Penelope the Purple Pirate Promotes Early Learning and Reading Skills

Reviewed By A. Papachristos

Price: $1.99   —   Rating: 8/10

For those who love books, the budding digital age may be devastating.  Bookstores, even famous chains, continue to file for bankruptcy and close their doors all because the Internet and digital devices have replaced people’s need for physical reading material.  And while actual books do still exist – the kinds with pages to flip, not swipe – technology makes it harder and harder to teach children what it once was like to fall in love with the shelves at a library.  Thankfully, eBooks like Penelope the Purple Pirate by PicPocket Books do their best to incorporate the old-fashioned reading traditions with the growing trends of today.

Written by Melissa Northway and illustrated by Paul Johnson, Penelope the Purple Pirate caters to children ages 4-8.  Penelope, a small girl with a big imagination, joins together with her imaginary sea creature friends to set sail for unknown territory in search of treasure.  A fantastic tale that encourages imagination and exploration, Penelope the Purple Pirate in no way lacks storytelling depth.

When you begin, users will notice a small ‘i’ in the bottom corner.  Here, you may turn the audio on or off, as well as the highlighted words.  You see, an audio recording plays as the child reads along with Penelope.  For each spoken word, the corresponding written word becomes highlighted so children will learn to connect the sounds and spellings.  Designed to promote early learning and develop independent reading skills, Penelope’s audio even encourages an interactive reading experience with sound clips hidden throughout the story.  Much like those children’s books with the soundboard buttons on the side, users can tap the seagulls or the water to hear the sounds of nature.

With Penelope, users need only use the intuitive page swipe feature, which substitutes the physical flipping of a page one would have if actually reading the book’s print counterpart.  At the end of the story, parents and teachers will then find a collection of discussion questions, fun facts about Penelope’s sea creature friends, and interactive ideas that emphasize reading comprehension and promote further learning after the story is over.

As a member of Moms with Apps, which promotes quality applications for children and families, Penelope the Purple Pirate contains all but one key component – the parent.  While I do support this applications approach to bringing children’s books into the digital age, it is my hope that busy parents will not abuse this convenience.

For a video demonstration of how Penelope the Purple Pirate works, click here. And for those who desire the paperback version, the book will be available at the end of March via Amazon.

Penelope the Purple Pirate [ iTunes Link ] requires iPhone OS 4.2 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.

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The Popes New Technology Stance is Tested via a Confession App

As technology advances the Vatican seems to cautiously acknowledge this fact.  In 2009 the Catholic church celebrated its World Communications Day with a theme of “New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship.”  The Vatican actually emailed its message to 100,000 young Catholics globally, indicating that they desired the recipients to either forward the message or publish it directly on their websites. In its message the Vatican also announced that it would take indeed be taking proactive steps to embrace the Internet and social media, indicating that soon they would offer videos of the Pope on YouTube!

In his message, Pope Benedict stipulated that if used properly, by taking a creative and correct approach, the current and evolving technology could help people, who desire connections with others, share in the search for goodness, as well as beauty and truth.

Put to the Test!

Now there is a company that has created an iPhone app that may clash with the Pope’s “New Technology” stance.   The U.S. based company Little iApps LLC has created an app designed to allow confession into a cell phone.  The “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” allows the user to essentially make a confession through a “personalized examination of conscience for each user, password protected profiles, and a step-by-step guide to the sacrament.”  By entering personal data such as sex age and marital status the user is presented with a list of check boxes to describe their sins and who they might have offended.  Imagine if it directly dialed that person for an on the spot apology!  Now that’s an app!

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Discover US National Parks With Fotopedia

Fotopedia National Parks app review

Reviewed by S. Campbell

Price: $4.99  –  Score: 10/10

Featuring some 3,000 high-resolution photographs by professional photographer Quang-Tuan Luong, Fotopedia National Parks lets you explore the great outdoors, from Yosemite to the Grand Canyon, all in impressive detail and from the comfort of your own home.

Published by Fotonauts, the developers behind impressive free iPhone/iPad application Fotopedia Heritage, Fotopedia National Parks is the perfect app for research, trip planning or just leisure. The app lets you delve into the beauty of all 58 US National Parks on your iOS device, with a user interface that is both powerful and easy to use.

To begin, you can start your own photographic ‘journey’ from the home page, begin a slideshow that will display an almost endless collection of photos or you can discover a new region suggested to you by the app. Each photo in Fotopedia National Parks comes with a complete description, obtained by tapping on the information icon to the left of the screen.

Using the other tools in the sidebar, you can view the exact location that the photo was taken via Google Maps (satellite view) – perfect if you want to visit there one day yourself! You can search for photos from a particular area or park, if there is a place that strikes your interest or you would like to learn more about.

Easy sharing lets you send photos via Twitter, Facebook or email to friends and you can even save the photos from within the app to use as your device’s wallpaper.

A real pleasure to use and a great resource for all travelers, Fotopedia National Parks is worth every penny of the $4.99 asking price.

Fotopedia National Parks is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.

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Terrables is an Original and Fast-Paced Arcade Shooter

terrables iPhone App

Reviewed by S. Campbell

Price: $0.99   —  Score: 9/10

Terrables from Nexgen Studio is a new fastest-finger-shooter for iPhone – a quirky shooter that is sure to test your reflexes.

In each level of Terrables, waves of enemies including rabid pink rabbits, evil purple trees, and other dastardly fiends run towards you from afar. Using a range of weapons, you have to try and eliminate them all before they are able to reach you.

The first stage starts with just a humble laser as your only defense, but land mines quickly come available, followed by tap-and-drag cryo waves and shock strikes as you venture further into the game. The weapons are fun to use and provide the right amount of variety in gameplay without becoming too complex. Each weapon needs to ‘refresh’ and has a cooldown which stops you from using one particular weapon non-stop and forces you to change your attack.

Throughout each round you rack up points by accurately killing all your foes. Sometimes, enemies will drop power-ups which can be picked up by tapping on them. At the end of the stage you’ll be able to view your score, time taken to clear, accuracy and health points. If you’re competitively minded, Terrables is Game Center enabled so you can score some achievements or the global leaderboard.

With entertaining and bright colorful graphics, fast-paced gameplay and lots of replayability, Terrables is well worth a download.

Terrables [iTunes Link] is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.

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Explore Our World With Fotopedia Heritage

Reviewed by S. Campbell

Price: Free  —  Score: 10/10

Fotopedia Heritage is an amazing new free app from Fotonauts Inc, which was developed in cooperation with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The app features some 25,000 photos from around the world, complete with comprehensive descriptions which all translates to one of the best travel guides you’re ever likely to find.

You can get started with the app from the home screen by tapping on ‘start here’, ‘slideshow’ or you can visit one of the suggested areas (like Africa, or Asia). After starting where the app suggested, I began my journey by flicking through the beautiful photos from all around the globe.

You can access more information on the photo by using the controls on the side of the screen. You can tap the map icon to view the location of the photo on Google Maps satellite, you can tap the magnifying glass to search for a particular geographic location, or tap the information button to learn more about the UNESCO World Heritage Site on which the photo was taken, as well as additional info on the site drawn from Wikipedia.

The photos themselves are simply amazing and have been contributed by thousands of different photographers. You can transform your device into a digital photo frame with the app, and view them as an endless slideshow if you enable the option on the home screen. You can also save the images for use as your iPad/iPhone wallpaper by tapping on the icon at the top right of the screen.

Fotopedia Heritage is a simply brilliant app for anyone with even a fleeting interest in travel, photography or the world around us. And it’s 100% free – check it out today.

Fotopedia Heritage [iTunes Link] is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.

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Play The Relationship Game With My Virtual Girlfriend

Reviewed by S. Campbell

Price: $0.99  —  Score: 8/10

Developed by the aptly named WET Productions, My Virtual Girlfriend is a universal iOS game for iPhone and iPad. Featuring slick 3D graphics, bright colorful menus and artwork as well as high quality music with Sims-like gameplay – My Virtual Girlfriend isn’t quite as sleazy as you might first expect.

At the beginning of the game you go through a matchmaking process, where you select your own physical traits like things like build, hair color and body type. You also choose from your own emotional and personality characteristics like charisma, humour and intelligence. You then select the qualities you look for in a girl – which tended to be leaning more towards descriptors like naughtiness, sexiness, affectionate and caring – as well as physical characteristics. Once you’ve completed the matchmaking process you’ll be offered a selection of three ‘virtual girlfriends’ to choose from, complete with likes and dislikes.

My Virtual Girlfriend has a lot of similarities in the gameplay to The Sims, whereby your interactions with a person are initiated via a series of menus divided up into actions, activities, touch and speak. Tapping on Actions for example, brings up a new menu with choices such as ‘Give Compliment’, ‘Hold hands’ and ‘Read to her’. With every action, your virtual girlfriend responds with some Sims-like gibberish, but there’s text on the screen that translates.

As you continue to be a nice guy and interact with her, the empty heart in the top right of the screen begins to fill up. Once your heart-bar is full, you ‘level up’ and access new actions. At level two for example, you can Brag, Preach and Wink at her. At level 3 you can Pick your Nose, Give gentle kiss and Go to work.

At the beginning she will love your every move, but my ‘girl’ started developing a little attitude, requesting that I “do her laundry” and stating that “we will get along fine as long as you do what I say” – so you have to be careful how you handle the situations that arise.

My Virtual Girlfriend is all about finding out what works and trying to level up as much as you can. A high-quality app for $0.99 and not one that takes itself too seriously.

My Virtual Girlfriend is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.

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