Ink Blott Underground

App review by
Christy Matte, Common Sense Media
Ink Blott Underground App Poster Image
Language puzzler is fun and unique but progresses slowly.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about prefixes, suffixes, and roots and how they come together to form various combinations of words. There is also some strategy involved as kids search for the most efficient way to collect all the crystals on a level.

Ease of Play

Tutorial is clear, but glitchy controls, especially when you're trying to see beyond what's being shown, make for a more frustrating experience than necessary.

Violence

Though the iTunes description says there's violence, none was apparent during review.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

A link to the "All Access Pass" subscription on the main screen. Buying the full game doesn't remove the ad. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ink Blott Underground is an educational game that teaches kids about word parts and how they work together. It's a puzzle game that places kids in a magical world where they travel through underground caverns trying to remove "corruption" by creating words and sentences. There's little peril; kids can run out of energy by digging through tricky terrain without refilling the energy bar, but there are no timers. Kids can play the first four levels of the game for free but must purchase the full game or subscribe to the publisher's service to complete all the levels. The later levels are pretty tricky, so kids on the younger end of the target age may need some help mastering both the words and the strategy necessary to navigate the advanced maps. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared.

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What's it about?

INK BLOTT UNDERGROUND is a puzzle adventure that requires kids to explore underground caverns in search of crystals that are used to banish a corruption that is taking over the land. Kids play the role of Blott, a wispy wolf-like inkling who is on a quest. They must dig through the caverns, avoiding obstacles and keeping an eye on their energy meter. When they find corruption, which creates hazy purple zones, they must combat it by creating words and sentences that make sense. Players carry along at least one word part (more are unlocked as they progress) that they can swap out with words that make no sense. For example, they may find the word "re-plore"; they swap in the prefix "ex" and get "ex-plore" (a pair of word parts). Sometimes there are sentences with incorrect word parts as well. The trick, as things get more difficult, is that they may need to swap out one particular word part before they can fix a different pairing. If energy gets low, kids will need to locate an energy orb to fill their meter. Completing a level with full success includes finding crystals, repairing all words, and maintaining a certain energy level. If kids don't know what a particular word part means, they can click on it to find out.

Is it any good?

Although the story has little to do with the learning, this is a clever way to teach kids about morphemes despite the app's imperfect controls. Ink Blott Underground has an appealing adventure plot that invites kids to save a magical world. It ties in a unique educational component by asking them to swap around word parts (prefixes, suffixes, and roots) to create words that make sense. It's a clever way to help kids understand how they can figure out unfamiliar words in their daily lives. If there's a downside, it's that roaming around these caverns fixing words is slow: There's often a lot of backtracking, and navigation isn't exactly quick or easy. Kids will likely find themselves wishing they could just tap where they want Blott to go when they already have paths uncovered. Also, kids may get frustrated by having to ask to make a purchase before completing the game. Because of these quirks, the app is unlikely to be a go-to game for casual gameplay, which is unfortunate since it has a lot of other things going for it. But for kids who need to practice morphemes at home or school, this is certainly more fun than some flash cards or writing sentences. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the prefixes, suffixes, and root words in Ink Blott Underground. What are some common morphemes that kids may recognize (for example, "pre-," "post-," "-ness," "-able")? What do they mean, and how do they change the meaning of a word?

  • How do you like this app as compared with other apps you could use? What do you think you can learn? If you had to choose the best use of your time on a screen, would you pick this app over other apps on your device? Why, or why not?

App details

  • Device: iPad
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: letter or word recognition, vocabulary
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: decision-making, logic, part-whole relationships
  • Pricing structure: Free to try (Full app is $7.99, or available through a $4.99/month subscription bundled with developer's other apps.)
  • Subscription price: Company subscription is $4.99/month or $49.99/year
  • Release date: September 5, 2017
  • Category: Educational Games
  • Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
  • Size: 271.20 MB
  • Publisher: Touch Press
  • Version: 1.2.0
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 10.0 or later

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love language and word games

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