Picky Kid Rating: 3.5
iPlay&Sing was among the first kids apps we got for the iPhone, and now, two years later, the Picky Kids are still playing it! This app is packed with activities, has few major flaws, and it’s free — without any in-app purchases even! — making it a very good value.
Upon starting the app, you can choose from seven activities. You can also choose an avatar and enter your name, so different players can keep track of the stars they’ve earned. Stars are earned by successfully completing tasks; in most activities five correct answers results in a star.
The activities include:
- Recognition: Select the correct item from a set of four. You can choose from sets of numbers, shapes, colors, letters and animals.
- Drawing: Choose colors and draw free-form with your finger, or select an picture to color. You can save artwork to your phone’s photo album.
- Differences: Find the item that’s not like the others, e.g. if a pig, a sheep, a crayon and a horse are shown, pick the crayon.
- Maze: Tilt your phone to navigate a ball through a maze.
- Writing: Trace a model with your finger to practice writing. You can choose from numbers or letters.
- Music: Sing along with music, record yourself singing, or play the piano. With the piano, you can learn to play (guides are provided to help play songs), listen, play free-form.
- Sequences: Choose the next number or letter in a three-digit sequence by using a spinner.
For each activity, instructions are given in english. And when I say that, I mean English — a pleasant British female voice. Instructions can be repeated by tapping the speech bubble in the upper right of the screen. It’s fairly easy to accidentally tap this, but doesn’t affect game play. American kids may have a hard time understanding some of the instructions because they’re presented with different language than we expect, for example in the Differences game, you’re instructed to “Choose the odd one out”. In the US, we’re much more likely to say “Find the one that’s different”.
Another cultural difference is evident when playing with letters in the Recognition game. The instructions are given with phonetic sounds instead of letter names, for example “Choose the letter, puh” instead of “Find the letter P.” American kids (the Picky Kids at least) are more familiar with the names of the letters than the phonetics. It would be nice if there were an option to make the instructions use letter names instead.
Speaking of options, there are none! The small info button in the bottom left of the start screen displays game credits, that’s it. The app could benefit from a couple of options: Changing the phonetics to letter names, mentioned above, and the ability to turn on and off different activities.
It would be nice to be able to turn on and off different games because the activities span a large age range. For example, two-and-a-half year old B has mastered Recognition and Differences, enjoys Drawing and Music, but the Maze, Sequences and Writing activities are too difficult for her. She simply ignores the Maze and Sequences, but is frustrated by the Writing — and I am too — because it’s not very consistent about what it considers a success versus a failure. I’ve been able to get a smiley face simply by tapping randomly above the tracing area at times!
Other minor complaints… The animals in the Recognition game are shown as colored silhouettes, and it’s easy to mix up “pink” and “pig” if you’re not very carefully listening to the instructions. And the recording time when recording yourself singing in the Music activity is too short (about 10 seconds). It would be nice to get two verses of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” in before it cuts off. There’s also no way to save your recordings outside of the app.
The game is not particularly interesting in terms of design. But it’s not annoying either. There is no background music.
Review: iPlay&Sing iPhone App,
Played on: iPhone 3, iOS 5