Bottom Line: Fun idea to have characters based on historical figures but gets lost in uninspired preschool games. We also experienced long loading times.
I thought Base Camp Films' Historables app would deal with history and social studies, subjects which are in short supply in the app store. But, other than a brief, rather whitewashed recap of Marie's memorable reign, this is not the case. Her Royal Highness is merely the hostess who welcomes guests to her castle and narrate the games.
Historables is planned to be a series of apps. The home screen has pictures of Marie Ant-oinette, Spaniel Boone, Lionardo da Vinci and Teddy Bear Roosevelt. They make for a pretty diverse, but certainly interesting, cast of characters. I think Leonardo offers lots of possibilities given his stature as an artist and inventor. Marie is a less obvious choice as the lead-off character since she wasn't exactly a benevolent ruler or humanitarian. Kids will likely not get the joke in Marie's favorite food being cake although there is a certain humor in it given she is best known for allegedly saying "let them eat cake" to her starving subjects.
Pushing play takes users into the castle. Marie, the first of some nice animations, introduces herself and invites guests to help bake her favorite food - cake, get ingredients from the storeroom for more cake or enjoy some time in their own personally decorated chambers. The cake making activity is available as a free download. The other two require a $1.99 in-app purchase. In this case, the freebie is actually the best of the three so don't bypass downloading simply because there is an in-app.
The kitchen is actually two activities. First royal guests measure out the ingredients. Three cups of flour or sugar are required so the bakers must use some math and a bit of logic to figure out three cups is one pour from the two cup and a single pour from the one cup. Once the eggs and other ingredients are counted out, the glass bowl goes in the oven and out pops a cake. Unfortunately, cake is the only thing on the menu, and the necessary ingredients never change although the amounts required of each do rotate.
Decorating the cake provides just a few options in the way of decorations (1), icing (3) and sprinkles (4). Applying the sprinkles requires shaking the iPad which I consider a perilous activity for a preschooler, especially since it takes a lot of hard shaking which often made the screen go upside down. Also, the frosting options just change the cake to a certain color. Cake Doodle and Top 10 Preschool App Cookie Doodle (both 99 cents) do a much better job at recreating this particular activity.
The ant tunnels game in the storage room was fun and somewhat challenging. Worker ants must create passable tunnels by manipulating maze pieces in order to secure more ingredients for cake. It's a good logic exercise that could be difficult for the age group, but tapping the binoculars will auto-complete the task.
The decorate your own bedroom in the castle game might be fun if there were more than seven accessories. The furniture can't be rotated or adjusted in size. Everything changes color but there is only one bed choice, one bookcase and one mirror. If I were staying in a castle, I'd want an elaborate canopy bed, gilded mirror and a Louis XIV table. The revolution must be close at hand because I certainly would have expected Marie to do better given her reputation for excess.
There is a two paragraph summary of Marie Antoinette's life, accessible by tapping the castle. It does not offer read to me narration so parents must determine how or whether to convey the news of Marie's unpleasant demise. Other than having a name that lends itself to Disneyfication, I am not sure why Base Camp chose an infamous French queen who lived 200+ years ago. Her significance in history is not something which can be appropriately conveyed to the target age range for this app which is 4-6.
Finally, during our testing, we experienced long load times when first starting the app and VERY long ones when exiting the app and returning to it. We recorded load times of 30 seconds to over two minutes. No child is going to wait that long to play an app.
Overall, I was disappointed in Historables. The concept sounds great but the execution in this initial offering was lacking. Too many other preschool apps present almost identical tasks in a much more engaging fashion. Maybe the teddy bear and lion will improve upon Marie Ant-oinette and present content that is more original and lives up to the promise of Historables. History is, after all, full of just such turnarounds.
If you would like to download Historables: Marie Ant-oinette (FREE, iPad only with $1.99 in-app purchase) please support Smart Apps for Kids by using this link button:
SAFK intern, Kyle Goodman, told his boss Jill Goodman that he'd give this app four stars if you could Fruit Ninja Marie's head off. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.