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Arthur's Big App
Pros: Tasks get more and more challenging as kids progress.
Cons: Provides scant meaningful learning content.
Bottom Line: Games are a nice opportunity for exploring Arthur's world and persisting through ever more challenging tasks, but they lack a significant learning theme.
Teachers who already use Arthur materials in their classrooms will be particularly interested in Arthur's Big App as a way to continue building a relationship with the Arthur characters. All teachers can take inspiration from the positive messages usually present in Arthur adventures and explore the themes of reading, writing, and pro-social interactions. Visit the Parents and Teachers section of the PBS Kids Arthur website for lesson plan ideas. Teachers can also use the goal of unlocking 50 characters to explore goal-setting and task persistence under pressure (clock) and in the face of obstacles (e.g., not passing levels initially or losing five pencils before collecting five stars). There's no way to create multiple user accounts, so this journey works best when one kid plays through the whole game before passing the device on to the next kid.
Kids join Arthur and his friends after school in fictional Elwood City to play four games that are automatically and randomly presented: Match colors to shelve and distribute library books; match smoothie ingredient requests to mix smoothies for waiting customers; tap characters on the target team to freeze them in a game of freeze tag; tap keys when a note falls over the keyboard to play a tune. Kids must finish each task before the clock runs out. If they're successful, they get a star; if they're not, they lose a pencil. Collect five stars before losing five pencils to unlock up to 50 Arthur characters and read short tidbits about them. As kids progress, tasks get more challenging: More smoothie ingredients must be put in the blender and more customers served, or more and faster freeze-tag players must be tapped.
Kids who know and love Arthur will particularly enjoy entering his world and revealing new and/or familiar characters. Kids who aren't Arthur fans will still enjoy playing the games and meeting Arthur's interesting friends. Leveling is designed so that even though activities are repetitive, they continue to challenge as kids persist and progress toward the goal of unlocking all 50 characters.
Actual game content is somewhat bland and would greatly benefit from more inspiration, creativity, and sophistication. The strongest game empowers kids with a keyboard and guides them through tapping out an increasingly challenging melody. Others involve very basic matching or speed techniques with little need for much thinking, especially considering the target age group. It would be nice to see Arthur's great pro-social messages explored in an interactive experience.