Authentic Games & PBL: May 2010 Archives

Games on iTouch > iPad?

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I'm still figuring out how to acquire an iPad, but I am reviewing my favorite games on iTouch (see below) and figuring out how iPad could improve or dis-improve games.

My Critical Needs for an iTouch/iPad Game

  1. Easy Tapping - I have wrist & mouse issues, so I really don't extra strain from dragging too hard. If two games are similar, the one with the less arduous tap/drag routine will win. So if the game lets me tap to move my cards/glowing balls/letters in I will be happier than if it forces me to drag. And if dragging is necessary, it's important that it have a light touch. My wrist complains otherwise.
  2. Fun Tapping - Needless to say, a game has to be fun to be worthwhile, but one of the great things about iTouch is that you can virtually move objects around (hence my appreciation of solitaire). Thus my absolute favorites are games which take full advantage of the touch screen. Fortunately, there are many ways to have fun tapping, and I suspect this will be just as important on iPad.
  3. Simple Graphics - I bought some great games for iTouch, but if the graphics are too complex, it's hard to process. One game in particular involves a lot a squinting, so that's not so good. The good thing about iPad is that the screen is bigger - some of these games may be really awesome on iPad.

And now on to the games...

Chromixa

The best of the batch in terms of taking advantage of the interface and having an educational application may be Chromixa (http://www.chromixa.com/ or read Macworld Review). Like Tangrams, the idea is to fit a set of shapes (triangles, squares, etc) into a larger shape.

The twist is that each shape has a different color (or colors). The goal is to overlap the shapes so that the colors blend to become the same solid color. For instance if you are asked to create a white square and all your pieces are red, blue and green, then you have to arrange pieces so that all three colors are on top of each other.

I find it addictive but also great for rehashing both geometry and RGB color theory. If you didn't realize that red and green make yellow on computer monitors, you will after this game. The cost is only $0.99, and I would recommend purchasing it if you need something for the airport or a long keynote.

And if it came to iPad? I really could see an art class leveraging something like this. You could play alone, play in pairs or have a teacher demonstrate to a student. I think it would be similar for other geometric/design tools.

Twisty Lite

Another new favorite is Twisty Lite from Branium Studios. This is a take on the classic puzzle where you get a set of letters and then make as many words as possible.

There are several games like this on iPhone, but this one beat a competitor because of the easy dragging rule. In another version of the game, I remember having a very hard time "capturing" and shuffling letters. You also had to make words in a separate pile, which meant that if you had SAND, you had to remove the S to get AND.

In Twisty Lite, the letters are in the same line and all you do is rearrange them. If you do get the SAND string somewhere in the line, you then drag a line under it to have it register as a word...but you can then drag under AND without having to move anything. Nice. The other advantage of having the letters in a line is that you can often see new possibilities is a reshuffle you didn't see in the old game.

In terms of education, this is obviously great for the younger set, but I will say that it's very addictive even for an adult. This could have applications for linguistics (some letter combinations are more plausible than others) and foreign language, but in those situations, I might want to disable the timer so you could explain things like "phonotactic constraints".

Could the sequencing idea have applications beyond this game? Probably.

Doodle Dots

Doodle Dots from Three Jacks Software is an iTunes version of the classic game in which you draw lines on a grid to compete for full squares (into which you place your initial). This was extremely popular in my high school.

The reason it's in the list isn't education so much as design. If you look at the interface, you will notice it's school pastime origin as it replicates sloppy handwriting and lined school paper. Even the arrows look like they were drawn by someone with really bad handwriting. Fun.

It turns out that there is now an entire genre of Doodle Games which replicate bad drawings and awful handwriting including several action games such as bowling and bounce (think leaping critter). I find this exciting because one thing that slows us down is adding graphic elements to a game.

If we attempt to compete with World of Warcraft, we are doomed. But these game interfaces remind us that at the end of the day, it's the game that matters.