Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Night Zookeeper - Teleporting Torch (Interactive App) by Wonky Star

What happens at the Zoo when darkness falls? Call the Night Zookeeper!
We'd not encountered Wonky Star's pair of "Night Zookeeper" apps before, but when they rather kindly contacted us to offer us a promo code for "Night Zookeeper - Teleporting Torch" we were rather intrigued. We're still at pains to point out that it takes something a bit special, a bit unique sounding, and with a good dose of creativity and learning at its heart to make us dive back into the app reviews scene and luckily that's exactly what's on offer here.

"Night Zookeeper - Teleporting Torch" isn't your ordinary everyday drawing app. In fact some parents might actually fall at the first hurdle - as we nearly did - as Night Zookeeper asks you to register an email address as part of the app's interactive features and the unique way it works.

Panic ye not though, if you're already familiar with the concepts behind "DrawSomething" by OMGPOP, you'll be OK with this. You use an email address (your email address) to register, and then you can put in a child's name or nickname as a Zookeeper name - so that they can begin to play with the app and download daily special missions to earn their Zookeeper stripes.

Largely these take the form of mini drawing challenges. For instance, your child might be asked to draw what happens when a wonky shelf full of paint falls on one of the zoo animals (Aiieee!) or perhaps even draw a picture of a holiday destination they've always wanted to visit.

New challenges become available daily, and these are downloaded to your iPad through the app. Once children have completed a drawing, they can add a bit of explanatory text to explain what's going on.

And here's the first problem - but one that could potentially be easily solved with a patch. The app uses the standard iPad apple keyboard for text input, which is great if your children are old enough to know their uppercase (capital) letters but not so great if your child is Charlotte's age, and has been brought up only recognising lower case letters. Some apps neatly get around this by re-mapping the standard keyboard input to something a bit more phonics-friendly but this isn't the case with the Night Zookeeper app.

Luckily with a helping hand from me, and a bit of patience, Charlotte soon got her head around leaving little notes to accompany her drawings.

Actually on the subject of the drawing interface, here's the potential second problem. The drawing interface tool bars appear / disappear as your child touches the screen - they're not constantly switched on (probably to save a bit of drawing space around the edges perhaps?) This is massively distracting and means that children get a little frustrated with the tool / colour selection. In fact it was such an annoyance to Charlotte that she mainly stuck with one colour, one tool while drawing and didn't want to change. A static tool bar set and palettes would've been better for us but I'd be interested to know if any other folk had the same issue.

It's a cool idea though, so please don't let our little niggles put you off. Basically this is an app with a huge amount of creative potential, that will perhaps break your children out of the mould of just drawing the same old things every time they sit down for a bit of iPad finger painting.

Night Zookeeper - Teleporting Torch is available from iTunes, priced £1.99

You can also pick up Night Zookeeper - Drawing Torch for free via the following link:

Find out more about the apps at the Night Zookeeper Website