Actually, “not-so terrible” sounds like faint praise, so I’d better clarify: Gruffalo Games may feature terrible tusks, claws, teeth and jaws, but the app itself is most definitely not terrible. It’s very good indeed.
Released today for iPhone and iPad, it comes from Magic Light Pictures, which made the animated films of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, based on the (wonderful) books of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
The app is a collection of six mini-games aimed at 3-7 year-olds. They include some familiar games too: 3 In A Row is noughts and crosses, while Snap is the hand-slapping card game beloved by children and adults alike. In both cases, your children will be playing against The Gruffalo himself.
Another game involves guiding mouse to catch falling nuts while avoiding head-bonking objects – although the head-bonking animation is funny, so we suspect many children will want to be clonked every so often – while another involves matching pairs of characters from the Gruffalo’s world.
There are also digital jigsaws, and a final mini-game involving pulling down leaves to attach to bugs, spotting the patterns of shapes, colours, numbers and letters. The latter is the most obviously ‘educational’ mini-game, but the learning aspects are worn lightly.
The emphasis is very much on play: this isn’t a digital version of the original books, although I think it may send many children back to those books once the device is put away. I’ve been testing the games with my children, and it sent them rummaging through bookshelves for another read.
Gruffalo: Games costs £2.99 for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, with no advertising or in-app purchases. And if your kids enjoy it, we recommend they check out Magic Light’s Room On The Broom Games, which came out last year.
What’s more, Axel Scheffler has worked on a series of apps with British publisher Nosy Crow, and they’re well worth a look too. I’ve also interviewed Magic Light about Gruffalo: Games today in my other job, if you want to read more about the thinking behind it.
Note their reference to another Gruffalo app idea for the future that will “try to encourage children to engage with the real world, as well as The Gruffalo”. If you think Snap and matching games are a relatively safe choice for an app, this may be a stepping stone towards more ambitious stuff ahead.