The lovely Princess Poppy, already the star of a range of best-selling books and a much-loved character here at The Madhouse, has now got her very own app (available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch). The Madhouse Mini-testers were really pleased when we were sent a code to give it a test run.
As soon as it had finished downloading and we clicked through to have a look, I loved the illustrations which perfectly capture the essence of the books, while really bringing Honeypot Hill and its inhabitants to life. You can explore the places you may recognise from the books on the interactive Honeypot Hill map.
There are a few mini games, where you can colour in pictures or stick "stickers" on to backgrounds, with the option of saving or sharing your creations via email, twitter or facebook. 2-year-old Pierre enjoyed these activities, as he is used to playing this kind of game on other apps, but they were actually quite difficult for him to get to grips with. The stickers are quite hard to pick up - you need to click quite a few times for it to work - and the colouring is real colouring, not the child-friendly version that many apps use which don't allow you to go over the edges. This may be more appealing to slightly older users though.
But, in-keeping with her beginnings, the main concept behind the app is building up a library of Princess Poppy stories. The app comes with one story included - Ballet Shoes - which you can choose to listen to, in "read to me" mode (read by the unmistakable voice of Tamsin Outhwaite), or use as a learning aid for beginner readers to read by themselves. There are a few interactive things to click on in the illustrations - for example, a cat that mews and the characters to hear their names - but they are few and far between and Pierre was madly tapping the screen, convinced there must be things he'd missed ! One fun thing that we haven't done yet is use the possibility to record your own narration - that could be a really good motivational tool for getting young readers to read out loud. It would also be a lovely surprise if you get a special person - maybe a grandparent or relative who doesn't get to visit very often - to record the story for your children to listen to in their absence.
My only niggle is the price. The app costs £1.99, which is pretty standard, for one book and the few bonus activities. Each extra story (so far, there are two - The Birthday and Twinkletoes) is available via in-app purchase for £2.99, which works out as a very expensive app if you buy the whole lot. Other similar apps with add-on stories to purchase that we've reviewed usually offer the original app and first story for free, to give you a taste of what's on offer and hopefully tempt you to buy the rest, so the extra stories seem very pricey to me, as you've already paid for the initial app and story.
The Madhouse Mini-Testers all enjoyed playing with the colouring and sticker activities as well as listening to the story, but the promise that it will provide "hours of fun and delight for you to share with your children" is possibly slightly exaggerated. After about half an hour, the Madhouse Mini-testers started to get bored and wanted to move onto a more interactive app. Buying the add-on stories would unlock more content though.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £1.99 plus £2.99 for add-on stories
for more information : http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/princess-poppy-picture-books/id513844391?mt=8
Disclosure : we received a free code in order to review the app.
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