Arthur's Big App

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Arthur's Big App App Poster Image
Games set in Arthur's world are fun but on the bland side.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn and practice reaction times and paying attention to detail as they follow directions to match increasingly more colors and smoothie ingredients and tap increasingly more freeze-tag players and keyboard keys, all against a ticking clock. Kids can exercise their ability to set goals and persist through multiple tasks as they work their way through the levels to unlock all 50 characters. They also will meet and learn about 50 Arthur characters, which may inspire them to explore more of Arthur's world. Although the games are pleasant enough, this app could be more compelling if it explored more of the growing-up challenges that other Arthur-themed media addresses.

Ease of Play

All games have clear instructions, and navigation is easy to figure out.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

A link to other PBS Kids content is included on the home screen but is protected behind a parent lock.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Arthur's Big App features the setting (Lakewood Elementary) and characters (Arthur and friends) from Marc Brown's classic books and the popular PBS show. In four activities, kids match colors and smoothie ingredients, play tunes, and tap freeze-tag players to unlock more Arthur characters. Activities are randomly and automatically presented, so you can't choose which game to play, which may be frustrating for some kids. With up to 50 characters to unlock, it also will take kids a while to run through the whole game. As kids progress, tasks get more challenging. However, there's no option to create multiple user accounts, so if more than one kid wants to play, there's no way to separate each one's progress. 

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What's it about?

Kids cycle through four games: matching colors to shelve and distribute library books; matching smoothie-ingredient requests to mix smoothies for waiting customers; tapping characters on the target team to freeze them in a game of freeze tag; and tapping keys when a note falls over the keyboard to play a tune. Kids must finish each task before the clock runs out; if they're successful, they get a star; if they're not, they lose a pencil. The eventual goal is to collect five stars before losing five pencils, unlocking 50 Arthur characters one at a time, then reading short tidbits about them.

Is it any good?

Kids who know and love Arthur will particularly enjoy entering his world, aka Elwood City, and revealing new and/or familiar characters, but those who aren't Arthur fans can still enjoy playing the games and meeting Arthur's interesting group of friends. There's a nice leveling system; although the four activities are repetitive, they continue to challenge as kids progress (however, without multiple accounts, this can present a problem if more than one kid wants to play).

Although Arthur's world is always fun to explore, the actual content of the games is surprisingly bland and would greatly benefit from more inspiration, creativity, and sophistication. The strongest game empowers kids with a keyboard. guiding them through tapping out a simple melody, but the others involve very basic matching or speed techniques with little need for much thinking, especially considering the target age group. It would be nice to see Arthur's great pro-social messages explored in an interactive experience, but unfortunately, these games do not deliver.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the things that your kids like to do after school. How are they the same or different from what Arthur and his friends do?

  • Expand on the library game by talking about book subjects and book titles and by visiting your local library. 

  • Find the songs that kids play in the music game; how do the versions you find compare to what kids play in the game? Or, try out some real instruments!

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  • Skills: Self-Direction: goal-setting, work to achieve goals
  • Price: $2.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Release date: October 8, 2014
  • Category: Education
  • Size: 30.00 MB
  • Publisher: PBS KIDS
  • Version: 1.01
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 6.0 or later

For kids who love PBS friends

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