Bottom Line: There's a lot going on here but it needs to refine its interface and educational content. Link below for a free trial.
In Adventures of Marvin and Mel Monkey: Word Rescue, two monkeys must rescue words that have been stolen from their zoo. The player controls the two by tapping left and right on the screen to catch letters, objects for points, and trophies, all while avoiding obstacles. In the first level, Soaking Up the Sun in Madagascar!, Marvin and Mel must catch bananas, mangoes, letters and trophies while avoiding coconuts, all thrown by a lemur from the top of a tree. One monkey at a time plays and if they both get hit by coconuts, the round ends.
When letters are caught, the monkey has to be maneuvered to a word at the bottom left of the screen to place the letters in the target word. So, for example, if the word is beach, the player must catch all five letters and place them in the word (either one at time or in larger numbers). All this must be done before a timer runs out.
* There are lots of levels. Four locations are already included (Madagascar, Hawaii, the Arctic and Thailand) and each location has 10 levels, meaning 10 different words to spell, for a total of 40 levels.
* The child has to watch a short demo video before starting. At first I thought this was a bad idea because I'd never seen that in an app but since there's a lot to learn here, it's probably a good idea.
* I like being able to press the left and right of the screen to move my monkey as opposed to having to use the accelerometer. I don't like apps that use the accelerometer in general but especially in learning apps for kids where they need to be paying attention to the screen.
* The app doesn't keep track of what letters the player has caught until they deposit them in the word. This means the player has to remember or they have to keep going back and forth, which adds a nice element to the gameplay.
Not So Much
* Neither the words or letters are spoken, and that's a HUGE missed learning opportunity.
* The app repeats the same whistling sound when playing at the first location, and I had to turn it off after two levels.
* The home screen is really hard to maneuver around, especially for an app for this age group. Creating a nicer one (without big cages) and moving all the buttons to a separate page with explanations for each would improve the appearance and functionality drastically.
* The app probably has a very limited age range. For most preschoolers (like my five year-old daughter), there is too much happening on the screen as there are A LOT of things falling. For my eight-year old son, the gameplay and words aren't challenging enough. I think this could make a very nice early elementary app, but it needs to slow things down and narrate the letters and words.
* There is a gift shop where money earned in each level, for each letter caught, that can be spent on new outfits for the monkeys. The gift shop isn't mentioned in the demo video or during gameplay though, so it (and a trophy room) could easily be missed by a child eager to just press play when they're on the title screen. Also, the outfits need more crazy, funny stuff like giant shoes and glasses.
* Each location's 10th level is a "boss" level, but there is no explanation on how to unlock it. When the first nine levels are complete for a location, the boss level can just be skipped.
* The app has prominent social media links to Google+, Twitter and Facebook, which many parents do not like.
I'd recommend downloading the free version and taking a look if this sounds like an app you think your kids would enjoy. Otherwise, wait for an update or two.
If you would like to purchase Adventures of Marvin and Mel Monkey: Word Rescue ($1.99, iPad) please support Smart Apps for Kids by using this link button:
This review was written by Ron Engel, who thinks all monkeys should wear big shoes and glasses.