Picky Kid Rating: 3.3
Little Genius combines four pre-school friendly activities in a game that gets progressively harder. Kids must complete each activity in a level before they can move on. This style of progressive play makes the app different than a lot of other kids apps that offer similar activities… and can prove frustrating at times in this otherwise well-done game.
When you first open Little Genius, you’ll arrive at start screen that shows an eager-looking kid/elf holding a book. He’s standing on a path in a pastoral scene with rolling green hills, a stream, and a few houses and trees scattered about. The temptation for B was to immediately tap the elf kid. This does nothing — to start the game, you’ll need to tap the signpost that says “play”. This is a fairly obvious second choice.
There are a few other tappable areas on the start screen, including a contact area (email form, facebook and twitter links), advertisements for the developer’s other apps (in two places… along the top of the screen and via a button at the bottom), a frog playing the guitar, and a settings icon (tacked onto the signpost). We wish it were harder for kids to access the contact area and advertisements. Tapping the frog will stop the music, and tapping the settings icon will allow you to reset the game (re-lock all levels). (I would be in BIG TROUBLE with B if I reset the game!)
All right — let’s start the game! When you tap the signpost, you’ll come to the home screen showing a sort of map… And our friend the elf kid will be standing on the first spot along a path. You’ll notice some treasure chests further along the path. Bummer… They’re locked and you can’t click on them. Click on the elf kid to play the first level of the game. This will start the activities.
First up: Memory matching! This is the classic memory game where the point is to turn over two matching cards. On level one, this is pretty easy because there are only six cards. You did it already? Great! You’re rewarded with a bit of horn fanfare, then the elf kid appears on the screen again with three options beneath him. You can replay (curving arrow on the left), see where you are on the map (dots and dashes in the middle), or continue playing (forward arrow on the right). The most obvious choice is to move forward.
Up next: Matching! In this activity, the point is to tap all the cards that match the one that wiggles. As you tap the correct ones, stars will appear on them. Tap non-matching cards and they fall off the screen. B would like to count the stars after completing this activity, but they’re quickly obscured by the elf kid (more time would be good). OK, onward.
The next activity is a drag and drop puzzle. The level one puzzle has just three pieces to put together. Finished already? I thought so.
The final activity in each set is coloring. The point is to paint the picture to match the example. You’ll need to tap your brush in the right color of paint, then onto the outlined picture to fill it in. When you’ve completed the painting activity, you’ll see an unlocked treasure chest instead of the elf kid. This means that you’ve progressed to a new level, and you’ll get a new set of four activities, slightly more difficult.
There are twelve levels in all. In the most difficult one, the memory matching and matching games have 20 cards each, the puzzle has 12 pieces and the coloring has 9 colors of paint and a lot of detail. This is a large range, and in some ways, it’s frustrating. B (3 and half years old) found the easy levels too easy, and blew through them as quickly as possible to get to more challenging material.
Once you’ve completed a level, you can return to it by tapping the corresponding (now unlocked) treasure chest on the map screen. To get to that screen, tap the “back” arrow (during play) or the menu icon under the elf kid or the treasure chest when you’ve completed an activity. It’s confusing to have two icons that do the same thing, and it would be better to use the same back arrow in both scenarios. The activities always start with matching, but if you’ve completed the level, you may select a different activity by tapping the icons at the top of the screen. A great addition to this game would be some sort of catalog of activities, a way to see and select particular activities that have been completed — B gets frustrated when she wants to play a certain puzzle because she has to keep tapping treasure chests until she finds the right one.
Something striking about this game: there are NO instructions. Nothing is written, nothing is spoken, there are no “tutorial” animations or anything. And there’s really no need for them. Despite the usability issues mentioned above, it’s pretty easy to figure out what you’re supposed to do.
Little Genius is pretty well done in terms of graphics and sound. The little genius (elf kid) himself is really cute, and slight animations give him personality. We love the pastoral background scenes. The animation effects for elements in the activities, such as cards flipping, are good, as are the sound effects. The artwork for the cards, puzzles and coloring pictures is not as special as the little genius character and the backgrounds. The music isn’t too obnoxious, but it can get repetitive. You can turn it off by tapping the frog usually visible in the top right of the screen. Sound effects will still play.
I have to admit, I expected a lot more fanfare when completing the last level. There was essentially no difference between completing the whole game and completing a single level. I thought we’d get to a new “land” or something since we’d managed to move our elf kid all the way down the path. But nope, nothing special happened. That was disappointing.
[The developer of this app requested a Picky Kid Review. A small fee was paid to expedite this review.]Review: Little Genius iPad App,
Played on: iPad 2, iOS6
- Little Beetle