Device Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.Requires iOS 3.1 or later
Developmental Appropriateness: This review was hard to write because the suggested age range is 2-12. The nice thing about this app is that you can set what puzzles to play, so a 12 year-old doesn't have to match up simple pictures and a 2 year-old is not staring blankly at multiplication problems. So let's start with the younger kids. The basic idea is that with each puzzle, you have 4 cubes with pictures on each side. You have to match up the related sides on each cube by either using your finger to turn each cube or setting it so it turns automatically and you tap on it when you see the side/picture you want. I think 2 or maybe even 3 years is too young for this app. These are purposeful movements (especially turning the cube with your finger) and decisions. Some of the picture matching would be hard for them too, like fishing lures - not sure how many 2- year- olds know what a fishing lure is. Also, each round has four puzzles (one for each side of the cube), but each game is 10 minutes long before your score gets recorded. Ten minutes of straight play without a goal seems long for a younger child. Yes, you can pause it, and come back, but it would be nice to have that "I finished" feeling. Maybe there should be an option to set the duration of the game, especially for the younger children. Also, there's no submit button - so you once you have three of the cubes lined up, you can just rotate the 4th one until it hits the right side, even if by chance - and it will "solve" the puzzle. The hints aren't so helpful either - at least not as much for the easier puzzles. It's not helpful at all in the beginning - you need to have at least 2 matched up and then the hint with show you which cubes you have matched. So if you have nothing matched and you hit hint, you've wasted a hint and it's -5 points for each hint! I think a child who is having problems matching up apples needs more verbal prompts like, "What's on the picture? Find the others!" or "You've find 2 apples, now find 2 more!" Simply lighting up the cubes is too subtle a hint.
Where this app gets interesting is with the older kids. An important note here is that to access the other types of puzzles or just more puzzles, you have to buy more puzzle packages. The original app comes with the picture-match puzzles and a preview of other puzzles for math, math jr (more advanced), name that animal, and word match. (Disclaimer - I did not buy the other puzzle packs.) Puzzles like "name that animal" where you match up facts about an animal to figure out what animal it is (i.e. "I live in a den", or "I can fly") can be challenging and fun at the same time. Ten minutes on these puzzles would go by faster - but I'd still recommend an option to set the time. The hints on this level would be more helpful.
Balance: The overall look and feel of this app seems a little mixed - not quite designed for a young child, not quite designed for an adult. I would say the look of it is more for an adult (and there is an adult version of this game - not sure what it looks like), but then the music and little kid encouragement feedback is for young kids. But in terms of the features themselves, it's pretty simple. As mentioned already, they could add a couple more features to help the younger kids, especially with the hints. Rating: 3.5/5
Sustainability: The additional puzzle packs are a plus (although you do have to spend more money). I think older kids would enjoy the variety and different puzzles that are offered. I'm not as sure for the younger kids, especially with the gap in skill level. The high scores list is good for the slightly older kids, but again, you have to play 10 minute games to have your score count. Rating: 3.5/5
Parental Involvement: This is a one player game that parents might even want to play themselves. Parents could be involved in the harder puzzles like the name the animal, which may even spark conversations about the zoo or other experiences. The younger kids will need help, which the game assumes since there are instruction notes to the parents. Rating: 3.5/5
Total: 13.5 out of 20 = 3 stars
Disclaimer: I received this app for free for review purposes.