Picky Kid Rating: 3.8
In Jungle Picnic, kids learn “proto-math” concepts in three engaging activities starring exotic animals. (Never mind that zebras and giraffes don’t normally live in jungles.) One of the reasons we downloaded this app was that it advertised activities embedded into an “engaging narrative.” As it turns out, the activities are so compelling that we almost never bother with the story. (Good and bad news, I guess!)
Upon opening the game, you’ll arrive at a cute start screen. There’s the familiar pulsing arrow that starts the game, and a subtle “For Parents” area in the top left. The “For Parents” area is well-protected. If tapped, you’ll be instructed (in writing) to do a two-fingered action to continue. And it’s not always the same. Once you get there, the “For Parents” area includes information on the educational concepts in the game, email signup and social media links. The start screen sometimes advertises other apps by the development team. Again, you’ll need to read and follow the instructions to actually go anywhere, so it’s unlikely your toddler will accidentally buy anything.
Oh yes, back to that pulsing arrow… Tap the arrow and you’ll arrive at a home screen where you can choose between two different modes: Story Mode or Game Mode. Choose Story Mode, and you’ll go to the first page in a book about the animal friends. A narrator reads the text on the page, and words are highlighted as they’re spoken. All scenes have some interactive elements, and when the narration has stopped, you can navigate forward or back via arrows at the bottom of the page. You may also swipe forward to get the next page, but not back. This is good — we’ve seen too many book apps where kids often accidentally swipe back to a previous page.
On some pages of the story, you’ll see a large play button instead of an interactive scene. Tap it to start a related activity (or tap the forward arrow to continue and just get on with the story). When you’ve completed the activity, you’ll get a sticker, then you can opt to replay the activity or continue the story. (And should you get tired of the activity before finishing, you can tap the book icon in the upper left to return to the story.)
Though the activities are related to the story, they detract from the overall pacing and flow of the narrative. They seem a bit too long, and the sticker reward system feels out of place… the continuation of the story should be the reward!
That said, the activities themselves are fantastic! B almost always goes straight to Game Mode from the home screen. I think she’s gone through the story just once or twice. In Game Mode, you can pick from three different activities: Fruit Collect, Basket Sorting, or The Picnic. These are exactly the same activities that are in the story. And although the names don’t make a lot of sense out of context, it’s quite obvious what to do once you’ve started a game.
In Fruit Collect (a misnomer — you’ll be collecting vegetables, meat, bread and cheese as well), you’ll need to feed the giraffe the food he wants by grabbing it out of the air as its flying by. And the giraffe is not always super specific. Sometimes he wants something of a certain color or shape. Sometimes he wants two, or even three things at the same time! In Basket Sorting (a misnomer — you’re not sorting baskets, you’re sorting food), you’ll need to place foods into the correct part of the basket. It’s easy at first, but as the animals hand you more and more food really quickly, you’re sure to be challenged to keep up with them! In The Picnic (actually a picnic — yay!), you feed each animal what they want to eat, and make them sandwiches. You can even use multi-touch to feed two animals at the same time. When you’ve completed any activity, you’ll be rewarded with a sticker and returned to the games menu. You can also return to the games menu at any time by tapping the home icon in the upper left.
The design and illustration of this app is relatively simple, straightforward and cute. The graphics and animations are well-executed. We particularly like how the animals’ eyes follow your movements in the picnic activity. The looped music can get a bit annoying, but it’s not too loud. The voiceovers (English-speaking adult female) are fine, but we’d prefer them a bit less “teacher”-like. It’s not possible to turn music off but leave voiceovers on.
Overall, we really like the game activities in Jungle Picnic. (With one slight content complaint: Why do the animals get two rounds of dessert? Most kids are lucky to get one!) Unfortunately, the story pales in comparison to the games. But it may be interesting to younger players who might have trouble with the concepts (or hand-eye coordination required) in the activities. We’d like to see more games added to give this app longer-term appeal.
[The developer of this app requested a Picky Kid review. No fees were paid.]Review: Jungle Picnic iPad App,
Played on: iPad2, iOS6
- Shiny Things