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Pros: Inspiring and challenging activities are easy to navigate with the clean, sophisticated design.
Cons: Scientific terminology is lacking, as is a gentle hint system to teach concepts.
Bottom Line: With endless possibilities and refined controls, Amazing Alex inspires kids to make unique puzzles and imaginative machines.
What about using Amazing Alex to help students build some real-world machines and devices? Challenge them to create a Rube Goldberg machine of their own using found materials from their home or from the classroom. Have them keep logs about their successes and failures, and encourage them to modify their machines based on what they find.
You can feel comfortable encouraging students to interact online, as contact is limited; players who want to download other players' puzzles or share their own must access the Internet via an in-app link, but they won't directly interact with other users. Students can also access the Amazing Alex Facebook and Twitter pages; if users log in to those accounts, they can interact with other fans of the app. Players using iOS can save and share their own solutions.
Editor's note: Amazing Alex is no longer available.
Amazing Alex is a crazy-contraptions physics puzzler that challenges players to think and create with a handful of everyday objects and tools. Using pipes, scissors, shelves, balloons, goofy extending punching gloves, and more, kids create Rube Goldberg-like devices to guide balls and collect up to three stars.
Students place, rotate, and flip objects using highly responsive fine-motor controls. They accomplish goals, such as popping balloons or funneling balls into a basket, by creating a bridge, a domino effect, a swing, or something else entirely. Difficulty ramps up slowly at first, engaging a range of ages, but increases to a reasonable level for fourth-graders and up.
There's no one "right" way to solve a puzzle, which encourages a trial-and-error mentality that's so important to being a successful inventor. Feedback that players receive is logical as well. If a solution works, the puzzle ends and stars are tallied. If it doesn't, nothing happens and they can keep trying until they capture those stars. By empowering kids to create fun and elaborate cause-and-effect interactions -- and to create and share their own puzzles -- Amazing Alex fosters hypothesis-testing skills and offers safe, structured peer interaction.
The free version has plenty of levels to keep kids busy and continually challenged, and players can interact with each other during gameplay. Eight puzzles of the week as well as thousands of kid-created puzzles will also keep students busy. One downside: you get occasional, interrupting full-page ads (blergh); paid versions offer more levels, more features, and no third-party ads. But graphics, menus, and navigation are top-notch!