SwapTales: Leon!

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
SwapTales: Leon! App Poster Image
Use the power of words to solve puzzles and change a story.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about how word choice and word placement can change the entire meaning of a sentence. They'll practice logic, planning, and problem-solving as they work on arranging words in the right way to solve puzzles. By being in charge of how -- and if -- the story progress, kids will also feel empowered and engaged.

Ease of Play

It'll take a bit of practice to figure out the mechanics of moving the words around. Some puzzles are difficult to solve, but there are hints that provide help.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that SwapTales: Leon! mixes storytelling with word puzzles to form something like a combination of a digital version of the Choose Your Own Adventure stories and logic puzzles. Certain words on each page can be swapped, which can then have a profound impact on what happens next (or even what happened previously). At any time, kids can change the language, choosing from English, Spanish, Italian, French, or German. No matter the language, the story is strictly text-based, so players either need to be strong readers or play with someone who is since there's no read-aloud feature. There's also a one-player mode for playing solo, as well as a two-player mode, which needs two hands to swap words. Though there's nothing blatantly terrifying or terribly offensive, some of the scenes, characters, and alternative endings may seem a bit harsh or stereotypical. The developers are also non-native English speakers, and it sometimes shows -- but not enough to get in the way of enjoying the experience. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your information is collected and shared.

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What's it about?

In SWAPTALES: LEON! kids tap each new grayed-out page to wash it in color and reveal what parts are available to swap. Then they switch words around and watch as the illustrations change to reflect the text's new meaning. Some changes also affect things that happened previously and/or what's available on the following page. Some changes are just for fun; others are puzzles where words need to be arranged in a certain way to advance in the story. There's always a hint available to help solve the puzzles. Choose single-player mode or play with a friend.

Is it any good?

With this combination storytelling/puzzle-solving game, kids are intimately involved in being creative and using logic to determine the progression of a story. SwapTales: Leon! is a really creative and innovative idea that at times helps kids harness the power of words to affect the story and at times calls on significant problem-solving and planning skills. The illustrations are appealing, and it's really fun to see them change on the page as you move words around. The story itself is a silly adventure story that should engage kids but could be of higher quality. And, for kids who really want to take control of the story, it's sometimes disappointing to see only a few words available for swapping. It might be nice to see an option for kids to add their own words or create their own endings. Since there's really only one "solution" to the story, once kids get it and reach the end, there may not be enough variation to draw them back into playing again. Overall, however, it's a fresh idea that has some learning potential.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about word choice and word placement in SwapTales: Leon! and stories in general. How do descriptive words change our experience of a story or an impression of a character? How do action words change the plot?

  • Play together and talk through the puzzles as a team.

  • Create your own story with swap-able words written on scraps of paper. Have fun moving them around to see how the sentence or the whole feel of the story changes.

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For kids who love storytelling and reading

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