"Moonbeeps" from Moonbot | Touch and Go

Moonbot Studios latest series of apps celebrates old-fashioned play—with a digital twist, of course.
Remember the days when children made their own fun, playing hide-and-seek, or catching fireflies on a summer evening? Maybe crafting a rocket ship from a cardboard carton? Moonbot Studios (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, The Numberlys) does. Their latest series of apps (“Moonbeeps”) celebrates that play—in digital, of course—perhaps for those rainy days? Paula Willey (@pwbalto, unadulterated.us) reviews the series below.
In Moonbeeps: Hide and Seek (Moonbot Studios, LLC, iOS, $2.99; PreS-Gr 3), a charming but fairly challenging version of the familiar neighborhood game, kids are tasked with finding four giggling, humming little friends. Taps lead viewers through a small grid of suburban houses, while swipes change the perspective to allow them to peer around trees or behind a shed. If a seeker seems stalled, a little hint pops up to prod them in the right direction. Once all the friends are found, they have a dance party, naturally.
Four different seasonal palettes are available, and children will quickly learn that the blobby fruit-colored pals are easiest to find in winter. It's a simple app, yet repeated play reveals unexpected details. Each character, though largely pre-verbal, exhibits distinct personality and physical traits. There are 30 objects to find along with the friends, and once all those items are discovered, the kids get to wear party hats. Sound effects vary by season, with whistling winds in winter, twittering birds in spring, and a distant barking dog in autumn, among others. Reminiscent of Teletubbies in its wordless, gentle play, and Yo Gabba Gabba for its cheerful use of color and music. Elegant and warm, this is a winner, with a broad age appeal.   gizmo   WHIRRRRR! Wah-wah-wah-wah! Bzzzzzrtt! Kids make crazy noises during imaginative play all the time, and now—there's an app for that! Gizmo (Moonbot Studios, LLC, iOS, $.99; PreS-Gr 1) works as a dashboard for imaginary spaceships of all types. Buttons, sliders, switches, and levers produce sound effects, flashing colored lights, and animations. Combinations of controls vary these effects—or don't. There are no instructions, no tutorial—this is an app that rewards adventurous, experimental users with interesting results. Tapping a control does one thing—what happens when you press and hold? Since this works on the iPhone as well as the iPad, don't be surprised to see a toddler reenacting the Kobayashi Maru simulation from her shopping cart cockpit next time you're at the supermarket.   fireflies Imagine a moonlit walk in the woods on a summer night, the stars above, a Mason jar clutched in your hand. Night sounds surround you—frogs,buzzing insects, an occasional owl, and the wind in the trees—or is that a rushing stream? Luckily, a multi-member symphonic pop band The Polyphonic Spree is accompanying you on your walk in Moonbeeps: Fireflies (Moonbot Studios, LLC iOS, $2.99; PreS-Gr 1), providing celestial synthesizer chords and a patter of percussion as a soothing soundtrack. Catch the glowing orbs that represent fireflies, or leave them alone. Look around, and all you'll see are more trees, more stars, maybe a little mist. The developers suggest using Fireflies as a nightlight—it switches off after 15 minutes of inactivity—but it would also do good service as a soporific cool-down after a busy day or stressful episode. One warning, however, those fireflies can be darned hard to catch, more difficult than real fireflies, in fact. The quick-draw reflexes it takes to chase them down (they practice avoidance strategies) are a bit at odds with the otherwise relaxing user experience.—Paula Willey. @pwbalto, unadulterated.us
 For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal's dedicated app webpage.

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