Five kid-friendly iPhone games that don’t dumb down the action

Dec 2, 2009
Games

Just because kids are getting cell phones at a younger age than seems socially responsible doesn’t mean they’re particularly shrewd about selecting the right games to play on them. While there’s a wide variety of games available for gamers of all ages, the iPhone also has a good number of apps specifically designed for tweens […]

Just because kids are getting cell phones at a younger age than seems socially responsible doesn’t mean they’re particularly shrewd about selecting the right games to play on them.

While there’s a wide variety of games available for gamers of all ages, the iPhone also has a good number of apps specifically designed for tweens and developing minds.

Abby Crabby ($1.99) is about as kid-friendly as games come, and, naturally, it comes with a built-in positive message, so they’re also learning while gaming. You play as an overbearing (but cheery) crab who must snare falling litter like shoes, tires, and bottles onto your claw, then tap to shake it loose. Though common sense suggests this doesn’t really solve the littering problem, but merely moves it away from your children, it’s still a workable gimmick for a kid’s game. Though there are two different difficulty levels, even the easy one gets tough fast, and the repetitive nature will discourage extended play sessions.      

Similarly repetitive, but somewhat less kid-friendly, is Flock It! (99 cents), which has you herd sheep by poking the screen to emit a sheepdog’s bark. You have 30 seconds to make four to six sheep run from one end of the screen to the pen on the other side successfully, but the difficulty comes in with the unpredictable movements of the sheep: They don’t just move in one direction, but all around. The game gets tougher, too, with obstacles like electric fences, water, and mud, not to mention the labyrinthine levels that come into play later on. There are some intermittent mini-games that serve as a nice respite (like a sheep-shearing one), but the lack of strategy and ratcheting difficulty might keep some at bay.

Flickitty (free) offers a considerable amount of adventure for the price, though some kids will be turned off by the amount of exploration the game entails. As the title suggests, you fling a poor little cat around the screen by flicking his neck like a rubber band in his endless quest to be named employee of the month. The levels tend to blur together, and while you’re always either solving rudimentary puzzles or embarking on quests for your foreman, the intuitive controls help Flickitty from feeling like more of the same when it actually is.

Also featuring cats, but designed for a more mature and bloodthirsty child, is Adult Swim’s Meowcenaries, ($4.99), a top-down shooter game wherein you control four gun-toting calico kitties. The game leans heavily on LOLCATS verbiage (enemy cats emit word bubbles with “LOL,” “WTF,” or even “NOM” before spilling their guts all over their fur), and cuteness in general, to offset its violent nature, but it’s hardly in the same category as Mortal Kombat. Repeat plays of levels are encouraged via collectible cheeseburgers and to prevent your fellow furry comrades from falling in combat.

Battle Bears (99 cents) swings at the same target but misses horribly: You’re an adorable gun-toting teddy bear stationed on a hill that does nothing but blast invading teddy bears. Their heads explode in a glorious crimson mist of rainbows, but that cheap thrill is hardly worth 99 cents — especially when that’s all there is to Battle Bears.

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David Wolinsky

David Wolinsky is the Chicago city editor for The Onion's A.V. Club and is also the  undisputed 1994 Blockbuster store champion at collecting bananas in Donkey Kong Country.

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