Thursday 2 August 2012

The Froobles App (Top That! Publishing, iPhone / iPad)

Our first app of the week award goes to a real doozy. The Froobles from Top That! Publishing, is exactly the sort of app that other publishers and developers need to take a long hard look at before they leap into the foray of producing educational and engaging apps for kids.

Available free at the moment (Free until the 6th August with in-app purchases for extra character stories), The Froobles gets the balance of packing out the 'free' version of the app with so much content that you'll definitely be back for more.

With engaging fruit and vegetable characters acting out stories (read by showbiz luminaries like Johnny Vaughan and Denise Van Outen), the app doesn't just stop at fun and entertaining stories, there are some seriously neat little activities in there too.

We'll skip mentioning the matching pairs game (sigh, how we hate those!) and take a look at the other more interesting stuff.

The colouring game is fun and allows your child to colour in scenes from the stories, and the characters too. It's all very easy to use with a slick user interface that most toddlers will be right at home with (let's face it, kids are far better at using these things than we are - but anything that means they aren't screaming at you to change screens or games is always most welcome).

There are some neat little phonics games where children can match up letters to complete puzzles of words. The only drawback here is that the app does allow you to drop in the puzzle pieces in any order, I think it would've been better and more educational if kids had to follow the proper order of the word but if you're joining in with them, you can always encourage them to do this yourself.

The animated story is fun (Johnny Vaughan seems to be an excellent children's narrator, who knew?) and leads neatly into the real star attraction of the app.

Using pre-set scenery (though, here's a future idea guys, how about letting kids draw their own?), you can drop in characters and props and build your own mini plays. Setting the iPad to record your efforts, you can move characters in real time and even record voices as they 'speak'. Needless to say, the more educational parts of the app were swiftly brushed aside in favour of this, and Charlotte spent hours playing with it. Again there's the slight niggle of having the waste bin (which you can dispose of unwanted bits and bobs in) too near the 'stage' at the top of the screen so you'll have to teach your little ones not to get their characters too close to this or they'll lose them during their plays.

Minor niggles aside, this is easily one of the best toddler-friendly apps we've seen. Additional stories are charged at the rather reasonable sum of 69p (with Chloe, Tessa and Orlando amongst the extra character stories available now).

As a standalone freebie download though, it's still absolutely packed to the gills and really stands out in a sea of fairly mundane and samey apps, so grab it while you can.

Charlotte's best bit: The play maker, an absolute work of genius.

Daddy's favourite bit: Slick user interface, plenty of content and very nicely produced.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, App of the Week