Saturday 10 March 2012

iPieces - board game counters for iPads - review

The iPad is great for keeping the kids amused. If I need to keep one of them busy while I'm tied up on the phone or sorting out dinner or the washing up, I know that there are loads of apps that will keep them quietly entertained until I'm finished. But there's the rub. One of them. It can just as easily descend into a squabbling match because they all want to play on it at the same time, which is near on impossible.

Well, Jumbo may have just come up with an ingenious solution : iPieces, which are specially designed counters to use with an iPad so that you can play traditional-style, multi-player board games on it. How clever is that ?!

They explain : "Get your fingertips ready and make way for a revolutionary gaming experience with the launch of iPieces from Jumbo. Jumbo Games are delighted to introduce iPieces which use innovative technology and interactive counters to allow up to six players to play family favourite board games such as Snakes & Ladders and Air Hockey on the iPad.  These brand new products promise to entertain the whole family as iPieces activates amazing special effects on your iPad. iPieces has been developed alongside the downloadable app, bringing each game to life through stunning visual animation and entertaining sound effects. These games can be enjoyed at home or on car journeys, making iPieces the perfect addition to any iPad."

They sent us through the Air Hockey iPieces to try out. My immediate concern was that they would scratch the screen of the iPad. When they're brand new, they have a little bit of protective felt on the bottom but I can see this wearing out with use or if they're not properly looked after (such as if they end up down the back of the sofa or rolling around on the floor in the back of the car on a long journey), in which case they could potentially damage the screen. My fears may be totally unfounded but only time will tell on that one. I've also made sure the kids know that they are ONLY to use iPieces as counters, no coins, no counters from normal board games and nothing else that could scratch the glass.

That aside, they're actually good fun. You need to download the app from the iTunes store (search for Air Hockey Jumbo) but the good news is, it's free. In fact, you can download all of the games before buying the iPieces if you want a sneak preview of gameplay. (You can play with your fingers but it won't work as well as with the iPieces.)

There are four iPieces/apps available at the moment. Jumbo explain  :
  • For the more traditional gamers, Snakes & Ladders comes to life with realistic movement and sounds as players use their iPieces to progress through the game.
  • Air Hockey brings the fun of the arcade to the iPad. Use your iPieces to hit the puck across the ice, collecting bonus balls, whilst staying clear of the cracks.
  • Jumbo has also developed a Fishing Game, where players use their iPieces rods to reel in their prize catch, collecting them into their bucket - but watch out for the heron!
  • In Game of Goose, players progress around the board using the goose iPieces in a challenge to be the first to reach the centre.

The Air Hockey game is good fun. I love it because it makes me feel all nostalgic, reminding me of playing real air hockey in the amusement arcades of Hastings when I was a kid ! But the Madhouse Mini-testers love the game too, and they've never played the real version before. It's simple enough for kids of all ages to play (although the iPieces packaging says 4+).

I have a bit of a gripe about the packaging. It's very big and cumbersome for what it is and seems a waste of resources so I'd prefer a more eco-friendly option. It would be handy to have some sort of pouch or something that could be attached to the iPad actually, as I can see them getting lost, especially when travelling.

I love the concept of transforming the iPad into a group gaming device though, as it will avoid a lot of arguments. At £9.99, they do seem very expensive for what they are, but you do get the free download too. I would prefer to see an iPiece compendium, offering all of the different iPieces in a lower-priced multipack.

star rating : 3.5/5

RRP : £9.99

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