Bottom Line: A non-violent superhero game which reinforces basic spatial prepositions while playing. Good, but not really exciting enough to ensure much replay value.
Rhinomite is not a bird, not a plane, but a rhinoceros superhero created by Mrs. Judd and KBooM Games. The child’s task is to fly this rhino through and above the city of Rhinopolis, avoiding trucks, signs, cars and wrecking balls and collecting coins which can then be cashed in to obtain a new wardrobe to customize the superhero. The distance Super Rhino flies each time is measured and players are encouraged to beat their longest journey.
In the flooded market of cutesy children's apps, it’s nice to see one that is going to appeal to kids, and boys in particular, who have grown past the generic baby and toddler apps and into more adventurous games. The app is designed in old-school comic book style, a la Batman and Robin. But instead of CRASH BAM POW, there are pop up ‘splash’ instructions such as over, under, beneath, around and through, teaching players spatial prepositions while they direct Rhinomite's flightpath. This original take on action heroes makes for a nice introduction to what can be a difficult concept for some kids.
There is however, an awful lot of SPLAT, as I spent quite some time running into obstacles. The concept is straightforward, but the actual maneuverability is a bit clunky and takes some getting used to. There is a tutorial available and I would suggest turning it on until you and your children get the hang of the gameplay. Part of the difficulty is the 3D graphics are also somewhat blocky, making it hard to judge when to make your move around/above/below/between the obstacle. So, instead of jumping buildings in a single bound, poor old Rhinomite tends to spend a lot of time faceplanting them.
In addition to distance, collecting coins is a goal, and the coins can be used to dress Rhinomite in all sorts of humorous attire, including a tutu, a clown suit, robot hands, and turning his horn into a flower or birthday cupcake. I’ve got to imagine that trying to fly with a cupcake and a lit candle attached to your horn has got to be distracting at the very least, but he is a superhero and obviously oblivious to such trivialities. The coins collect in increments of 10 which is handy for reinforcement when learning to count in tens, and there is a little subtraction table that pops up at checkout in the add-ons store which is a nice touch. There are a quite a few of these little thoughtful touches throughout the app which have been deliberately incorporated as a way to reinforce core concepts while playing the game.
The Parents/Teachers section accessible from the main menu has a detailed letter from Mrs. Judd, a retired early childhood teacher, about the many educational features in the app which may not be readily apparent. It also suggests how to expand upon the app by encouraging children to use the prepositions introduced and similar ones in their own dramatic play. The letter also includes more information on the specific U.S. Common Core Standards addressed in Rhinomite.
I like the concept of this app, giving the child an opportunity to play superhero in a non-violent setting and teaching prepositions along the way. It could, however, do with some refining in the graphics and controls. There are better-produced apps available for a better price, but this one fits a nice little niche market. It’s just not quite interesting and entertaining enough to entice children back to it time and again. As edutainment, it somewhat misses the mark.
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Ellie Holland, a member of the Opera Queensland has contacted Rhinomite's agent about the possibility of recording a duet. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.