Today’s App of the Day launched in a much more soft affair a few weeks back as a web application and, as we said at the time when we interviewed the man behind it, the test will be when it finally comes to iPad. Well, that day has arrived.
Magic Town is an app designed to encourage reading, literacy, bonding, education, play and even help with ideas of guidance of moral values for children aged 2-6+. It’s a virtual book platform with a host of popular children’s titles signed up and plenty of publishers waiting in the wings, so we’re told.
The eponymous town is the delivery system for it all and comes in the shape of a virtual countryside populated by a choice of different houses that the children can visit at the touch of the screen. Each of the houses represents a different series of stories. So, you’ll find a patchwork residence to represent Elmer the Elephant, a pink castle for the Little Princess and so on. Once inside, there are books to read as well as games to play.
At the core of the experience is the Livebook itself - the animated eBook reading structure - with four modes to select from, varying from a very sit back and have it all read to you, all the way up to a read it yourself mode including a few extras you can explore.
So, what does all this wholesome fun and entertainment cost? Well, something and nothing. You can sign up for free and with that get 10 free stories and a free story to use each day for 24 hours, and we’d recommend starting here to see if it’s something that your wee one likes the look of. Beyond that, there’s a subscription model as well, as a way to purchase stories individually. It’s £7.99 for a month, £39.99 for six months and £49.99 for a year. Not cheap, but one of those things that’s easy to justify if it goes down a storm.
For us, 2.5-year-old Toddler Lint is rather having a ball with it. Sure, he gets a bit caught up in getting his hands all over the screen but he’s generally keen to continue the narrative rather than sabotage the sittings. Still, kids vary and we’ve no doubt that there will be times when he’ll prefer the novelty of mucking about instead. All the same, he has asked for Magic Town specifically already and for the short few days we've used the iPad version, he hasn’t grown weary of it and the freedom it offers over the desktop version of the software makes a significant difference, particularly at bed time.
The criticism for now is that, while there are 70 book series available, there are still gaps, with a couple of your favourites bound to be missing. But, so long as Mindshapes, the company behind the app, keeps adding to it on a regular enough basis, then that year-long subscription package shouldn’t get dry by the end.
However Magic Town pans out in the long term, do give the free version a go. It’s a no-brainer, really.