Princess Lila offers ten activities for pre-schoolers in a fanciful and richly-illustrated setting. This app provides solid learning-entertainment for kids ages 3-5 with just a few minor hiccups. It can be tailored to different players by selecting different activities and difficulty levels for different player profiles.
When you first start the app, you’ll be greated with a colorful start screen and soft, gentle music. There’s a level selector (Easy, Normal, or Hard) and a bouncing arrow which quite obviously means “start”. Audio controls are available in the upper left of the screen (all audio, no music, or no audio), and there’s a settings area in the upper right. A “Parents” area in the lower left is protected by a 5-second tap-and-hold. Tap the bouncing arrow to start!
The next screen is a “select profile” screen, which allows different players to progress at different rates in the game, but is also confusing the first time kids see it. There is explanatory text, but expect to provide help and guidance to first-time players. The profile icons are different fruits. It would be more obvious to kids that the icons represent “players” if the icons were animals or people instead.
Beneath each profile selector are statistics for that profile: Characters found, jewels found, phoenixes hatched, ducklings hatched and dragons hatched. This is a nice way to see each player’s progress, and to understand some of the goals of the game, which are otherwise not very evident. (We haven’t yet managed to hatch anything, though we’ve found all twenty jewels and almost all of the characters!)
Once you’ve selected a profile, the game will actually start! It begins with a story that introduces Princess Lila and sets up what you are doing (looking for her friends). The story is illustrated with colorful vignettes, and narrated. You can turn the page by tapping the arrow in the lower right corner, or skip the story completely by tapping the word “Skip” in the upper right corner.
At the end of the story, you’ll arrive at a pastoral landscape scene, with lots of interesting things to look at, including a castle, trees, a pond, stream and path. Some, but not all of the items are interactive. The sun (at the top center of the screen) will prompt you to “Touch Here” to make something happen. The first time B played, she tapped the big white arrow pointing at the sun, not the sun itself. As you play the game more, this prompt goes away.
When you tap the sun, you’ll start playing one of the activities. There are ten different activities:
- Castle Building – drag pieces that match a model (and number) to build a castle
- Maze – drag a knight through a maze to find the princess
- Spelling – drag letters to make words
- Counting – tap objects to count them
- Fruit Sorting – drag different fruits into the correct baskets
- Alphabet – tap floating letters in alphabetical order
- Animal Feeding – drag food to animals that will eat it
- Dragon Finding – drag a torch around a dark cave to find dragons, then tap them
- Dot-to-Dot – tap stars to make pictures
- Matching – a twist on the traditional memory concentration game, in this case you are matching front and back halves of creatures by turning over cards
Princess Lila accompanies you to each activity, and introduces how to play. (There’s not a way to select which activity to play, by the way, it’s whatever the sun decides, I guess!)
The level you selected before starting (easy/normal/hard) affects the difficulty of each activity. In general, the “easy” versions include fewer items and more helper cues. For example, when playing the Alphabet activity in easy mode, you’re choosing from a set of six letters (instead of 26 in normal mode), and given a color cue for which letter to tap next.
Some activities are fairly “easy” at any level, like counting. Some are unnecessarily difficult… for example, you must be quite precise when dragging fruit into baskets while sorting, pulling the fruit all the way around the baskets and dropping it quite deliberately. We’ve had the fruit pop out of the basket when we dropped it less carefully. Also, the animal-feeding activity can be confusing. You naturally assume that each animal should be fed. However, you can feed an animal twice or more times, depending upon what they will eat (which is not always intuitive either – did you know that a pig would eat a worm?); this means some animals may go unfed. Unfairness is hard for pre-schoolers to swallow.
When you succeed at an activity, Princess Lila will reward you with some encouraging words, and you might get a “surprise” as well. Tap the arrow to go back to the landscape scene. You can also quit an activity before finishing by tapping on the “x” in the upper right corner of the screen.
When switching between scenes, be patient! There’s a bit of a delay between when the scene appears and when you can actually tap anything. This may frustrate younger players who think nothing is happening when they tap.
In terms of look and feel, we appreciate the custom and hand-drawn quality of the illustrations. They are quite cohesive, more artistic than “cute” and not cartoony at all. We also like the rich color palette. The animations are simple, but effective with a few exceptions. The mouth movements of talking characters are unnatural, and objects sometimes interact in strange ways when floating around on the landscape scene. (I notice these things, B does not…)
The voice-overs are fairly good, though parts of the story narration feel a bit forced. The music and sound effects are quite nice. All seem a bit quiet compared to other apps.
Overall, Princess Lila offers a good variety of educational activities for preschoolers in a richly illustrated fantasy-inspired world. The ability to change activities and difficulty levels gives this app good longevity as well.
[The developer of this app requested a Picky Kid Review. A fee was paid to expedite this review.]Review: Princess Lila iPad app,
Played on: iPad 3, iOS 6
- Octo Mini