Bottom Line: After nearly 100 years, Old MacDonald gets a nice facelift by adding a few new friends.
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My first thought upon opening ABC Theatre: Old MacDonald was "Oh for the love of...another farm app? The staff has played a joke on me, assigning this one for me to review."
And that's because, well, I'm tired of reviewing farm apps. It seems like every other preschool kids app has farm animals in it. Or animals at least. Anyone who has had an iPad for more than a month has downloaded several animal apps already. There are at least 23 Old MacDonald apps in the U.S. app store.
After begrudgingly tapping a pig for the umpteenth time, I was pleased to find that each animal in Old MacDonald & Friends has letter tracing of the name, a puzzle, a place-the-letters spelling game and find-the-appropriate-item. That's good because if the animals had just made a noise this review would have been about 10 words long.
1) In the tracing game, the letters traced are all uppercase with lowercase promised in a future update. The writing can't go outside the lines and arrows point in the proper direction.
2) For the puzzles, the animals explode into different pieces and have to be placed in the proper outlined spot. It does not allow for pieces to placed in the wrong places.
3) When the children play spell-the-name, the letter to be placed is spoken and has to be dragged into place. This makes even spelling words like penguin fairly easy and for the younger set just learning their ABCs the correct letter flashes a blue outline when the wrong letter is chosen, but it's easy to miss. An audio "that's not a "c" that's a "k" would be a big help here.
4) The find-the-match game presents three different items and the child has to identify which one is associated with the animal. For the chicken, for example, the child sees an egg, a bottle of honey and a bottle of milk. Obviously, chickens produce honey so that's the correct answer.
What really makes the app recommendable is that developer iQuiro expanded the song to get off the farm: Auntie Sophie has a house; Eskimo Joe lives in the snow; and Ranger Ben lives in the wild. Each of them has four animals to sing about. For Ranger Ben, for example, it's a giraffe, a tiger, a lion and a hippo. So, there are four characters, 16 animals and total of 64 games. Playful Sam is listed as coming soon.
That's impressive stuff and I really liked how they did something with the song so that it wasn't the same as the many other Old MacDonald apps.
The graphics are very good and present a puppet-show feel, although the human characters seem to chewing sometimes. Narration and music are also very strong. There is a nice acoustic guitar mixed with animal noises. I asked Eleanor to take a look and she said she found the app "cute and engaging."
There is also an interactive sing-a-long song, where the child can choose which animal goes next in the song. The words to the song, highlighted as they are sung, would have been a nice addition for older preschoolers. The names of the animals do appear, however. A hide-and-seek game is listed as coming soon.
There is a parents section with a link to rate the app that takes users to the app store and two buttons that go straight to an email. There are no social media links so that's nice. There is also a button on the title page that takes you straight to the app store to view the developer's The Alphabet Song app.
Although it's a bit of mix (not enough help for toddlers, too simple material for preschoolers) ABC Theater: Old MacDonald & Friend, I recommend the app. There's a lot of there there for $1.99.
Ron Engel, the editor of smartappsforkids.com, loves Christmas lights. "Because what is a party without cake? Well, it's still a party, I suppose. But something would be missing. Something... cakey." Eleanor Holland contributed to this review. smartarppsforkids.com was paid a priority review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.