Thursday, 28 July 2011

Little Princess: I Want to Play!

Here at ReadItDaddy, it never ceases to amaze me just how children take technology in their stride. A tiny box that speaks, plays video or music is not magical in any way, in fact we've had experiences where Charlotte has actually looked for the 'on' switch on toys that were never designed to make any sort of electronic bleeping noise, or lull her to sleep with a song or two. 

Naturally, when she sees me using my favourite iOS device, she wants to have a go - and thankfully there are a raft of kid-friendls iPhone apps out there for children to play with (I'm not quite nutty enough to buy an iPhone btw, I drew the line at an iPod touch). 

In the first of an occasional series, we'll be taking a look at apps aimed at children. As we were given the opportunity to review the new "Little Princess: I Want to Play" app, we thought we'd christen "Play it daddy!" with it. 

Developed by Jick Jack, the Little Princess app is actually four minigames in one. Fans of Tony Ross's superb books, and of course the Channel 5 / TV LoonLand Animated series will instantly know who the Little Princess is. She's a rather mischievous little royal madam, and gets up to all sorts of pranks and mishaps during the course of her interesting little life. 

The app has been designed to appeal to younger children, and my fidgety three year old impatiently waited for the introduction scene to finish before diving straight into the first of the minigames, "Dressing Up". 

Here you're given the opportunity to drag and drop clothes onto the Little Princess. Everything from a pirate hat and eyepatch, to some swimming togs and even a nurse's outfit. 

Charlotte struggled at first with the drag-and-drop mechanism for this minigame. It is a bit fiddly, and the arrows for scrolling through the selection of clothes for head, body, accessories and feet could've been larger. Some tweaking is needed with the selection and dragging of clothes too, as it's all too easy to accidentally remove an item you've just lovingly placed. Though Charlotte said this was her favourite of the four games on offer, it was also the one she found most frustrating. From a parental point of view, the selection of clothes on offer for The Little Princess is in keeping with the show and the books, but is really on the stingy side. There could've been a lot more to choose from and also a little more care in the presentation, more sound effects perhaps? It all felt a bit too...quiet. It's a nice touch to allow children to take pics of their favourite Princess outfit and these are stored under your photos folder. Watch out for this though, you can very quickly end up with a device full of princess pics!

Moving on we next took a look at bath time. Here you're given the opportunity to bath the Little Princess' two prized pets, Scruff the pooch and Puss the cat. The 'gameplay' is essentially the same in both cases - a test to see how quickly you can soap up the hapless puss or pup, covering all their muddy bits, before popping all the soap bubbles that cover the screen afterwards. 

Charlotte had a lot of fun with this and though it's extremely simple, she had a good few goes at it before wanting to move on. 

We tried the Bunny Pop minigame next. This is probably the weakest of the games on offer, essentially a Little Princess flavoured version of "Whack-a-Mole" though in this case you're bopping bunnies on the bonce. Taking care not to whack Puss or Scruff by accident, the game is a bit unfairly punishing and seems to zero your accrued score if you do hit your pets by mistake. Charlotte found it a little frustrating, and often the similarity in colour and markings between the bunnies and the Princess' pets caused her to hit the wrong one by mistake and get a bit upset about it (of course, this is the aim of the game but not exactly an easy thing to explain to a three year old!)

Lastly we tried the Pairs game. A simple selection of cards is laid out on screen, face down and the player must match the pairs of Little Princess characters to clear the game. Of the four games on offer, this was the one Charlotte spent the most time on (being fairly familiar with 'pairs' from a real set of cards she sometimes plays with). Great controls, easy to pick up and with some spot effects to make things a little more interesting, Pairs was nicely done. 

Taking a look at the app overall, the presentation was OK but could've done with a truckload more Little Princess assets in it. For the price (£1.99 is fairly steep for something this shallow when you consider that some of the best iPhone apps and games are 69p) the developers could've done a lot more to make it feel like good value for money rather than something a parent would probably buy simply because of the links with the programme and the hope that it will keep their little one quiet for a while (but then again you could level the same criticism at virtually any kid app on the iTunes store). 

Visuals are in keeping with the books and TV show, so they're instantly identifiable to little fans. 

The app probably works far better on the bigger screen of the iPad rather than the iPhone / iPod Touch screen, so perhaps the few niggles about the size of controls wouldn't be an issue for iPadders who are nutty enough to trust their youngsters with such a prized piece of kit. 

Many thanks to Fiona Williams from Just Williams PR for the opportunity to review the app. 

Charlotte's best bit - Dressing up the Little Princess
Daddy's favourite bit - Trawling through and deleting the reams of photos Charlotte took of the Princess' favourite outfits :)

Rating: 2 out of 5

Little Princess: I want to Play on the iTunes store (£1.99)