Space, the final frontier. Since the dawn of men, the infinite skies above our heads have captivated us with its mysteries. What lies beyond those twinkling stars? Are we really alone in the Universe? There are certainly many questions to ask and many things to learn.
Which is why it is never to early to encourage your children to explore Space and its wonders. This is the inspiration behind our app pick for today, Jetpack Journeys. Designed by Space-loving developers, this app takes young kids on a playful adventure across the Solar System.
To Infinity and Beyond
Upon starting the app, you will see a short animated clip that introduces you to the app's colorful, jetpack-wearing characters: Toby, Barney, Pippa, O-Boy, and Izzie. Once the clip has finished playing, you will then find a spaceship floating in Space. From here on, you can decide what to do: roam the Solar System in your ship or touch down on any planet of your choosing.
If you want to explore, you can tap anywhere on the screen to move your ship. Tap on the image of a planet at the bottom right of the screen to bring up a map to the Solar System, and see your current location in relation to the planets. You can also collect stars in Space by bumping into them.
When you are ready to touch down, simply pick any of the 8 planets on the Solar System map. The planet at the bottom right will show you where to go — simply follow the directional arrow.
Once you've arrived at your planet of destination, the app will tell you the name of that planet. You will also be asked to build your own spaceship by assembling 5 components — from fin to nose cone. The app includes 9 designs, including a unique ice cream cone shape and a robot.
After your spaceship has been built, it is time to land. Here, the environment changes according to each planet's characteristics; for example, Earth is populated with greenery while Mars is red and rocky. In Venus, you can even venture into underground tunnels and caves.
While exploring on each planet, you can collect 5 spaceship parts (the same ones that you used to land) and 3 gold stars. You can also change your character any time by tapping on his/her image at the bottom. Optionally, you can also skip this part and launch your ship back into space and off to another planet.
Parents Need to Know
Space exploration apps for kids are by no means rare — in fact, we already covered a few — but Jetpack Journeys is unique in that it targets a younger audience (under 7 years old). This intention is reflected in the app's design; for example, there is hardly any text in the app, save for the characters' and planets' names.
The app is toy-like, in the sense that there is no exact goal to achieve. Free exploration is favored over following specific instructions. The app also has neither a timer nor a scoring system.
As mentioned on the developers' website, the goal of the app is to "encourage children to be excited by Space". To complete this mission, the developers has also published a Space magazine on their website. This magazine is available for free, even if you have not purchased the app.
Things I Like
To be honest, I initially felt that the gameplay in Jetpack Journeys was somewhat aimless. However, the more I explored the app the more I realized its good qualities. By letting kids steer their own course, the app is introducing them to Space at their own pace. It doesn't overwhelm them with facts; rather, it gently shows them how planets are different from one another and where they are in the Solar System. It's a gentle trigger, but in my opinion, quite effective.
In terms of presentation, I think the app looks nice. The landscapes on each planet are lovely and more importantly, accurate in its depiction of the planet's characteristics. I also like how the app's characters each has a distinctive design and color scheme, which makes it easy to recognize them in an instant.
Of course there are some things that I think could be improved, such as the touch controls for directing our character's flight path. I also would suggest including more instructions at the beginning of the app. For example, a simple graphic to note that you can bring up the map to our Solar System would be helpful as it took me a while to figure that out. But overall, the app is interesting and well-thought-of.
Jetpack Journeys is a great little app that has all the potentials to inspire juniors to explore infinity and beyond. Its stress-free and playful approach to learning more about the planets in our Solar System makes it suitable for pre-schoolers. As a geek, I would highly recommend this app.
Get Jetpack Journeys on the App Store.
App was provided for our honest review.