iPad App Review: Tangled: Storybook Deluxe

Tangled: Storybook Deluxe, Image: iTunes

This new app brings the world of Disney’s Tangled to life on your iPad or iPhone. Full of images and sounds from the animated feature, it’s sure to entertain young children with the opportunity for creative play and with gameplay that increases in difficulty for older players.

One section has memorable images from the movie broken up into puzzles that your child can drag and drop to reassemble. The colorful pieces line up on the side of the page and a slightly faded image of the puzzle appears for your child to match up with the pieces. Their larger size is perfect for the toddler set to manipulate and match. There are also coloring sheets with Rapunzel, Flynn, and their show-stealing horse so kids can get creative. Touching a color on the color palette and then dragging a finger across the screen fills in the image and lets kids get as crazy as they like as while exploring their artistic side.

And when they just want to play a game, there’s Floating Lanterns where colored lanterns just like the ones from the movie slowly float up from the bottom of the screen to bob at the top edge. Touch like colored lanterns to make them disappear, but don’t let too many collect at once or the screen fills and the game ends. There are three different levels so even the youngest players won’t be frustrated and older kids can still enjoy a turn.

The entire Tangled story is also there for your child to explore in several different ways. They can choose to listen as the story is read to them and the words light up on the screen to help them with their reading skills. Or, if they’re feeling more ambitious, they can turn off the narration and record themselves reading the story, or saying whatever they like, and then play it back later.

This is a fun and entertaining app for younger fans (ages 4-8) of Tangled and will keep them happily entertained and engaged. It’s available now in the iTunes store for iPhone and iPad at $6.99.

A copy of this game was provided for review.

Piece Me Birds and Piece Me Circus: A Great Way to Expose Kids to Art

Images: Fashionbuddha

One great way to expose your kids to art and new artists is through two new apps that are disguised as fun jigsaw puzzles.

Piece Me Birds and Piece Me Circus, from Fashionbuddha, allow kids to piece together puzzles of birds and circus acts as often as they like. Each app spotlights the artwork of one artist whose work most kids and adults will enjoy. Piece Me Birds showcases the art of Amy Ruppel, and Piece Me Circus highlights Alberto Cerriteño.

When you complete a puzzle, it moves into action, with singing birds, circus noises, and plenty of movement. The circus app has some overlapping pieces, giving an added challenge.

Kids play for the fun and get to see colorful, interesting art. Grown-ups will enjoy the artwork and can visit the artists’ websites for more information. There is a page within each app that gives more information about the artist, but the artist websites aren’t hyperlinked so you don’t need to worry about kids accidentally getting on the web.

Both Piece Me Birds and Piece Me Circus each cost only 99 cents and are great for kids of all ages. Jonathan Liu over at GeekDad also had a chance to review the apps in depth, and also interviewed Adam Sager who is Creative Director for the apps.

Note: I received a copy of both of the apps for review.

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Countdown to Christmas

It’s never too late to look forward to Christmas, for those of us who celebrate it. For me, Christmas is never just a one-day holiday, but a month-long state of mind that includes tasty food, merry music, and plenty of anticipation. As I mentioned recently on GeekDad, we also revel in doing several advent calendars each year.

This year, apps are contributing to our holiday fun. Countdown to Christmas is helping my kids keep in the spirit (as if they needed help), and it is filled with puzzles to assist you in, well, counting down to Christmas. The puzzles are all of the rearranging sort, but you can set the level of difficulty, and you can share the completed puzzles. To move the pieces, just tap two that you’d like to swap places. Once you complete each one, the puzzle also animates parts of its scene, such as snow, fish, or chimney smoke. All the while, lovely instrumental Christmas music plays in the background.

The main page of Countdown to Christmas changes for each five puzzles you complete. Once you complete the five on any particular main page, you unlock the next one, working your way through the countdown. Each puzzle, starting with the one labeled “24 days” and working down to “1 night,” shows various Santa-related images on his trip around the world to deliver presents. They’re not all winter scenes, since it isn’t winter (or winter weather) all over the world in December.

This isn’t a sophisticated puzzle app, but the artwork is cute, and the instrumental Christmas music is very tasteful (songs such as Oh Holy Night, and O, Christmas Tree). You have to use discipline to only do one puzzle per day, though, since it doesn’t take note of the date and stop you from doing the next puzzle. For your perseverance, finishing all 24 puzzles, you are rewarded by being able to launch Santa and his reindeer on their way to deliver gifts for Christmas.

Great fun for little kids, Countdown to Christmas is an added treat to do each day as they wait for Christmas day, but I wish there was more variation to the puzzles. Countdown to Christmas costs $1.99 at the iTunes store.

Note: I received a copy of this app for review purposes.

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Get the Group Together and Play Pajaggle!

Photo: Pajaggle

Spending so much time with my kids, I love activities and games that we can play together where we’re on an even footing, or will at least all enjoy equally. After reading Jonathan Liu’s review of Pajaggle over at GeekDad, I knew I had found something special. (Of course, I tend to like about 90% of what Jonathan likes, so that was also an indicator.)

Photo: Pajaggle

The idea behind Pajaggle is that it is both a game and a puzzle. The board and pieces are made of high quality plastic, and each piece only fits in one spot on the board. Many of the pieces look very similar, but are only slightly different. Also, some are double pieces, fitting one inside the other, which can trick you.

When you think of plastic, you usually think of the cheap-o plastic that toys are made of, the same toys that used to be made of wood 25 to 30 years ago and more. But Pajaggle pieces are a joy to hold. They feel cool and nice in your hands. The visual and tactile experience you get is pleasing in a way that you don’t get with most toys these days.

Photo: Pajaggle

The Pajaggle people hit the nail on the head with the description of the game/puzzle as “fun, curiously addictive, inclusive, and challenging.” We found all of those to be true. You find yourself wanting to go back and putting them together, again and again. The more you play, the more you want to play. And since you can play by yourself or with a group of people, playing Pajaggle is always an option.

There is no learning curve with Pajaggle. Sit anyone (age 3 and up), from anywhere, speaking any language, in front of a board with a pile of pieces and they’ll know what to do. As you play, you’ll learn the many different kinds of pieces, and how a few of them are almost identical, but not quite. This memory will serve you well the next time you play, hopefully giving you a jump on your competition, if you’re playing against someone.

Photo: Pajaggle

Despite the many pieces to Pajaggle, it is very portable because each board comes with a little black pouch to hold the pieces (they don’t really stay in the board when it’s flipped over) and a drawstring backpack to hold everything together. Along with the pieces, pouch, board, and backpack, you also get a timer and a white, weighty, microfiber “throw” which is for putting the pieces on when you’re playing so they don’t slide around the table. You also get some directions to play a variety of games by yourself and with others, but we found that the more we play, the more games of our own we think up.

Like with most puzzles, the more often you do these puzzles the easier they are. You get to know what pieces there are, how many of each type and what size, which little ones are the inner pieces, etc. So after a while, it is nice to have more than one board, which adds to the fun.

When we first got the Pajaggle boards, we played with them as straight puzzles for a while. Then recently, we finally tried some games. We played what I thought was a game I made up, but it turns out the Pajaggle people thought of it first, calling it Hand Wars. To play, you use one board and two sets of pieces. Each player tries to get as many of their pieces in the board as possible. The winner has the most of their color in. I won this, playing against a team of both of my kids.

We also played a game that doesn’t match up with any of the included suggestions. Take two boards, one for each person or team, and mix up all the pieces in the middle. Take pieces of either color to fill your board. The first to fill your board wins. The kids’ team won this one.

Pajaggle boards cost $29.99 and come in an extensive choice of colors. Be aware that some of the combinations include clear pieces, or a clear board, which make playing with them much more difficult. Pajaggle is great fun, but also has many educational benefits which are detailed on their website.

Pajaggle also makes Pajaggle Sport, which is made of high-density foam with much larger pieces. It is played on the ground and is great for large groups of kids and/or adults. The games that are played with Pajaggle Sport are physical, really getting everyone moving.

Note: I was given a discount on the Pajaggle boards for this review, but I did pay for them.

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Will The Baffler Puzzle Baffle You?

Bindu Truss. Image: Ceaco

In some families, Thanksgiving and other holiday gatherings mean a big jigsaw puzzle that everyone works on together on some out-of-the-way table. Some years, not enough people pitch in, though, and the puzzle never gets finished. Perhaps a smaller puzzle is in order?

Spiral of Archimedes. Image: Ceaco

The Baffler puzzle was created by Chris Yates. It is a great puzzle for one person to do in one sitting, or for a couple of people to do more quickly. It’s very portable, which is convenient for gatherings. And if many people want to do the puzzle, you can have contests to see who can finish it in the least amount of time.

The Baffler currently comes in three different puzzle varieties. I reviewed the Bindu Truss model. All three models look quite fun. The Spiral of Archimedes one looks a bit more challenging because the pieces change very gradually as you get to the center. The Nonagon looks the hardest to me because the pieces seem random and are all of a similar size.

Playing With The Baffler

The puzzle is made of a sturdy cardboard and comes in a sturdy cardboard box. The puzzle itself is shrinkwrapped to prevent pieces from moving around in transit. There is also plenty of room in the box for pieces if you can’t get the puzzle back together by the time you need to put it away. Once you remove the shrinkwrap, you can use the hole in the bottom of the board to easily push the pieces out. Each piece fits precisely together with the pieces adjacent.

Nonagon. Image: Ceaco

The pieces vary in color and each has a black border. This means the piece color doesn’t carry over to the next piece, so reassembly is all about size and shape. They all fit together snugly so they won’t come out or apart unless you take them apart. Each piece is unique, though I did find two pieces that were almost identical on at least one side. This tripped me up for one minute, but that was the only difficulty I had reassembling the puzzle.

The Baffler puzzle is a great deal of fun, but it isn’t too baffling for a very systematic person like me. I found it easiest to start building on the outside and work my way in. You get to know the subtle differences in piece size and shape, and then it becomes clear which pieces will go where. Overall, it took me less than a half hour to do it the first time I tried.

The Baffler puzzle is quite a lot of fun, and it is small and well made. It won’t take forever to put together, and it is a different take on the jigsaw puzzle. The Baffler puzzle may or may not baffle you, but it will give you a new puzzle experience.

The Baffler retails for $9.99 on the Ceaco website. The number of pieces in the three sets ranges from 67 to 78. I can’t find an age range listed, but I would say it was probably for 8 and up.

Hint: Take a photo of the puzzle before you take it apart the first time. Then, if you get really stuck, you’ll have something to which to refer.

Note: I received a copy of The Baffler for review purposes.

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