Bottom Line: An ocean education app that will introduce your kiddos to more than 50 facts about the ocean and its inhabitants. Recommended for ages 6-8, but probably more appropriate for younger kids in many ways. Check out the free lite version before buying!
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External links present behind a parental lock. Free version gives access to about 20 percent of content of full paid version.
Explorium — Ocean for Kids takes users on an undersea journey with Alex and Alice to learn about the ocean and the creatures who live there, and to find the lost city of Atlantis. Along the way, kids learn more than 50 facts about sea creatures, tsunamis, underwater earthquakes and more. They also get to play five mini-games with four different levels of difficulty, each of which leads them closer to finding Atlantis.
The mini-games include a find-the-hidden-stars game, which was fun, two games involving guiding a jellyfish along an obstacle course, a bubble-popping adventure, and the obligatory memory match game (sigh — another one?). Then there’s a screen where kids can arrange the treasures they’ve uncovered along the way to decorate their own City of Atlantis. At the highest level of difficulty, the hidden stars game and the bouncing jellyfish game were even a bit of a challenge for me, so it makes sense to me that these games are indeed geared for kids ages 6-8. The rest of the app, though, doesn’t measure up to that age range.
Since my seven-year-old is smack in the middle of the suggested age range for this app, I handed it off to her after checking it out myself. She loved the graphics, which are colorful and bright, and she played through three of the five mini-games more than once (on a mid-range level of difficulty). The app’s background story and sea journey, however, failed to engage her. Alex and Alice go on the same journey each time, and uncover the same treasures in the same spots. The trip covers several zones of the ocean, which is fun and educational the first time around. But once my daughter had gone through them for the third time, she was done. In that regard, the age range isn’t entirely accurate. Though the mini-games could be fun for kids as young as 3 or as old as 8, the rest of the app is clearly geared more toward a preschool audience than a second grade one. I would recommend that the folks at developer Puppet Life change up the sea journey and offer more options and surprises if they want to engage kids at the top of the age range.
The app does offer the option to play the mini-games on their own, without going all the way through the ocean journey each time. The user cannot, however, make use of the encyclopedia without working his way through the ocean to acquire the definitions (available by tapping on an exclamation point above each creature or item for which information is included).
There is a free lite version of this app available for those who want to preview it before purchasing. The free version contains one ocean zone (rather than five), one mini-game (rather than five), and 11 facts about marine life in the encyclopedia. There is also no option to acquire objects on the Atlantis quest.
The app contains no ads and no in-app purchase, which is wonderful, and external links behind a parental lock. It's available in several languages, and there’s also an option to mute the music without killing the narration and other app sounds. Woo hoo! For younger kids, I like that the fun ocean facts are available both as on-screen text and as narration. For older kids, though, a read-to-myself option might be nice. Personally, I would never opt to turn off the narration, as I loved the quirky voice. It reminded me of Mason Adams, the voice of Smucker’s and Cadbury Crème Eggs (yes, I am the sort of nerd who knows the name of the Smucker’s narrator).
Overall, this is a cute app with some educational value. But it would benefit from an increased level of content and an adjustment to the age range so that parents can be sure they’re purchasing an app that’s right for their child.