Friday, February 10, 2012

Sparky the Shark

Sparky the Shark: A Frighteningly Funny Adventure was created by Biscuit Interactive. It's an original story about being yourself. Price: $3.99

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPad.Requires iOS 3.2 or later

Developmental Appropriateness: The story is very cute and the illustrations are attractive. It uses many story telling devices that are appropriate and engaging to young kids such as humor, a bit of repetition in terms of rhythm of the story, and character development. Given the social pressures kids face in school and the recent attention to issues like bullying, this story is timely. I do wish that someone at the end apologized for being so scared and judging based on appearance so that kids can hear about not just accepting themselves, but not to judge others as well.

As for the "e-book" aspects, the story can be read to you or by you and there are some lightly animated hotspots on each page. The text does not highlight and appears at the very bottom of each page - I guess so you focus on the pictures. I don't know if it was my device (used it on an older iPhone) or what, but I found it to be highly glitchy which affected my overall experience. But it doesn't seem like I'm the only one - I saw some other reviews that cited glitchy usage. First, the narration does not work very well. It got very choppy. Next, I kept being taken back to the previous page even though I was tapping no where near the back arrow icon. Finally, just overall, it seemed to be very freezy. I actually had to watch the demo video to make sure I didn't miss anything. While most of these issues can be fixed, I do suggest adding in some features to highlight the text as well as illustrations. 

** The developers will be releasing an updated version where the device requirements will be with later versions of iOS. The update will resolve the glitches I mentioned. The current version should work fine with later versions of iOS.

Finally, there is a game that you can access outside of the book reading that allows you to dress up Sharky and then take a picture of your creation. This is a great, appropriate addition that is actually relevant tot he story. Rating: 3.5/5 (aim for around 6 years)

Balance: While I applaud the developers for not going crazy with irrelevant hotspots, and keeping them pretty simple, it seems like many of these hotspots should just be automatic light animation to the page rather than "hidden hotspots."  Many of them are just simple motions like Sharky nodding his head or the boat gently rocking that don't seem to be very exciting as hotspots. Also, many of them just repeat through the pages. If you're gonna use hotspots, make them count. Also, why do so many developers make them "hidden?" Do hidden hotspots really make it that much more fun than obvious hotspots (I don't know of any actual research on this)? Seems like the fun is in what the hotspots actually do rather than in finding where they are (unless finding them is part of the plot). I would rather kids focus on the story than on trying to find every single hotspot. Rating: 3/5

Sustainability: A good story is worth reading again. I am no literary expert, but I like this story. And the disguise game is fun - it would be cool be able to use what is created in the game in the story, just as an added incentive to go back tot he story. Rating: 5/5

Parental Involvement: This seems like a story parents would enjoy reading with their child. The message is clear, but still gives room for parents to elaborate on the meaning. Parents should be present to help  keep their child focused on the text/story through the hidden hotspots and possible glitches. Rating 4/5

Total: 15.5 out of 20: 4 stars

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