app reviews: endless alphabet & pettson’s inventions

i thought i had written a review here for pettson’s inventions long ago, but i can’t seem to find it, so i’m fixing that now.

we discovered this game last fall and although i was initially concerned that it looked too challenging for the happy little dude, i figured that for free it was worth trying out.  what a great app!  although it’s challenging enough to keep me entertained, the premise is fairly simple:  use the gadgets and pieces in the sidebar to build a (pre-determined) “invention” that will perform a hilarious animation when it’s all put together (like, “help the old woman wake the old man” becomes creating a simple machine that will roll a ball towards her, make her jump & hit her head on a lever that rings a bell that wakes up the sleeping old man–very rube goldberg-esque).  the machines start out simple and get increasingly complex as you progress through the games (completing one unlocks the next one, so you can’t do them out of order the first time).  the components of the machine also build upon knowledge that you’ve learned in past puzzles, so in one puzzle you might discover that some odd-shaped thing is actually a water pump and it goes into a wooden barrel (full of water), so the next time you see that same odd-shaped thing, you can immediately check the puzzle for a water barrel.

we started out working on these puzzles together, but after the first dozen or so, he started being able to figure them out (at least mostly) without my help.  the illustrations, music and spoken accents are charming.  there’s no time limit or scores to stress out about (rare in a game obviously aimed at older players).  if you want to make it more challenging, you can choose (in the full version) to add “red herrings” to the sidebar–gadgets that do not belong in the finished invention–to throw you off track.  the characters in this app are based on a series of swedish children’s books (and animated films).  pettson’s inventions comes in both a lite and full version and there is a sequel (pettson’s inventions 2) that we haven’t even fully explored yet.  the full version of the app has 25 mini-puzzles and the lite version is the first seven of those puzzles (a pretty generous freebie, if you ask me).  my only wish is that there were some way to build your own inventions with the gadgets (instead of pre-designed ones), but i can’t even imagine how complicated that would be to write that program.

our newest favorite app is called “endless alphabet” by callaway digital arts.  players choose a word from the monster’s mouth and the word is pronounced before a crowd of rowdy (but endearingly cute) monsters runs across the screen, scattering the letters (but leaving their shadows).  players must then put the letters back in their spots.  when you touch a letter to move it, a voiceover says the name of the letter and the letter itself says its sound (i.e. the letter ‘s’ hisses, etc.) until you drop it.

once all the letters are back in place, the word is pronounced again and players are treated to a short animation where the monsters demonstrate the word and then the voiceover gives a simple definition of the word.  what i especially love, for my language-sponge of a boy, is that although some of the words are ones he’s heard before (scary, sticky, zipper), there are many “fifty-cent words” (demolish, quarrel, gargantuan, bellow) that, because they are introduced in this same simple manner, easily work their way into his everyday vocabulary.  just the other day, we saw a mural on the side of a building that depicted a bunch of flowing hair and he looked at it and said, “tangle.” and then proceeded to define the word, just like they do on the app.  swoon!  the reason it’s called “endless” is that they are constantly issuing (free) updates with more new words added!  i am amazed that this app is free.  free!  although you can choose to pay 99 cents to get rid of the occasional in-app ads (for other high-quality apps from the same developer, but pop-up ads, nonetheless).  i’m actually tempted to pay the 99 cents just to support the development of more games like this one!  read another review of this app at horn book.

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