Sound Rebound

App review by
Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Media
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Explore light, sound, and motion to bring the museum home.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Won't teach specific subject matter, but it's a great tool for problem-solving and critical thinking. Also, by exploring what happens when you fire the balls at different colors and shapes, it's a fun way to explore cause and effect. 

Ease of Play

The opening tutorial is a big help, but it's a little long -- and it's absolutely necessary since the interface can feel complicated. Plus, the game controls are pretty tiny on the smallest screens, so it can be hard to select the menus and move the shapes. 

Violence & Scariness

The app is free, and it has a menu item that encourages kids to visit the San Francisco Exploratorium in person.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sound Rebound is an app developed by researchers at the Exploratorium, San Francisco's premier science museum. The app's experience mirrors a real-life exhibit in the museum where kids can move shapes around on a table and experiment with how various ones make different sounds when struck with small bouncing balls. Kids can choose from a set of preset play fields or build their own from scratch. Kids can endlessly customize the play field, and they can save their creations for later use. Though you might expect a game about sound and colors to be for preschoolers, this app's small controls and open-ended gameplay make it better suited for older kids or parents playing with their little ones. The app itself doesn't have its own privacy policy, but you can read the Exploratorium website's privacy policy

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What's it about?

SOUND REBOUND is an app that invites users to move objects around the screen’s "play field" to experiment with color and sound. Users can pick one of six play-field options, one of which is blank, and place eight different shapes anywhere in the space. Each shape has a unique property and moves differently. You can change the color of objects, which changes their sounds, and you can toggle the play field from bounded (where balls bounce off the walls) to boundless (where balls can roll offscreen). Users can watch the "First Steps" tutorial, and there's an "About" link on the main screen, which reveals a photo of kids playing with the table game at the Exploratorium that inspired this app and that explores the same concepts of light and sound. That screen invites families to come further explore science, art, and perception in person at the museum.

Is it any good?

Overall, this app is excellent: The wonder and whimsy of the real-life activity gets a cool tech boost with an endless supply of shapes and easy features for saving and improving upon your creations. With cool sound effects, fun interactive features, and absorbing gameplay, Sound Unbound embodies the Exploratorium's commitment to activities that explore science, art, and human perception. It's a worthy 2D version of a rewarding 3D learning experience. While parents might expect that a game about sounds and colors is intended for toddlers, it's probably best for slightly older users. Although the real-life game is pretty easy to figure out -- grab shapes and put them on the board -- the app's controls can be a little tough to use. The tutorial is key since there's not a ton of on-screen guidance about what to do, and it can be a little unclear how to make the balls move and how to effectively build your space. While it's good that the gameplay isn't highly structured, making the menus a bit bigger and a bit more intuitive would help. On the same note, the controls are pretty small, so this app might work best on an iPad rather than a smaller iPhone or iPad Touch.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what science is and why it's fun to learn about. At first, Sound Rebound might not seem like science. How does the gameplay involve science? Talk about how science is about exploration and asking questions.

  • Since gameplay here is so open-ended, parents should consider playing along with younger kids. Help kids move the shapes and place them on-screen. Talk about how the different shapes affect the balls' motion on screen, and talk about the different sounds that the differently colored shapes make. What instruments do they sound like? How do the shapes and colors change what happens to the balls?

  • Build your own real-life Sound Unbound game -- or talk about how you might build it yourself. What kinds of materials would you need? What would you want people to do? How would you help people play your game successfully?

App details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science and sound

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