By Todd Bernhard on Wed, 11/10/2010
If you have children, you appreciate entertainment that appeals to kids and grownups at the same time. After all, if you have to sit through a movie, and pay full price, you might as well enjoy it too, on your own level. The Penguins of Madagascar: Read & Play is an app (iPad only folks) that I found amusing as did my kids who are fans of the Nickelodeon show of the same name, based on those funny penguins and lemurs from the Madagascar movies.
The app is beautiful with quality images from the DreamWorks team. At $6.99, it's not a cheap app, but it is multifaceted, offering three stories and several games.
The stories can be read or performed for you using three options: Read it Myself, Read to Me, or AutoPlay. The last two read the story to you but AutoPlay automatically advances the pages. This isn't a text-to-speech rendition but rather actual voice talent including the funny character voices from the show. There are even video clips interspersed. If you're feeling talented or you want to personalize the stories, you can substitute your own recording. This might be nice for kids so they can hear a parent's voice when you're not around to read to them. Two of the stories are quite lengthy, with elaborate plots. The third story is really a set of jokes (primarily puns) that kids might appreciate but I found a bit tedious ("Why do monkeys like bananas? Because they are so a-peeling.")
There are some areas to work on. I had some trouble with AutoPlay, where pages would advance prematurely and in both AutoPlay and Read to Me modes, pages that had video embedded would start playing the audio, overlapping with the narration audio. I'm running the iOS 4.2 Gold Master early release, so maybe my iPad is at fault but Gold Master should be the same version iPad customers will be getting. Even though the app was released today, November 10th, FrogDogMedia may need to get an update out soon. Read it Myself worked fine and you just have to manually swipe to turn pages.
The activities are plentiful. You can decorate various scenes using 'stickers' and save the resulting pictures. There's a cool kaleidoscope activity that lets you insert images and create 'far out' visuals. A 'Spot the Difference' game is self explanatory, and even stumped me for awhile! The mazes are fun although a bit tricky to maneuver as your finger obstructs the view as you drag a penguin around a complicated maze. Smaller fingers might actually be an advantage, or use a stylus so you can see more of the action. A straightforward coloring book is also included. You get the option of coloring within the lines or ignore the lines if you're a bit of a rebel!
If you like the Madagascar movie and Penguins of Madagascar television show, and you have an iPad, you will like this app. It costs a bit more, but it includes stories, art activities, and games that should entertain kids of all ages. If you run 4.2, you might want to stick to Read it Myself mode until an update is released.