One of the main criteria for us to review an app is its uniqueness. If an app stands out from the crowd, we are likely to take a look. What we try to do is expose our juniors to as diverse entertainment as possible, so that they have a wider view of the world around them.
Today, I have an app that I believe is a great example of a standout app. Entitled Berry Forest, it is a toy app that stimulates creativity and exploration by letting juniors wander around an interactive forest handmade entirely from clay. Inside the forest are a berry builder, a photo studio, and two mini games.
A Refreshing Journey
To begin the app, you choose one of three available berries. You move your berry around by tapping anywhere on the screen that you want to go. Around you, woodland creatures peck, chirp, hop, and perch. Tap on these to trigger animations and to unlock various "berry parts", which you later use to customize your berries.
There is essentially only one road in the forest, but along the way you will run into interesting stops to play games or make things. The first stop that you will see is a big tree that serves as a gateway into an underground lair. Inside that lair, you can find the berry builder and a photo studio.
The berry builder lets you customize your berry's appearance, like its shape, eyes, mouth, hair (stalk?), and accessories. There are over 50 objects that you can unlock and use. There is no restriction on the number of objects that you can put on your berries, so you can make, for instance, a blueberry with literally four eyes.
The photo studio lets you take snapshots of your berry against your own backdrops. This feature makes use of your device's built-in camera, so unfortunately it won't work on the first generation iPad and older iPod touch devices. You can still play the app on these devices, but you won't find the photo studio.
The next stop you see in the app is a giant beanstalk that leads to several jigsaw puzzles in the sky. The puzzles range from easy (4 pieces) to medium (9 pieces) to hard (16 pieces). In the medium and hard puzzles, some pieces must be rotated first in order to fit. Completing each puzzle earns you a berry part. There is a unique feature of the app where the last puzzle in each level uses your device's front-facing camera to create a puzzle set depicting your face.
Further into the forest, you can play the app's version of whack-a-mole. There are nine stumps, from which funny-looking birds pop up. You tap on these birds to earn points. Your goal is to achieve as many points as you can in 60 seconds.
To get a flavor of the app, here is a trailer video that the developers made:
Parents Need to Know
Berry Forest was especially designed for juniors ages four to seven. However, I noted that except for the medium and hard puzzles, juniors as young as three years old can already use the app.
Like most toy apps, Berry Forest is language-neutral. The app has very minimal instructions, and relies on visual cues to guide you where to go next. There is no tutorial either, but it is not difficult to figure out how to use the app.
If you have multiple juniors in the household, it is worth knowing that the app has slots for three berries. The app saves each berry's progress individually, so you can easily use the app with three kids.
Finally, if you want to know how to unlock all the objects or where all the tappable animals are, the developers made a helpful guide that you can read here.
Things I Like
Berry Forest is a great toy app that encourages juniors to explore and rewards them for it. The app is unique, and I have to say that I like the look of the clay forest. It is not something that you see often, so I applaud the developers for taking a different approach.
The star of the app is definitely the no-rule berry builder, but the puzzle camera was a fresh feature for me. Granted, I wouldn't mind having the option to use a still photo for the puzzles as it can be quite hard to assemble pieces with pictures that move. But, it is interesting and I am certain that many kids will get a kick out of making puzzles of their own faces.
I like the little details in the app, like the way the forest spin 180 degrees when you turn the iPad upside down or how a rabbit shakes as it sits down. One other detail that made me smile was in one of the puzzles, you get a picture of a berry in an elevator. After you successfully assemble the puzzle together, the berry dances Gangnam Style!
And speaking of songs, I really like the choice of jazz pieces for the soundtracks. One of the designers of the app mentioned on his blog that they wanted to have some music in the app that wouldn't drive the parents crazy, and I think they pulled it off. (By the way, if you're into that sort of thing, the blog also contains the design decisions behind the app, technical secrets, and more behind-the-scenes stories.)
Berry Forest is a unique toy app that encourages juniors to explore and play. The app features a lovely, handcrafted clay forest filled with interactive objects, creation-based activities, and fun mini games. The animations are smooth, and the app looks fantastic on retina iPads. I would recommend it to parents who are looking for more creative toy apps for their juniors.
Note: Thank you to Kanjo Arts for providing us with a promo code for Berry Forest. The app was berry good!
- Creativium. Creative app encourage juniors to tell stories using virtual paper sets.
- Wombi Treasures. Join a friendly raccon around the world to dig for ancient treasures.
- The Fantastic Flying Book of Mr. Morris Lessmore. A beautiful tale of self-discovery, based on an Academy Award-winning animation.