Picky Kid Rating: 3.7
Pixel and Parker combines a story and a board game in a unique app for kids. The mission is simple: Parker needs to find his cat friend Pixel before it gets dark. Using a spinner like those found on a traditional board game, kids can push Parker along a path, helping him solve problems along the way. It can get monotonous for adults, but seems to hit the spot with the pre-K crowd.
When the game opens, you’ll be greeted by the smiling faces of Pixel and Parker, and a large green pulsing arrow will help you get started. If you haven’t finished the last game you played, the green arrow will take you to the spot where you left off (or there is an option to start over — nice if you want to get the whole backstory). You also have the option to change Parker’s shirt (more about this later!) or see info about the developer.
When playing the story, you’ll need to interact with each scene in order to progress to the next page. Visual clues are almost always given, so you’ll know where to touch. These are missing in a few screens, but we haven’t gotten stuck yet! A green arrow in the lower right will show up when you can turn the page.
After turning a few quick intro pages, you’ll arrive at a game “board” with a spinner in the middle, and you must spin to help Parker move along the path to find Pixel. When Parker lands on a square, you’ll need to help him do something before you can spin again. In these scenes, clues are not given — you’ll need to figure it out yourself — but it’s not too difficult. (If you’re stuck on something, comment below, and we can help!). When you’ve completed the task, a small icon of the spinner will appear in the lower right, tap it to continue. Eventually, you’ll make it all the way back the the house where [spoiler alert!], you’ll find Pixel, safe and sound. At that point the story continues until Pixel and Parker fall asleep.
There are about 30 different “squares” you can land on, each with a different simple puzzle to solve. I find myself wanting to play without the spinner — sometimes I’d just like to jump to a particular activity (especially for the purposes of writing this review) — but that’s not possible, and probably shouldn’t be. Oh, by the way… some squares have presents on them! If you land on one of these, you’ll get a new shirt for Parker, and it will be available for him to wear from the home screen next time you play. As you can imagine, presents are Extremely Motivating (even if they are just shirts), and sometimes B is disappointed that she doesn’t land on one.
In terms of design and sound, this game is fairly well-done. There are a few odd animations, like how Parker eats apples (whole, and with a disjointed looking jaw). There are no options to turn music off but keep the sound effects voiceovers so you’ll have to listen to them both. The narrator is a friendly male voice in American English. We also appreciate the outdoor setting, and Parker’s interactions with suburban wildlife (the squirrel noise is quite accurate).
The game is intuitive and easy to use. Our one complaint is that sometimes the spinner doesn’t work, and we have to try several times before it will go. Since this is crucial to game play, it should be effortless. It also might be interesting to add a voiceover as Parker moves from square to square — like you’d do when moving a token on a real board game — for example, “You landed on three! One, two, three.” That would help kids understand the concept of how the spinner relates to the game, as well as reinforce counting skills.
Also, it should be noted that this is a single-player game. Unlike most board games of this type, it is not a race to the finish. For that reason, it might not be interesting for kids who have experience with multi-player board games.
Overall, we enjoy Pixel and Parker. It’s a great introduction to a spinner-type game for young children, and it encourages kids to think about how to solve a problems in the situations presented. The novelty wears off after it’s been played for a while, but B keeps coming back for the “presents.”
[The developer of this app requested a Picky Kid App Guide review.]Review: Pixel and Parker iPad app,
Pixel and Parker
Played on: iPad 2, iOS5
- Spinlight Studio