’mon, it’s free) to introduce pre-schoolers to turn-by-turn board games, but be prepared to spend a bit of time helping with the configuration screen before you can turn them loose.
[The developer of this app requested a Picky Kid review. No fees were paid.]Review: Happy Geese iPad App,
Played on: iPad2, iOS6
Price: Free, with in-app purchases