Bottom Line: Children earn stars playing build-a-word and jigsaw games that can be used to purchase items for a uniquely customizable virtual bedroom.
At the start of Word Book and Puzzle Box HD, by Anlock Apps, the user has the ability to upload a child's picture, which is then put in a frame and hung on their in-app bedroom wall, something my daughter Madelynn enjoyed very much. The player also chooses from four color schemes (blue, red, a pink-like color, and green) which are applied to the starting room colors. Four players and their individual games can be saved.
The player clicks on the Word Book or Puzzle Box, at the foot of the bed, to proceed. The Word Book includes 30 words from three to six letters which must be dragged to the appropriate spot. Each completed word unlocks a new one. The player is shown an animal, such as a dog, which can be moved around, and the appropriate letters, and the narrator sounds out the word and then the letters when pressed. Sometimes, the app presents letter combinations such as “er,” “ck,” and “se” to help develop familiarity with those word parts.
If spelled correctly, the narrator repeats the spelled word and the pictured item makes an appropriate sound and moves around a bit.
Each word earns one to three stars based on how many times it has been completed, so spell cow once and get one star, spell it again for two, etc. Each time the word is spelled the frame gives away less clues. The first time the boxes are lettered and colored to assist. The second time, the colors give away the matches. The third time, there is no assistance.
Other words must be purchased via the in-app purchase in two sets at 99 cents each. Ads for the additional sets are prominently displayed on a selection screen each time each game is played so if ads for in-apps bother you, don't download the app (or decide ahead of time to buy the sets.)
After each increment of five stars, a pop-up screen appears and the stars can be redeemed for an item to be used to decorate the bedroom. Madelynn enjoyed having choices ranging from toys to rugs, bedding, and wall hangings. I think children will enjoy the sense of accomplishment in seeing their room come together and altered to their preference. The player can also press x to not redeem their stars at that time.
The multiple-choice prize suggestions offered are valued at or near the number of stars the child has. I would prefer if more prizes were displayed, including a few above the number of stars the child has so they can decide if they want to "save up" for something much bigger. I remember when I was in the first grade and being dedicated to earning a soda from the teacher’s lounge; granted, all they had was diet and it tasted terrible, but I had earned it.
The second game, Puzzle Box, takes the animals from the spelling game and turns them into a puzzle. As with the first game, this option has three star levels. The first time the puzzle is completed, the image and outline of the piece are presented for easy mathing. The second time, only the image remains. The third time there is no help and some of the puzzle pieces must be rotated.
Some puzzles are of a specific animal with a non-puzzle background, while others are a puzzle of the whole screen, including the background. The player does not know which one will appear and that's a nice twist.
The background music is soothing and does not distract from the game play and the narration is good, with encouraging phrases throughout.
There are no instructions in the app, visual or otherwise. There are also no settings if you wanted to adjust the difficulty levels manually.
Overall, the customization options and built-in increasing difficulty help the app stand out from a very crowded field of animated-related letter and puzzle apps. Take a look.
If you would like to purchase Word Book and Puzzle Box or try the free trial version please support smartappsforkids.com by using the links provided. Thanks!
This review was completed by Jessica Jensen and Ron Engel.