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Posted by on Feb 28, 2013

REVIEW: Bubbo Pop! (Apple/iOS)

REVIEW: Bubbo Pop! (Apple/iOS)

Title: Bubbo Pop!
Platform: iPod Touch, iPhone & iPad (played on iPhone)
Developer: 9 Lives Digital
TL;DR: Pre-schoolers learn letters with a dancing dinosaur!
Family Friendly: Click here for more information.

Bubbo Pop! is not for you. It’s for kids – young kids still mastering letters and the sounds they all make, specifically. With that out of the way, let’s look at this Early Childhood Edutainment app and judge its merits based on criteria that actually apply to what it is.

After all, to “review” Bubbo Pop! like it’s any other video game, even any other iOS video game, would be wrong and silly. Besides, if you’re reading this, you’re probably doing so on behalf of the child/children in your life. (In that case, nice work! Please continue to be as involved in what your kid is playing as he or she gets older.)

Bubbo Pop Title

Games for kids have come a long way. No longer dull and lifeless, these games are often bright, interesting, vivid, well-animated and absorbing. The best of the lot are even cute and clever enough to make mom/dad/grandma/whoever grown-up smile, too.

Many modern children have access to things like iPhones and iPads, and you’d better believe they’re using them for entertainment purposes. And, just as the best TV shows for children understand that there are specific lessons and styles that apply to different age ranges and economic backgrounds, a good phone-poker designed to teach something to kids will be produced with the child “gamer” in mind.

Bubbo Pop! aims to help children recognize and use the letters of the alphabet correctly. Players will proceed through a loop of mini-games in which a cartoon dinosaur with a bubble solution-filled orb for a tummy – Bubbo – will spit out an assortment of letters encased in bubbles. Just poke his tummy and the bubbles and goal for the round appear.

Maybe you’ll have to identify a certain letter, match an uppercase letter to its lowercase counterpart, choose the correct letter to fill in a blank in part of the alphabet, or select the right letter to complete a word in which one conveniently happens to be missing?

Each round consists of five queries under one of those topics. After correctly answering all five, Bubbo rewards players with one of ten unlockable silly dances. He’ll do the robot, strike a disco pose, just wiggle around, etc. After the celebratory dance party, off he goes to the next part of the park in which the game takes place, and the next round begins with a poke of the tummy.

Repeat.

Bubbo Pop Dance

Simple and approachable, it worked nicely for my 4-year-old son. My 2-year-old daughter also thinks it’s fascinating, and has even joined in, poking the letters she recognizes after either her brother or I point out which one she should tap.

When we first played, my son went through about 8 rounds before switching over to Angry Birds. He was into it at first, then wanted to move on to something else. I left Bubbo Pop! in the group of games I keep specifically for him on my iPhone, and was happily surprised when – just last night – he proudly announced he wanted to play the “dinosaur bubble game.” (No, not Bubble Bobble or Bust a Move, but we’ll get there. This is just fine for now.)

That’s partly why I left it there, after all. Will your kid want to play it again if you don’t put it in front of them/ Will he or she choose it over other games? Turns out, yeah. At least mine did.

He played through round after round, letting his enthralled sister take a few jabs at the screen every so often, and happily chirping about the puzzles or the reward dances he was enjoying.

He’ll be turning 5 in about a week, and is currently in pre-school…so Bubbo Pop! is perfect. This is what he’s learning right now, and the game is a nice way to reinforce those lessons and work on things like completing words by sounding out the letters provided to do so.

The game works well, intuitive enough to be played by a young kid unassisted – very important to me, because, while I’m always nearby and aware of what he’s playing, I know he feels proud when he’s able to just play by himself and succeed at whatever game or app it is on his own.

Bubbo Pop GamePlay

If he hit a round in which he didn’t know the answer, he’d occasionally ask me for help, or take a guess. There’s no penalty for tapping the wrong letter bubble – you just keep trying until you get it right, and are rewarded with happy sounds and visuals (and another star for Bubbo’s wagon) for doing so.

If there’s any problem with Bubbo Pop!, it’s that there’s not a lot of variety in terms of puzzle types or even challenges within those rounds. Your child may loop around to the “fill in the missing letter in this word” game a few times in a play session, but know that he or she will be likely adding the last “A” to “banana” more than once. Hardly a fatal flaw – reinforcement is good! But there aren’t many game varieties, so I was a bit sad to see the same thing pop up so frequently.

There are 10 reward dances, and players have the option to skip them and just keep playing, replay the dance they’ve just seen, and watch all other unlocked dances before moving on. It’s nice, positive reinforcement, but…that’s all there is. In time, they may or may not get old.

The same can be said for the puzzles themselves. Once you’ve played them all, you’ve played them all. Kids can deal with repetition a lot better than we old folks, but after a while, I can see them losing interesting if they play frequently. y

Another potential issue I thought of while watching my kids play last night was that it would be nice to be able to set it up to play just one or two types of puzzles, rather than cycling through all of the games in pretty rapid succession (every 5 “questions,” after all). My little girl might be cool with guessing which letter is being said, but she’s nowhere near ready to fill in missing letters in the alphabet. Sure, she’s 2…but the game is rated 4+, and in the iTunes description you’ll see the following: “There are 4 educational tasks for pre-schoolers, aged from 2 to 5.”

Some kids in my son’s pre-school class (any class, to be sure) are less practiced/advanced than others. Even among peers, I can see kids around that age becoming frustrated by the game’s insistence on progressing to different challenges before they’re comfortable.

Maybe the kid just feels like matching uppercase and lowercase letters for 20 minutes?

This isn’t a flaw in the game, but I thought it might be worth mentioning. If you want to use Bubbo Pop! to help reinforce letter lessons, know that your child may not be quite ready for every challenge in the game, and there’s no way to avoid going through each one before looping back to the more basic games again.

The colorful, fun visuals, pleasant sounds/music, child-friendly voice samples and age-appropriate letter and phonics games make Bubbo Pop! perfect for the 5-and-under crowd. Mileage may vary, but it’s a free download and absolutely worth a spin if you’re looking for something educational and safe to keep the kiddos entertained for a while.

Developer 9 Lives Digital plans a series of Bubble TumTums games, all aimed at teaching kids different lessons with fun critters. If you like what Bubbo has to offer, some of his animated pals may pop up with new games and challenges soon!

Five Stars!

  • Well-made, vibrant and entertaining teaching tool for children learning/practicing their letters
  • Positive reinforcement through fun Bubbo dances
  • Designed simply, so that kids can easily play on their own

Try Again!

  • Only really 4 games that loop, limited puzzles within each
  • Inability to skip or focus on any particular game lesson

Family Focus
It’s rated 4+ on iTunes, and geared for players in the pre-school/letter-learning stage of life. Nothing family unfriendly here in the least!

Tony Sadowski

Tony is a Philadelphia-based writer and producer with a taste for the quirky and comical. A lifelong gamer and pop culture addict, he is also 1/3 of the team behind the You Like the Worst Stuff podcast. Connect with him using the links below, especially on Twitter @TweetsByTheTony. Or send your thoughts to tony@ggsgamer.com!

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