Creating your own stories with Dino Tales

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Finally an iPhone / iPad App that encourages interaction with adults - Dino Tales using innovative technoloyy to creates a book for you to read with your kids from their gameplay...very clever and lots of fun., as well as offering some great educational opportunities. The App is deisgned for 4-11 year olds.

We have been lucky enough to be sent a copy of the latest App from Kuato Studios, Dino Tales, to take a look at and review on the blog.

I couldn’t resist this App because a) I love dinosaurs and b) the graphics on the developers website were cute, colourful and very engaging so I had high hopes for the App itself on release.

What is the Dino Tales App?

Dino Tales (available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch) is an educational App, designed for children aged 4-11 years old. The premise is that you can hatch your own baby dinosaurs within the game, which you then look after and explore the island they live on with. Giving my tendancy to kill things, I was a little worried that my dinosaur might come a cropper…watch out pink Pickle! *that’s the name of my dinosaur by the way*

Meet Pickel the Pink dinosaur we hatched in Dino Tales!

The game allows children to ask questions, using a specially designed Word Wheel in the game (Ask Darwin), via an aptly named dinosaur, Darwin. This helps kids to learn about dinosaurs, fossils and plants in prehistoric times.

Dino Tales Word Wheels help your kids to ask questions about the dinosaurs and beyond in game - to help with their tasks!

Each time a child plays the App, they create a story, or Dino Tale. These tales are created from each individual game, and are based around a specific task, such as knocking down all the rocks with a boulder, or sliding down the volcano on a lava flow. These tales can then be read at a later date through the storybook section within the App, also easily accessible from the home screen. Any Dino Tale created will include the name the child called their dinosaur, and highlighted words within the story can be altered. This is designed to encourage children to explore language; for example using alternatives for verbs or adjectives, e.g. chatted, or tired.

It is tempting to think of each story as “a mission”, but it is important to remember that this is not the purpose of this game, This app doesn’t encourage children to reach goals and reward them for doing so. Each tale is created regardless of whether or not the task mentioned at the start of the gameplay has been completed. The purpose of the App is to create a narrative for children to explore, and encourage them to improve their reading, writing and vocabulary, both on their own or with an adult. It doesn’t matter if they don’t complete their tasks, this is just a theme for the creation of each Dino Tale.

What do we think of Dino Tales?

We found it very helpful to read the Parent Corner before beginning gameplay, as this provides clear instructions on the game, as well as a place to set your child’s reading level. The graphics are superb, and very appealing to both my daughter and son. The ability to change the colour of the dinosaurs they played with was of great fascination to them both. This was easy to do as well, using the Berry Blaster in the toolbar that is ever present within the game (bottom right of screen).

Dino Tales Berry Blaster helps you change your Dinosaur's colour when you want

It did take us a while to work out how to move the dinosaur, and it would perhaps have been better if the game had been designed so it was possible to move them by just touching the screen, rather than using an onscreen control-pad. However, children will LOVE that they can make their dinosaurs perform specific movements by swiping them. This can only be done through the tools, rather than in game, but Stuntboy loves that his dinosaur sneezes and rolls over on command!

The tasks each Dino Tale is based on are relatively simple, so even younger children will be able to understand what needs to be achieved. The in game map is limited though, so it can be hard to find the specific areas where tasks are to be completed. Having said this, we did manage to complete three books within about 30 minutes, so probably not that hard!

Alongside the Dino Tales, the App allows you to collect minerals and fossils within the game too – we all know kids love collecting things right? These are added to the Treasure Trove, which also provides educational information about the fossils; from ammenites to stalagmites, this adds a further educational element to the gameplay.

We only played with one of the dinosaurs, as we didn’t progress far enough (yet) in the game to unlack the other characters. Being able to play and create Dino Tales with different dinosaurs gives an extra dimension to the game, and should create longevity. In addition, it provides an excellent learning opportunity. If you are a herbivore, and you eat the wrong type of food, e.g. chicken, this will make it into your Dino Tales, providing a perfrect discussion point when going through the book with an adult.

Overall – 8/10

This is a really innovative game idea, that provides some great learning opportunities for children. The ability to set the reading age, the breadth of tasks, as well as the books created after each game, are likely to give this App greater longevity than many an education App on the market. It combines a number of different elements; from the artistic to the informative, enabling children’s attention to be grabbed on a number of different levels. The App retails at £2.99 making it relatively good value as well, considering the complexity of its gameplay. The only downsides are the movement and mapping within the App, which I hope be solved with time. In addition, older children in its target range could find the ideas, and graphics within the game a little too “young” for them.

In particular, I love that this app has been designed with the idea that parents, and adults, can reconnect with their children through technology. The game creates a story, which is then used to educate and engage the child in discussion with an adult. Too many education apps on the market are the be used in isolation without input from an adult. Using the stories as a starting point for discussion on dinosaurs, carnivores, or fossils and minerals is a great way to extend the value of the app and further engage a child in learning opportunities beyond the mundane.

This is the first in a series of Tales games that this development house are going to bring out. I look forward to seeing what topics are covered next – my son would love to see something on marine animals – I think he wants to hatch a baby shark you see…..

We were compensated for this review, but all opinions are our own; as was the pink dinosaur, called Pickle, that I created for this review – you aren’t having him *blows raspberry*

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