Picky Kid Rating: 2.5
If you’re ready for a break from brightly colored cartoonish artwork in your kids’ apps, Locomaster offers a refreshing alternative. This exploratory game is designed with a muted color palette and collage-style illustrations. Learning opportunities are somewhat limited, however.
The game is easy to start. On initial launch, you’ll see a soothing rooftop scene with floating clouds and a large, pulsing arrow that kids won’t miss. But this picky (and curious) parent finds issue with the two little gears under the s in the Locomaster title. They look like settings icons, but are really just part of the title graphic.
After tapping the start button, you’ll be greeted by a little boy in an odd machine, called the Locomaster. Tapping either (red or green) pulsing button on the Locomaster will transform the kid into a variety of creatures. You may tap on the creatures to have a little adventure! But you’ll have to be patient – the adventure scenes are often slow to load.
Adventure scenes start by showing a row of houses with windows. You can explore by tapping various windows to take your animal character inside. Not all windows are active for all creatures; you may only enter windows that are open (and further cued by pulsing). This is a little disappointing, since the first creature (a bee) is able to enter six windows, and subsequent creatures may enter only one or two. It feels as if the developers ran out of steam and launched the game before completing it.
Most of the activities in the game are tap and drag challenges. They range from simple, like scrubbing the elephant in a bathtub, to more complex, such as racing a turtle against a car along a track, or making a mouse jump at just the right moment to land on a moving car.
When you’ve fully completed all challenges associated with a creature, an icon appears in a visual menu on the right side of the Locomaster screen, presumably to let you know you’ve completed that task. It seems like you should be able to direct-navigate to an adventure scene via this menu, but you can’t.
The game’s options are limited – you may turn background music on or off during game play via a toggle that looks like someone playing a saxophone. But the music is quite subtle, and not very annoying, so you’ll likely let it play. You may also return to the window scene (if available) or the Locomaster scene to change your character.
Overall, Locomaster is nice to look at, and fine to listen to, but not particularly educational or engaging. It could be improved by speeding up transition time between scenes, changing the sound effect when feeding the crocodile strawberries (B thinks the crocodile doesn’t like strawberries because it sounds like he’s saying “no!”), by allowing multi-touch on some scenes so that parents can help with the more tedious tasks. I’d also like it better if the adventure scenes with the bee were less focused on scaring people.
While its design is a plus, Locomaster leaves some to be desired in its overall user experience, and the activities span so large of an age range that a child engaged by the simpler ones will find the complex ones too challenging.
Review: Locomaster iPad app,
Played on: iPad 2, iOS4