Picky Kid Rating: 2.6
Oh no! A tornado has blown through the town, making it a big mess. Your job in Stack ‘N Puzzles is to help an industrious beaver named Stack put everything back in its place. It’s essentially a drag ‘n drop puzzle, more sophisticated than most puzzle games aimed at toddlers, but with some significant drawbacks.
The game is easy to start — a large, pulsating arrow marked “PLAY” is the largest thing on the opening screen. The first time you start the game (or if it has not been played in a while), you’ll be introduced to Stack in a brief video. Then you’ll see a map of the town where Stack lives, with blank spaces where buildings and vehicles belong.
To get the game going, tap Stack’s “magic toolbox” to access the things inside. If you’re slow, an animated white-gloved hand will point to the toolbox, prompting you to tap. Inside Stack’s toolbox, you’ll find a building or vehicle that goes in the town. As soon as you’ve placed it on the map, you’ll be taken to a scene where you need to put items where they belong in that particular building or vehicle. Once again, everything you need is in the magic toolbox.
Items must be dragged from a panel on the right of the screen to the correct place in the scene on the left. Clues to the placement of the items are provided by black “holes” of the same shape. The hole is not necessarily the same size as the object presented in the panel, so this game helps kids learn to recognize similar shapes in different scales. Each object is labeled with text, and when “grabbed”, a voiceover speaks the object’s name (in American English only). There’s also a corresponding sound effect.
The drag and drop action is fairly precise — you must let go of the object very close to its intended position to get it to stick. If you’re having trouble finding where something goes (you have dropped in the wrong place twice), a red arrow will help direct you to the correct location. This is a nice touch, and almost necessary in some scenes where similar objects (e.g. a red bed, a blue bed and a green bed) are presented in the same scene.
We like the reward sequence (balloons which can be popped by tapping) when a scene is complete, and the action on the “EXIT” or “MENU” button. It requires a finger slide, making it difficult to trigger by accident. EXIT takes you back to the map; MENU allows you to “reset the map” (bring the tornado through again to mess everything up) or change settings. The only available settings are to turn music and language off or on. Sound effects still play when music is off. With language off, the voiceovers and written text labels for objects are removed. Strangely, turning language off doesn’t turn all the voiceovers off, Stack will still announce “You found the fire station” when you open his toolbox.
Our biggest complaint is what we call “emergency mode”. As you rebuild Stack’s town and return to the map scene, various events will start to happen. For example, children will be let out of school, fires will spring up, and the T-Rex will escape his cage. When this happens, you can come to the rescue by dragging the appropriate vehicle to the scenes of the disaster. Sometimes multiple disasters occur at the same time. While older kids might enjoy this, it’s too confusing for younger toddlers, and it actually scares B (age two and a half). She says “No want to see scary dinosaur” and covers her eyes when we return to the map scene. It would be really nice to be able to turn off the emergencies for younger kids.
Other minor complaints: Small objects appear fuzzy and pixelated in the right-hand panel because they are not the correct resolution; some object label text is too long for the panel and gets cut off; the children on the school bus are doing things that in real life would get them in trouble; and there are some objects we’d prefer our kids didn’t touch, for example mousetraps!
Stack ‘N Puzzles will introduce a new range of vocabulary and provide a welcome challenge for kids who’ve outgrown very simple drag and drop puzzle games, but isn’t recommended for kids who may be frightened by fires and runaway dinosaur skeletons.
Review: Stack 'N Puzzles iPad app,
Stack 'N Puzzles
Played on: iPad 2, iOS4
- 77 Sparx