Bottom Line: Good, visually interesting graphics, simple game play, and just enough variation make this an endearing app with significant replay value for the budding preschool pilot.
If you would like to fly the friendly skies, download Wombi Airplane - build your own plane and fly it! ($1.99 iPad/iPhone) using the TSA approved Smart Apps for Kids link:
We are no strangers to Wombi apps here at Smart Apps for Kids, and nearly every app we've reviewed or featured has been enjoyed in my household. This made me excited to get the chance to review the newest offering, Wombi Airplane. My recent review of Blue Pilot proved that I'm lacking a lot in aviation skills, so I hoped to have better luck with this one. Wombi Airplane is geared toward preschoolers, making it just perfect for my gaming ability! There are even three levels of difficulty—choose one star for the fewest obstacles, and up to three stars for more navigation challenges.
When starting the game, the user builds an airplane in the style of Toca Boca's popular Robot Lab. Three choices appear for each airplane component, and the young flight mechanic drags them into place. I liked the variety of airplane sets, and it's fun to choose matching pieces or a hodge podge for a nearly unlimited number of unique airplanes. The shark plane was my favorite; I would love to have some more silly designs, like a cow plane or a plane that looked like a train. Still, the interface is smooth and easy to understand, just what I look for in an app for young children. There is also an option to save a picture to the iPad photo library—for some reason, this feature is always a huge hit with my five year old daughter.
After choosing plane body, wings, tail, propeller and seat, a cute raccoon (fox? I should know this) drops in to pilot, and the plane is ready to take off. This is where young children will need a little guidance at first—the plane flies up when the screen is tapped, and drifts down and crashes with no taps. Holding down on the screen makes the airplane fly at the top of the screen. It's a little tricky to figure out the exact timing at first.
The goal is to fly safely to the airport, picking up packages on the way. The packages will appear in the sky, dangling from balloons. However, there are also birds, mountain peaks and an evil skunk flying in a hot air balloon that must be avoided. Sometimes avoiding the obstacles is tricky, especially when the package to collect is right under the skunk!
That's where the preschool-level factor comes in handy. Every time the plane hits an obstacle, the plane "crashes" and loses a package (if there is one to lose). However, game play continues, seemingly an unlimited number of times, until the plane finally arrives. This is perfect for preschoolers learning game play (and for me with weak gaming skills!)—there is continued practice in navigation with limited consequences and always eventual success.
After completing the route, the packages collected (from zero to three) are opened, displaying jewels, gold, and other fine treasure. The user receives stars based on the number of packages collected, and the game returns to the home screen to begin again.
There is some challenge in the game, even for me—in the most difficult level (three stars) I was never able to get to the airport with all three packages intact. (Though my ineptitude at gaming is already established!) However, the game is not frustrating for young players since they eventually get to their destination safely.
The levels are short enough that the game will be fun for reinforcement with my younger students at school. Some of the kindergarten and first grade students love simple game play, and I appreciate games that are over quickly so we can still squeeze in as much therapy as possible.
The landscape background graphics are also fun—it changes each time the game is played. Shared game play can lead to good discussion about the differences in sky, trees, and mountains in each landscape. The app can also be used to work on descriptions using color, pattern, and location words.
The Home page does have connections to Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feed, Email, and the App Store in the info section, which also includes written directions to the game for parents who are as bad at game play as I am! I would prefer to see the outside links with better restrictions for the random tappers.
The app also lacks any kind of "return home" button during game play, and there is not a pause button. While neither is necessary for good game play, it did mean that starting over could only be done by closing out the app.
Overall, Wombi Airplane is a nice addition to my preschool/young elementary line up, and will surely please young children infatuated with both airplanes and game play. The price is competitive with other children's apps, too, and worth a download for parents and teachers of preschoolers.
Heather now realizes she should give up dreams of aviation school. Thankfully, her career as a speech-language pathologist is a good safety plan. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.