Absolutely ages ago, the lovely people at Punflay Kids sent us through a code to review a kids' story-telling app called Patchy. I redeemed it and it came through fine to the list of apps in my iTunes library but I just couldn't make it appear on my iPad. They generously sent me through a new code and the same thing happened. I eventually figured out that this was because I needed to update the software installed on my iPad because Patchy needs iOS 5.0 or later. Now, I still don't really know what this means but if you suddenly have an app that won't work, it could be the solution !
But on to the app itself. Patchy is a lovely, heart-warming animated storybook app which tells the tale of a little patchwork doll (callled Patchy, funnily enough), who is sad and alone after being abandoned in an old house. When he sees a little girl crying just outside the window, he decides to cheer her up and offers up his most valuable possession - his little heart patch. With the help of her dog, the girl finds Patchy and the pair become lifelong friends. All together now - ahhhhh !
The story is told as a poem (which I always like because it reminds me of reading Dr Seuss when I was little !) and is read by a child, which the Madhouse mini-testers found really appealing. The story is easy to understand but a bit Americanised in places, using a few words that they didn't know such as "dame" and "l'il". Now excuse me for being a teacher, but shouldn't that be li'l ? Or "small" would have been even better and still respected the number of syllables. Small niggles, but niggles nevertheless, as this is designed as an educational app.
The gentle music and lovely simple graphics and animations are great for quiet play and won't send the kids hyper. In "autoplay" mode, you don't have to do anything because the pages turn by themselves, but you can also choose to do this yourself. I would have liked the option that many story-telling apps offer of being able to turn off the narration so that beginner readers can read it themselves, clicking on single words as prompts if they get stuck. Another possibility would be to have each word light up as the narrator reads it, to help recognise new words.
As well as being a lovely story about friendship and being kind to others, the app also offers some fun interaction for little learners. After an initial read to discover the tale, subsequent plays offer you the chance to complete simple activities.While the older mini-testers (aged 6 and 10) enjoyed these, they were a bit too difficult for 2-year-old Pierre. Clicking on the bucket and spade to open up the games also broke up the flow of the story as it takes you away from the main screen and the unfolding plot.
All in all though, it's an enjoyable app with a lovely message that the Madhouse mini-testers really liked.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £1.49
for more information : http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/patchy/id473532225?mt=8&affId=1953736
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