Bottom Line: Fast moving color and pattern matching game for quick thinking preschoolers. It currently features a fun Christmas overlay complete with carols soundtrack. On sale until Dec. 28.
If you would like to purchase MagiKid Train at a substantial discount ($2.99 iPad/iPhone limited time sale, regularly $8.99) please support Smart Apps for Kids and use the following link:
Each year at Christmas SeaWorld transforms its Journey to the Artic helicopter ride into The Polar Express with some 3D magic and effectively placed shiny presents and other trappings of the season. Angell Echo has done much the same with its app MagiKid Train. A snow-filled tree farm background, bells and a wreath on the train, and the MagiKid puppet conductor wearing a Santa suit all make for a festive feel to go along with what is a happy time for most kids.
The app moves at a fairly frenetic pace for tiny tots so the Dashing Through the Snow and Jingle Bells intro music sets the mood well. Like MagiKid Circus, this app has no written or verbal directions. There is a phantom hand that demonstrates sliding objects into the cargo hold of the train, but otherwise, it's up to tots and their parents to figure out what to do. Apparently I'm not Smarter Than a Preschooler because it took me minute to realize what was expected. There are three speed settings which is good because kids (and their tired moms) need time to think on some of these.
The app menu has a banner of different squares featuring various shapes and colors and patterns. These are used to pick the next activity. Some of the squares have yellow orange yellow orange so it's apparent that is a pattern recognition module, but others were a mystery until the game started. I often missed the first pass of the train because I was slow to decide if I was supposed to be matching colors or shapes or a pattern. Some exercises required two variables to be matched which is pretty ambitious stuff for a little kid to contemplate at Christmas T-minus 3 days.
Once a square is selected by sliding it into the cargo car of the train, the train pulls out and when it returns, the activity begins. The train will pass by with several hoppers filled with animals, or shapes or brightly colored lollipops. Kids must discriminate what feature they have in common and pick the proper match from a field of 5 choices at the top of the screen. While they are deciding, the train keeps cranking along the track; so if they are slow, it will pass without the last cargo bay being filled. There is a pause button at the top right of the screen so that will buy some time, but using it is kind of cheating in a sense.
Kids earn one, two or three stars depending on how many matches they get right in the allotted time. Subsequent levels are locked until the preceding one is mastered. There are presently 9 squares from which to choose and 8 levels per activity so that makes for a fairly solid workout for an impressionable young mind. The activity of sliding objects into the cargo hold of the train remains the same throughout play, but the variety of skills addressed is pretty broad and the shapes become more abstract representations as play progresses.
Colors, shapes, categories and patterns are all worked into the mix. And of course, there are the requisite farm animals. Even if your child knows their colors and shapes, this app is still a challenge as the variations presented are rather complex. One game showed a flag with three stripes of different colors. Kids then had to select a present wrapped in that color sequence. Another variation had kids choosing between colored lollipops with candy cane stripped sticks.
Christmas is worked into the app throughout the different games as well as the background theming. One pass of the train had the cars filled with different objects associated with the holiday like a wreath, stocking and sleigh. If your children have been watching their TV specials and you've been downloading all the great free apps for Christmas we've featured recently, this particular level of the app should be a cinch. It really is a surprisingly good mix of learning and festive fun.
Several developers tricked out their apps for Halloween and others, like Angell Echo, have done the same for Christmas. It's a nice bonus and can give an app that has maybe fallen out of favor a fresh new look. For parents, it's win-win as you get a Christmas app that's good for more than a month. I just hope the update comes by early 2013 as Jingle Bells and flashing icicle lights that linger after New Year's Day are verboten in my book.
Jill Goodman wishes all her friends in AppLand a Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy and Prosperous New Year! smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.