Picky Kid Rating: 3.7
Maya the Bee – Flower Party is a richly illustrated app with six learning activities that appeal to toddlers and preschoolers. There’s a range in difficulty in activities, so expect to help younger kids with some of them. Also, don’t expect to ever get to the actual party — it seems this game is really about preparing for the party, as opposed to the party itself.
When you first start the app, be patient… this one takes a while to load! You’ll be rewarded for your patience with an opening animation in which the main character, Maya the bee, pops out of a flower. (B loves this!) Then you’ll come to a home screen with a fairly obvious pulsing start button on a sunflower.
From the home screen, you have a few other options. You can change the language for the game (it’s available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Turkish, Russian or Japanese) by tapping the flags in the upper right. Tapping the settings gear in the lower left will allow you to see credits, reset the game, or toggle background music on or off. There’s also a TV in the upper left that has several protected links for parents.
Let’s tap the sunflower arrow to start! You’ll arrive at a magical-looking forest scene. The first time you play, you’ll hear some narration from Maya, asking you to help prepare for her birthday. You must swipe the screen to see the right side to continue. There, you’ll find a grasshopper (I think) lounging on a leaf. He’s got a pulsing white spot behind him, so I guess we should tap him!
When you tap, you’ll be prompted to play a game in which you need to pop bubbles with characteristics that the grasshopper is thinking about. The voiceover instruction says he’ll be thinking of numbers, but the first time you play at least, he’s actually thinking about colors. There’s a visual example of what he’s looking for, so a child doesn’t actually need to know their colors to complete this task. When you’ve popped all the appropriate bubbles, you’ll get a new entertainer for the party, and you’ll be automatically be returned to the main party scene.
Now, you must swipe the scene so that you can see the left side. There’s another bug ready to play! Tap this one for a memory matching game. After completing a few games, you’ll get new party guests in the party scene. These new guests come with more activities. At this point, you’ve unlocked all the activities, though until you explore the game a bit, it’s hard to know what you’ve got. Here’s a cheatsheet:
- Tap the green bug on the left screen for memory matching – where you find matching bugs by tapping flowers to open them (only the pink flowers are active).
- Tap Maya the bee on the center screen for music – where you can switch instruments in a three-piece band to hear variations on Three Blind Mice.
- Tap the bug on the left mushroom on the center screen for hide and seek – where you need to find bugs hidden in the scene. This bug will move after you’ve completed the next activity. If you want to play hide and seek again, look for her popping out of flowers in the scene.
- Tap the bug on the right mushroom on the center screen for drag and drop puzzles – these will be either jig-saw or peg puzzle style.
- Tap the green grasshopper in the right screen for the bubble-popping vocabulary game described earlier.
- Tap the glowing outlines (they may appear in any screen) for tracing activities.
As you complete activities, you’ll unlock new presents, party decorations, etc., for the party. The activities seem to get progressively harder the more you successfully play them. For example, memory matching starts very simply, with just four or six choices, but as you play, the number of choices increases (we haven’t gotten past eight yet, but I think we could!)
Our favorite activities are the music and bubble popping. We like the music because there’s enough variety in the song to keep it relatively interesting (especially if you switch instruments a lot). It’s also quite cute how the performers bow when you leave the scene (by tapping the back arrow in the lower left, which you can do in any activity to get back to the main scene). In the bubble popping game, you may be prompted to pop bubbles based on color, number, size, or some combination of these things.
Our least favorite activity is the tracing. We find one item in particular, the honeypot, to be extremely difficult to trace successfully, even for adults (the trick seems to be to go clockwise instead of counterclockwise). B often gets frustrated with this one and gives up. She traces with her left hand and I think she can’t see the line she’s supposed to follow very well.
This is an exploratory game. Once you’ve unlocked all the activities, there’s little direction given, and you’ll hear fewer voiceovers. It’s worth tapping things to see what they do, you’ll find a few surprises. One thing we feel is missing though, is some sort of finale – or a way to actually start the party! Since the setup for the game is that it’s Maya’s birthday, there’s an expectation that we’ll see a cake and sing Happy Birthday at some point, and I don’t see a way to make that happen.
In terms of design, this game has its plusses and minuses. The scenes are richly illustrated, quite detailed and beautiful. The bug characters are cute, but their rendering is a bit rough — there are some hard edges and pixelation that I find detracting. That doesn’t bother B, but one thing she did notice is that Maya’s mouth doesn’t always move when she talks. (And when it does move, it’s not very realistic.)
The background music is repetitive, but not too loud or annoying, and it can be turned off via settings, if desired. The English voiceovers are fine, but there are a few awkward scripting moments – like “an item of food” (instead “something to eat”), and “adorn” (instead of “decorate”).
All in all, Maya the Bee – Flower Party is solid app for toddlers and preschoolers that offers some good learning opportunities in an immersive and exploratory environment. Some kids may be frustrated by its lack of direction and the difficulty of some activities, but its diversity gives it some longevity. We’d love to see party scene added!
[The developer of this app requested a Picky Kid Review. A fee was paid to expedite this review.]Review: Maya the Bee - Flower Party iPad app,
Maya the Bee - Flower Party
Played on: iPad 2, iOS6
- Mixtvision Digital