Historables is a series of educational apps for 3-6 year-olds that combines historical figures with adorable animal characters and gives them a cute name like Marie Ant-toinette, Spaniel Boone, Teddy Bear Roosevelt and Lionardo Da Vinci. The project came to fruition due to a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over $7,500.
The first title (in an initial four-app run) was launched in July and it’s called Historables: Marie Ant-toinette. It attempts to teach children about Marie Antoinette (leaving out that whole ‘off with her head’ part) using activities that appeal to children. In reality there wasn’t much actual info about Marie Antoinette outside of a tap-able portrait that displayed 4 facts about Marie Antoinette which were not even narrated for young children incapable of reading. The activities pretty much all play off of Antionette’s famous ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ quote, with Marie Ant-toinette’s royal staff resembling a fork. The game is only available for the iPad and is free to try, with the ability to unlock the entire app for $1.99.
The free download includes only one activity called ‘Cake Bake & Decorate’ in which your child bakes a cake by adding the four items listed on the recipe into the bowl. Each time you play, the ingredients are the same, but the quantities will vary. Helping to teach children some rudimentary counting skills, using 1 and 2 cup measures, they must dole out the correct amounts of sugar, flour and milk. The app guides the child, not allowing them to make mistakes as they can only put the correct quantities into the bowl. After gathering the ingredients, you drag the bowl to the oven and the cake bakes and then the child gets to decorate it.
Having played a number of other free ‘cake baking’ apps, Emily was somewhat disappointed with the lack of interactivity and options in this section of the app. She wanted to stir the ingredients (her favorite part of real baking, aside from licking the spoon), but the spoon was just part of the background. When it came time to decorate the cake, Emily struggled with shaking the iPad to sprinkle on the toppings, it probably would have been easier for her to be able to drag and shake the containers with her fingers. She was also disappointed with only being able to color the entire cake a single color and not having the ability to draw on it with the icing. Overall it just felt really limited in comparison to the other apps she plays with on a regular basis.
For the one-time $1.99 in app purchase, you unlock two additional activities, one where you decorate a room in Marie’s castle and an Ant Tunnel maze puzzle game. The decoration game allows you to place 7 different objects in a room including a bed, dresser, bookshelf, chair and more. The color of each object can easily be changed by tapping on a paint palate. Despite actively playing other room decoration apps in the past, Emily did not spend much time in this activity so either she was happy with the Feng Shui or she just became bored with it fairly quickly. She was excited about being able to make every object in the room pink, but wished she could change the sizes (and orientation) of the objects.
Emily loves doing puzzles, so the Ant Maze game was by far her favorite. The way this activity works is that there is a 3×3 grid of tiles, each with various tunnel segments on them. When you tap on a tile, the tunnel segment rotates and it is up to the child to build tunnels that each of the three ants can use to collect cake making ingredients (milk, flour and eggs).
The animations and narrations throughout the game were cute and Emily really enjoyed when Marie would talk to her.
As a parent, one issue I had with the app is the way that four characters (Spaniel Boone, Teddy Bear Roosevelt and Lionardo Da Vinci) are prominently displayed on the Map (main menu), yet only one is actually playable. It is my understanding that each of these characters will be the star of their own separate apps and not unlocakble within this app at later date, making the main Map page useless, except for the sole purpose of advertising the studios other future apps.
To show a child these four choices right at launch time just caused confusion and disappointment. Instead of fully enjoying Marie Ant-toinette (for what it had to offer) Emily’s immediate reaction was “Why can’t I play the bear, lion and doggie ones?”. I understand wanting to advertise that you have other apps coming, but this is better suited for another area of the app and not on the main menu.
One final thing worth mentioning is that the app takes a while to initially load, one time taking ash much as three minutes. A few times when Emily exited the app and come back in, it would hang indefinitely, not good for a kids app where little ones have a tendency to accidentally push the home button.
In an App Store packed with freemium apps for kids, Historables: Marie Ant-toinette fails to leave its mark. While I really like the concept that the developer was going for, the app just feels unfinished and lacking in the interactivity and content found in similar freemium apps. Emily failed to play with the app more than a handful of times and never once went back to it on her own outside of my suggestions for her to play for the purposes of writing this review. You can download the free app and see if the game appeals to your child, but honestly, the $1.99 you’d spend on the in-app content is probably better spent elsewhere.