Thinkrolls 2: Rolling into physics

img_0326Thinkrolls 2 is an easy to play puzzle game app intended for kids ages 3 to 9 that works with iOS and Android systems. The game introduces kids to physics concepts, which are used to solve logic puzzles. Gameplay is simple: you select a “Thinkroll” character from the menu, then, using the touch screen, roll that character down a vertical maze. The characters cannot roll up to higher platforms, so the player has to figure out how to manipulate the tools provided to allow their character to roll to the next opening. Each of the first seven “chapters” of the game introduces a new scientific concept or tool: an accordion, a barrel that floats in water, an egg and grass, a fan that can be turned on and off, a portal, a battery, and a light bulb. The different levels within each chapter introduce the concept, demonstrate how it interacts with other elements (like water and grass) and then require the player to figure out how these concepts and tools interrelate in order to get their character to the next level of the puzzle maze. For example, using a fan to move a barrel up and then using an accordion to block a hole so the barrel can be rolled over to a hole with water.
The app has two different sets of levels: an easy set intended for children ages 3 to 5 and a hard set intended for children ages 5 to 9. Within the 117 easy and 118 hard levels, each level and chapter gets progressively more difficult, so there’s enough difficulty range for this app to be appropriate and fun for kids across a wide developmental range. There are also no penalties, cheats, or ways to “lose” the game, so kids can simply keep retrying each level until they figure out how to pass it and they have to figure it out in order to pass to the next level. Thus, kids are encouraged to experiment without worrying about failing or losing progress they’ve already made. The app also has a “parent” feature that allows the parent to choose the settings for the app (level difficulty and whether music plays in the game).
The app does cost $3.99, but there are no ads and no in-app purchases, so there’s no possibility for a player to rack up charges after the initial purchase. The app also accommodates 6 different player profiles, so you could buy it once and the whole family could play. Each successful completion of a chapter unlocks a cute new character with new expressions and features, which encourages replay. Also, new versions of the app with new concepts are being released somewhat quickly (3 in 3 years). The iOS app store offers the option to purchase Avokiddo apps as bundles.
Overall, the app strikes a delightfully fun balance between educational and entertaining with visually pleasing and smooth gameplay, cute and funny characters, an enjoyable soundtrack (if you’re into that), and well-planned and sequenced logic puzzles. It won the 2016 Google Play Best Families App Award and Children’s Technology Review gave it a 98% rating and called it “an outstanding collection of challenges” (p. 19), so it comes highly recommended.
Reviews:

Bindel, A. (2015). Thinkrolls 2. Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-reviews/thinkrolls-2#

Thinkrolls 2. (2015). Children’s Technology Review, 23(5), 19.

-Kristin

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