Picky Kid Rating: 4.4
Leo’s Pad is an ambitious project that presents a ton of learning activities in interactive video-like animations on the iPad. The videos are formatted almost like TV shows, and are called (quite appropriately) “Appisodes.” We tested Appisodes 1 and 2, and the preview for Appisode 3. They’re quite well done — but the video-like format requires a time commitment. It takes a half hour or longer to complete an appisode.
Kids who have learned about “kid shows” on TV or Netflix will likely think of Leo’s Pad as much as a show as a game. And the appisodes have all the trappings… Animated characters, decent plots, and musical interludes. Interspersed with all that are interactive learning opportunities, where you have a part to play in the plot by doing things like painting a card, building a telescope, finding something, and counting, to name a few.
Appisode 1 of Leo’s Pad comes free when you download the app. Each additional Appisode is available as an in-app purchase for $2.99. You’ll get a preview of the next appisode, which makes it very tempting to keep purchasing them. Currently, there are three appisodes available — a fourth is on the way. Because the free version of the app includes all of appisode one and a hefty preview of appisode 2, it almost seems like a let-down when you purchase appisode 2, because it’s a lot less content than you already have. But appisodes 1 and 2 are a great value for $2.99!
The first time you start the app, you’ll need to set up a Learner. This is a relatively straightforward process, and allows you to keep track of multiple players. Some of the activities seem to adapt (get more difficult) as you master them, so having separate learners helps keep the difficulty level appropriate for each player. There’s also an option to set up “Parent’s Pad” — which shows statistics for each learner.
Assuming you’ve set up a learner, getting started is simple — tap a learner’s name/icon, and a still from Appisode 1 will appear in the middle of your screen. Tap it to begin playing, or swipe it to select a different appisode. Then, watch and play!
The activities in the first appisode (“Gally’s Birthday”) include:
- Finding Leo’s pet dragon Cinder by looking behind objects with the shapes and colors specified
- Assembling a telescope from pieces (like a puzzle)
- Painting a card for Gally’s birthday
- Counting rocks as you put them into a catapult
- Steering a flying machine towards the correct number of clouds
- Finding letters in the stars, and spelling words (for advanced players)
As you can see, that’s a lot of learning! And you’ll learn to listen carefully as well, since the instructions for all activities are verbal. Most activities are drag and drop style, but you’ll need to tilt the iPad left and right to steer in the flying scene. That can be challenging for younger/smaller players.
Appisode 2, “Rocket to the Stars” introduces a new character, Marie. (I’m a bit embarrased to admit how long it took us to realize that the characters are supposed to represent Leonardo da Vinci, Gallileo, and Marie Curie — it was hearing Marie’s French accent that finally did it!). The activities in this appisode include:
- Tracing shapes with your finger to draw a rocket
- Listening to three-part instructions to mix rocket fuel
- Sorting colored rocket parts
- Learning “left” and “right” by steering a rocket
In any appisode, you can get a menu by tapping the learner icon at the top right of the screen that will let you navigate to different scenes in the story, get your “email” (as part of the show), change the learner, tap a telescope (I’m not sure what that does) or go back to the home screen. If you tapped the home icon, you’ll get a prompt asking if you really want to exit the appisode. I understand why this is done, but all the text is written — it would be better if non-readers had some more visual cues.
The animations, storylines and voices are really good — on par with what you’d expect from a kids’ show on Nick Jr. or PBS. There’s a slight choppiness when the video parts of the app switch to interactive games… but it doesn’t distract much. The animations on games where you tilt the iPad left or right to fly could be improved though… they currently don’t feel very realistic, and that’s a disconnect because almost everything else in the app feels very natural!
Occasionally, the background music and voiceovers compete, making it hard to hear the instructions. We’d also like it if the music and graphics faded between scenes, instead of hard-cutting. (Yes, we’re nitpicking now.) Oh, since we’re nitpicking… B noticed that the kids aren’t wearing their seat belts in the rocket in appisode 2! Our biggest complaint about the app is rather subjective… we don’t care for the songs.
You must speak English to play this game! There are no other language options. In fact, there are no options at all. There is a “For Grown-ups” area that you can access by entering a code with the keyboard. Here, you can restore purchases, purchase new appisodes, add new learners, connect to facebook and sign up for or open “Parent’s Pad.” Parent’s Pad is a tracking tool that allows you to see how and what different learners are playing. We had some trouble setting up our account. We have a long email address and after we entered about 15 characters, the keyboard response got so slow that we thought the app had crashed. Eventually it worked, but we had to wait minutes between typing each of the last few letters. There are a few other usability issues with the Parent’s Pad — hopefully some of the bugs get worked out because it seems like a useful tool.
Overall, we highly recommend Leo’s Pad, if you are willing to let your child play for an extended period of time. The learning activities are very good, and the format is engaging and unique. The drawback is that it’s addictive and there are only three appisodes so far.
[The developer of this app requested a Picky Kid review. No fees were paid.]Review: Leo's Pad iPad App,
Played on: iPad2, iOS6
Price: Free, with in-app purchases