With the holidays upon us, finding a gift that can incorporate the whole family can be tough. Fortunately, for parents who own an iPad and don’t mind getting their tablet marked up with various little fingerprints, Identity Games has released the first electronic board game that transforms your iPad into an interactive accessory, bringing games like the Magic Schoolbus and Animal Mania to life.
The 25- x 11-inch GameChanger board serves as a dock for the iPad, allowing it to interact with the game pieces on the surrounding board as players make their way around it, as instructed by the free GameChanger app available in the Apple App Store. The app keeps track of all game play through sensors on the board, making cheating a virtual impossibility. Shipping with four game skins, two for the Magic Schoolbus and two for Animal Mania, the GameChanger board game also includes four multi-game playing pieces.
Setup and Gameplay
The setup and installation is easy as each game is coupled with its own custom board skin. For example, once the Magic Schoolbus skins are placed on the board, the iPad screen transports players into Ms. Frizzle’s classroom, offering users a choice of a trip through the human body, to outer space or around the Earth. With the addition of videos and interactive screenplay, parents and kids can play, learn and discover through fantasy and science.
While the iPad acts a hub for questions and quick games, it also doubles as the game spinner, with a swipe in any direction to get the wheel moving. Ms. Frizzle is kind enough to shout out the number for player movement, lest there be any confusion – or cheating, though players must remember to push the pieces down with some force though, as the game tracks a player’s progress through the buttons underneath the game skins.
Whether you choose to explore the human body, outer space or Earth, Ms. Frizzle will ask you specific questions pertaining to the general topic, which you must answer correctly to spin again. The questions range from filling in the blanks on incomplete homework assignments to placing the planets in the correct order from smallest to largest. Other questions also include picking what object does not belong, with Ms. Frizzle showing four cards displaying body parts and the player must tap to choose which item is an oddity. If two players land on the same space, a memory match game ensues, with the winning player moving one step forward. This bit is hardly challenging, at least for the staff at TabletPCReview (though Jamison is not very good at the memory game), and is age appropriate for the six-year olds as listed on the packaging.
That said, those older than six will become easily annoyed with Ms. Frizzle’s over compulsive need for a player to spin the exact number to win. For instance, if a player is two spots away from the finish, he must spin a two exactly or he will have to move backwards for the remaining number of spaces. It’s a cheap way to extend gameplay.
Much is the same with Animal Mania, though this particular game uses the board more interactively with designated ABC letters on each player’s side acting as markers to answer questions. Players must answer questions from each animal kingdom correctly in order to receive a pendant, once a player has all five pendants, he wins. While there are individual questions regarding the specific animal group in which the player’s piece is located, there are also group questions, involving all the species, where everybody has the opportunity to participate. The questions range in level of difficulty but most can be determined by common sense.
Children will learn about animals, their habitats and behavior, while parents will practice the art of selective hearing, as sounds of mammals, sea creatures and dinosaurs fill the room. Be hopeful your iPad doesn’t freeze during this game, as the incessant bellow of monkeys will tempt you to smash the game against a wall. Fortunately, parents who find themselves with a monkey-induced migraine only halfway through can pause and resume the game at any time, simply by pressing the home button on the iPad.
Both games can incorporate up to four players, with two being the minimum, and the questions are generally fresh for each playthrough, with minimal repetition after a handful of outings.
With an $60 price tag in the Apple Store, GameChanger is a bit steep for a board game, though the developer did add Duck Duck Duck Goose as part of an update. Unfortunately, extra game skins will cost money.
So is the GameChanger board game worth it? For parents looking for an excuse to let their kids play with their iPads, then yes. Otherwise, old school, non-virtual board games, such as Monopoly, which only costs $10, still work just fine , even if it’s easier to cheat.