Earlier today, Disney/ABC Television Group’s Digital Media team released two new apps starring Disney Junior favorites, ‘Jake and the Never Land Pirates’ (iOS Universal) and ‘Mickey Mouse Clubhouse’ (iPad only), allowing the popular interactive shows to become even more engaging with their audiences.
In ‘Jake’s Never Land Pirate School,’ children are enrolled in Jake’s pirate school where they will learn all the skills to become part of Jake’s pirate crew. The app contains full animation and audio provided by the show’s vocal talents and includes direct interaction with Jake, Izzy, Cubby and Sharky and Bones. The first step to enroll is to create a pirate avatar which uses the iDevice’s camera (or camera roll) to place the child’s head on a pirate body. After that, it’s time to attend classes and engage in various ‘challenges’ which include: steering Jake’s ship, Bucky, through obstacle courses using the accelerometer; creating original pirate tunes with Sharky and Bones with various instruments, which the app records and plays back; Map & Spyglass in which the student uses a map and spyglass to locate various objects on the island; and Pixie Dust with Izzy (and a silent Skully) where the student learns to fly with pixie dust, navigating through a maze and avoiding a pop-up Captain Hook. And, of course, each activity is rewarded with gold doubloons which the student digs up as Jake counts them.
Along the way, the app teaches other skills such as counting, colors, superlatives and shapes. All of the activities are relatively simple to play and there’s literally no way to fail at any of them, especially with the encouragement of all of the show’s characters.
The app keeps track of all of the student’s progress and, when all the classes have been completed, the student is rewarded with certificate, deeming them an honorary Never Land pirate. The student then has the opportunity to decorate the certificate with virtual stickers and even printing it out on an AirPrint compatible printer.
The app itself is pretty flawless in its design and execution and will certainly delight any fan of the series. I only ran into a few minor issues myself. One is during the map & spyglass class, in which I was asked to locate a monkey which appeared to be hidden behind a tiki tree — it was only due to a pixie dust aura that the app finally showed as a clue that I was able to spot it. Another minor grievance is with decorating the certificate with the virtual stickers. There is no way to move or resize the stickers (you can remove them all with a press of a button however) and it wasn’t clear that you actually need to press and drag the stickers to the desired location on the certificate — that came only with trial and error. The certificate also has virtual stickers that represent the individual courses, but they only go into their designated spot on the certificate (which can be identified by nuances in the shapes), but there’s no instruction on this, nor a correction when they’re not properly placed — they simply just return back to the sheet. Last — and most minor of all — the instructions for creating the private avatar advise you on how to position your face once the photo is taken, but those instructions actually apply only to images from the camera roll, so it’s a bit confusing, particularly since it appears to not work.
Next is the ‘Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Road Rally appisode.’ Not just a clever play on words, this is an actual full-blown adaptation of the Disney Junior primetime special in which Mickey Mouse and the rest of the ‘Mickey Mouse Clubhouse’ gang engage in a friendly road race to locate Mickey Markers spread throughout the land. While the appisode faithfully reproduces the program, it attempts to make the app even more interactive than watching it on tv. For example, any time Mickey would ask the viewer a question, the app pops up a Mickey microphone and actually listens for input from the child — though just like the television show, it doesn’t really matter what the response is. Where the app really shines, however, is that it introduces new content and games that wouldn’t be possible on the show. So for example, when the assistance of Toodles is required, characters can actually explain why a particular tool wouldn’t do the job if chosen. Children are also asked to lend a finger (or use the accelerometer) when the characters are faced with a task, such as cleaning up a pile of spilled rubber duckies or clearing the road of sand.
Even more flawless in its execution, the only possible gripe with this app is its size — almost 500 MB — but justified considering it has the absolute look and feel of the actual Road Rally episode.