So it is Spring Break at our house, and while looking for a diversion for my kids, I just discovered that Silver Dolphin Books (Baker & Taylor Publishing Group) has two new apps out based on Mercer Mayer’s “Little Critter’s The Trip” that came out March 19 (a “Reading Adventure” and a “GamePak”...there is also a “Lite” version of the Reading app too for Android and probably coming soon for iPhone/iPad) YAY! I immediately purchased “The Trip: Little Critter Reading Adventure.”
I played with the “Reading Adventure” app for a while and found it pretty fun. It reminds me of a VERY simple adventure game (like an ultra-easy “King’s Quest”) mixed with your regular children’s book app. It has a lot of Hot Spots (areas you can touch for animation) and some very funny bonuses. You get to pick up things and place them in your backpack to use in other scenes. You can also find “Gems” by completing puzzles, and you can collect alphabet cards (I'll give you 26 guesses as to how many there are). It also reads the story to you and has voice actors, animation, and sound effects. Once you've visited a place you can go back to it with the map (very nice for completists...just don't “start a new adventure”!).
After playing, I went to the Silver Dolphin website to see if they had any more information about the app. Lo and behold, there is a two part interview with John R. Sansevere on there. Erica Farber and J. R. Sansevere are names that many Mercer Mayer and Little Critter fans might be aware of, and both are talked about on the website. Information about these two individuals is scarce on the Internet. Many Little Critter and Critters of the Night books are written John R. Sansevere and Erica Farber. There was a time when I wondered if John R. Sansevere and Mercer Mayer were the same person… Like Mercer Mayer had some contractual obligation and had to create this pseudonym (and Gina Mayer became “Erica Farber” in my convoluted-head-theory….controversy!). So much for that theory. *thwip*! John R. Sansevere developed the Little Critter “The Trip” apps. If you start looking at your copyright pages in you Mercer Mayer books, you'll see his name... a lot.
I ended up eventually contacting Silver Dolphin and they ended up giving me a copy of “The Trip: Little Critter GamePak” for review (THANK YOU!).
Well my kids being ever so nosey quickly noticed my new toy. My seven year old spent about 40 minutes with “The Trip: Little Critter Reading Adventure.” He said he really enjoyed it, “I liked how you got to collect gems and stuff” (he found them all and opened a new “gem” game on the app). NOTE: if you “Start a NEW adventure” your gem game will disappear unless you find/earn them all again. He is currently reading chapter books, and the reading level is well below his, but he obviously had a lot of fun and it kept him occupied. I doubt he'll want to play it again, but you never know.
After he was done he handed me back my iPhone (3rd Generation) and I showed him that we also had “The Trip: Little Critter GamePak,” and his eyes lit up with that “please please please” look that most parents know. I told him after lunch. When lunchtime came, he gobbled and looked at me with anticipation. I handed him my iPhone (after he washed his hands).
He started with a sorting game. The first thing I heard was a bunch of honking sounds and “try again” (the voice of Little Critter.. played by someone with the last name Sansevere) coming from the phone… and frustration coming from my son. “The game wants things EXACTLY right!” But that quickly stopped as he got to know the controls. Having a Generation 3 iPhone means we have a very small screen, and I’m sure it could be frustrating to deal with smaller things.
One really fun thing is the DigiStix. The DigiStix are like Colorforms or stickers (DigiStix = Digital Stickers), but animated with sounds. To quote the app, “…different DigiStix do different things in different places.” So depending on where you place them, different animations and phrases will be said. Like Little Sister might say she has to go potty one place (or that she wants an ice cream), and you can actually put her next to the bathrooms too (or next to the ice cream stand). They also interact with each other. I found this really cool. There is a demo of this in the “The Trip: Little Critter Reading Adventure” in the “For Parents” section but it is small in comparison. There are a few different areas in the DigiStix section: Play (the Colorform-esque area where the DigiStix will interact with each other and you can place them almost anywhere), Puzzles, Matching, Letter Fun, Picture Poofs (a lot like a sticker book with animation and sound...some of these pics are from OTHER Mercer Mayer Little Critter books… maybe a sign of things to come!).
The rest of the games on “The Trip: Little Critter GamePak” are Dot-to-dots, How Many (counting), Color Match, Mazes, and more Matching. PLUS there is at least one unlockable BONUS game.
Then it was my four year old’s turn. She just wanted the book to read the story to her, which is an option. I watched over her shoulder as the story was read to her. This mode is a disjointed telling of the story and kind of disappointing. It jumps scene to scene with no real cohesion as to how things got to where they were (since a lot of that is in the animation of the Adventure version of the story. BUT, my daughter didn’t notice. She just smiled after it was over while handing the phone back to me saying, “Thank you, Daddy!” I am sure she'll ask for it again. She "reads" the other Oceanhouse Media Little Critter apps we have all the time. Eventually, I'll show her how to do the Adventure, and I know she'll play it more than once. The app is recommended for ages 3 to 7. So, having kids 4 and 7 fit.
Special Note: There are TWO different versions of the book version of Little Critter’s The Trip (just like there are two apps). One version of the book is the 1988 Golden Easy Reader which is an ABC reader that starts with, “Here is our trip from A to Z. A is for all. Here we all go!” It is a very humor-filled book (around 34 pages long). Later, in 1997, the book was re-released by Inchworm as a regular plotted story book without the ABC-ness (less pages too…which means not all of the original pictures are in there). The app is a lot like the 1997 version.
Oh, the reason Dad looks mad during the Ice Cream scene is because in the 1988 book, Little Critter took the keys as a “J is for joke” (LOVE Dad's face here). Speaking of “Jokes,” Little Critter trades jokes with Ken & Perry in the app when you tap on them. There are a lot of things from the 1988 book that didn't make it into the app (like Dad off-roading it for a bit in one of THE FUNNIEST moments in a Little Critter book, ever). You can also see the some changes that happened between the 1988 book and the app... but the flavor and fun still remains.
The re-make/re-vamp of Little Critter's The Trip (1997)