Tales to Enjoy: The Ugly Duckling

Game review by
Christy Matte, Common Sense Media
Tales to Enjoy: The Ugly Duckling Game Poster Image
There's no hidden swan in this weak mini-game collection.

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

Positive Messages

"The Ugly Duckling" is usually seen as a cautionary tale against judging people by their looks, as well as an uplifting story about growing into our own skins. This telling of the story fails on both accounts. The focus is almost entirely on how miserable the duckling is rather than on how mean the other animals are. He even asks to be killed before realizing he's now beautiful and finally can be happy. Instead of generating a positive message, this tale implies that beauty is the root of happiness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Almost no positive role models, with the exception of one man who saves the duckling from freezing to death mid-story.

Ease of Play

There are no in-game instructions or prompting. A help button from the main menu describes each of the mini-games, but it's extremely text-heavy.

Violence & Scariness

The Ugly Duckling is pecked at in the story. There also are hunters with guns who appear partway through. Kids may be affected by the emotional violence of the duck being rejected by his siblings and having a mother who "wishes he had never been born."


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tales to Enjoy: The Ugly Duckling is a downloadable ebook/mini-game collection based on the classic story of the same name. The game can be played in English, French, and Spanish, but the English is British English. The language may be too obscure or advanced for beginning readers (or anyone without a Ph.D. -- words include "palings," "hastened," and "privations"). In addition, the audio that accompanies the book doesn't match the actual text on the pages, something that will be confusing for early readers. The seven mini-games/activities have no in-game instructions and only give one chance for kids to get a right answer before reverting to the main menu. And the story itself may be upsetting for youngsters, as the Ugly Duckling is picked on by the other farm animals and rejected by his mother, barely escapes being shot by hunters, and nearly freezes to death. Not to mention that the moral seems to be that being beautiful is the solution to life's problems.

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What's it about?

TALES TO ENJOY: THE UGLY DUCKLING tells the classic story of an ugly duckling who escapes bullying on the farm, avoids peril, and eventually grows up to be a beautiful swan. It also includes seven mini-games and activities inspired by the story: Find the Intruder (which item doesn't belong?), Find the Image, Find the Pairs, Find the Difference, Color Art, Tell Your Own Story, and a digital puzzle. Kids can read the story on their own or have it read to them by a narrator.

Is it any good?

Tales to Enjoy: The Ugly Duckling is poor-quality gaming for kids. The language throughout is too advanced for the age group, and the story narration is vastly different from the text that's on the pages of the book. In some cases, it's condensed, but in others it's only altered. There's no reason for a condensed version, as there's plenty of dead time while new pages are loading. Although some of the mini-games have potential, there aren't any in-game instructions or hints. Kids must guess what they're supposed to do. If they guess wrong, there are no second chances; you're returned to the main menu without the option to try again. Most games are timed, but without instruction it's not clear what the timers are for.

The issues extend past the mini-games to the game's other modes, such as the coloring-page activity. There are a few page options and only one tool to color with, but there's no way to save your work. The story itself is a miserable retelling that's both long and depressing and somehow manages to lose all the positive messages from the original tale. Young kids may be entertained by the games in this title in short bursts, but parents may find their money better spent on higher-quality titles.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about being different like the Ugly Duckling. What are some ways we're different? How are we alike? What does it feel like to be different?

  • How do you think the Ugly Duckling felt when the other farm animals were mean to him? What are some ways the other animals could have helped him feel better?

  • How does this version of the story compare to others you might have read/seen? Which do you like best, and why?

Game details

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For kids who love preschool games

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