iPad got game

Zoe's choice: iPad games


A couple of days ago I wrote about my recent infatuation with the iPad as a gaming device. Since then, I've heard from many of you suggesting other games for me to try - board games, baseball games, puzzlers, interactive fiction, platformers...who knew Mirror's Edge on the iPad was such a terrific game?

So today I'll return the favor by suggesting several games I've enjoyed recently with my daughter Zoe. These titles have passed the rigorous "Brainy Gamer Pre-Schooler Double-Screening Test." Zoe (soon to be 3 years old) and I have played all the games on this list many times, and we heartily recommend each. Some of these games are explicitly designed for kids; others aren't.

I should note that one of the charms of the iPad as a gaming platform is the way it encourages playing together. Zoe usually sits next to me on the sofa, and we hold the iPad in the middle of our laps; or, for certain games, we pass it back and forth. Like all kids her age, Zoe's responses are pure. If she doesn't like a game, no amount of nudging from me will sway her. She hits the home button, and we're on to something else.

I should also mention that we typically play right after dinner for no more than 20 minutes. The iPad has some wonderful reading and storybook apps (including 2 on my list), but we continue to read real books too, and bedtime would be unthinkable without them. No skipping pages either. She's wise to that trick.

Here's the list:

  • Miss Spider's Tea Party: Zoe's favorite and one of the most beautiful games I've seen on the iPad. This animated picture-book features lovely animations and lively narration. You can also read the book aloud and touch the interactive pictures. Miss Spider includes several well designed mini-games (matching, painting, jigsaw puzzles) that integrate with the story.

  • Magic Piano: Tap on the screen to play a piano. Freestyle, spiral piano, built-in playlists - you can do pretty much anything you want. In easy mode, you can play tunes from the song book (including "Final Fantasy Prelude") by tapping anywhere on the screen. This is one of those game-as-toy apps that's hard to put down once you discover all it can do. You can even play duets with other players around the world.

  • Dr. Seuss' ABC: A pitch-perfect digital rendition of Dr. Seuss' classic, and the same can be said for the other Dr. Seuss books available for the iPad: The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Lorax. Kids can choose "Read to Me," "Read it Myself," or "Autoplay," which will treat them to delightfully Seussified narration. These books make Dr. Seuss's original artwork look better than ever.

  • Osmos: Its developer describes Osmos as "Asteroids meets a lava-lamp," and I can't think of a better description. Osmos isn't a kids game, but it delivers such a hypnotic tactile/musical experience that age, rules, objectives, win/lose don't need to factor in if you don't want them to. I first saw this game at the IGF competition last year, and I've played it on both Mac and PC. The iPad version beats them both. This may be the be the best iPad game around. Zoe loves the music.

  •  MyReef 3D Aquarium HD: A gorgeous virtual aquarium full of tropical fish. That's pretty much it, and, believe me, that's enough. We just love watching the fish, feeding them, and observing their behavior. It may sound silly - and I suppose someday maybe we'll try a real aquarium - but for now this little app is a relaxing and oddly transfixing diversion.

  • Drawing Pad: My favorite moment watching Zoe discover the iPad came watching her play this game. She chose a color, drew a line with it on the screen, then raised her finger to look for the paint on it. :-) Nothing beats drawing and painting with real media, but when you're traveling or you simply don't have time to clean up a mess, this app is the perfect solution. Crayons, pencils, paint brushes, stickers...Zoe has spent more time with Drawing Pad than any other app. You can even import your own photo and draw a mustache on Mom!

Happy gaming!