Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Adventures of Pan App



The Adventures of Pan by Hullabalu is a series of quirky adventure story apps for children aged around 4-8. I'm always on the lookout for eBook apps for kids that actually make use of the platform - a sparkly effect and pop sound when you click on a character just isn't enough! The Adventures of Pan is a fab example of what can be done.

Lots of people have a sentimental attachment to paper books and consider them superior. Paper books are fantastic for some things but a good tablet app offers a different experience. We're always on the lookout for apps that demonstrate that using technology doesn't have to be a passive experience for kids.

Disclaimer: We received a copy of The Adventures of Pan to review. But the opinions are our own.

The app is an interactive narrated story with subtitles that highlight the current word. My 7 year old was really keen to try the app.  I'll start with the end of the review. He worked his way through the apps over two days. He chose to stop playing Terraria and return to the app on the second day without me mentioning it. When he got to the end he looked up smiled and went back to the beginning to start again. He has been quoting lines from it ever since.

Now let's take a look at the way the app works in more detail. It's not a traditional eBook app. The narration and highlighting moves really quickly so kids would struggle to read along. It took me a while to get my head around the concept. It's not like little kids eBooks where you can have the narration on or off for reading along.

The Adventures of Pan takes a different approach. The narration is high quality and intended to be listened to, the vocabulary isn't limited by the need to be easy to read. My 7 year old is a confident reader (he's read several Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books) but often struggles to find things he wants to read and spelling doesn't come naturally to him. This approach looks like a great way to get more text in front of him when he's not in the mood for reading.

The story is gender-neutral with the main character being a female purple panda, Pan. Pan sets out on a journey to find her missing parents and encounters both good characters and evil ones along the way. The main characters are not at all saccharine. There's even an Inventor Fox who takes the others to an Inventor's Fair. The Adventure's of Pan builds on classic folk tales from around the world but has a very modern sensibility.

The app is packed with interactive features that are really worth exploring. Both, for the kids and their parents. There are apposite quotes "The bitterest tea is reality" that will only really be appreciated by adults. Pop culture references, some of which some kids will get "Mischief managed" and some which they definitely shouldn't "Where are my dragons?" There are nods to lots of popular songs that parents will recognise, my son got good at spotting these and asking about them.

There are lots of mini-games which actually advance the story rather than feeling like a tacked on distraction.

I was expecting The Adventures of Pan to appeal more to the younger end of the age range, but that's not the case. Younger kids will definitely enjoy the app but they won't get all the nuances. In fact my 9 year old asked to get the app on his iPad when he saw his younger brother with it and he loved it too. He also started from the beginning again as soon as he finished in case he had missed anything.

My 7 year old has taken to saying "Am I adorwable? Yes, yes I am." (yes, there's a bit of cute) and has developed a interest in boomerangs. I've also noticed that he has added the app to his frequently accessed apps on his iPad.

The app did crash for us a couple of times on my kids iPad 4 tablets but it loaded back up quickly and you can jump straight to a specific page so this wasn't much of an issue. We would have liked the option to turn off the narration so that the kids could read the story themselves at their own speed. You can turn the sound off but the text disappears quite quickly and there are sections that are audio-only. Having said that, the narration is very high quality and you would definitely want kids to experience it that way as well.

Verdict

The Adventures of Pan is a very well produced app with high quality graphics and narration, a well-developed story and lots of fun interactive features, many of which will also be appreciated by parents. 

We'd say that kids aged 6-9 will get the most from this app, but 4-5 year old's will love it too and will get more from it each time you revisit it as they get older.

It's a great app to show people who think technology is bad for young children.


The Adventures of Pan - Hullabalu has been released a book at a time for the iPad over the last few years. The seventh and final book, Han Awakening, is now available and the app has also been released for the iPhone. The books are available as a whole series in a single app. There are no ads or in app purchases, just an upfront payment (which is how we like kids apps to be.)






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