Monday, May 9, 2011

Let's get lost

Children’s author/illustrator Roxie Munro has collaborated with OCG Studios to create Roxie’s A-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure. Sixteen screens of mini-mazes make up a gigantic maze that takes players through cities, farmland, freeways, and wilderness. Along the way, users search for hidden numbers, letters, and objects.

Munro’s characteristically detailed illustration style gets revved up here. As in her books (Mazescapes, Amazement Park), the mazes are complex and varied: roads and footpaths lead to a slope to ski or a river to raft, with dead ends disguised as construction sites, road blocks, driveways to private homes, or roundabouts. The landscapes are full of tiny, often interactive, vignettes, like a zoo with elephants that trumpet and a field that blooms with flowers. One especially effective screen places amusement park rides along a footpath; following the path triggers each ride to begin moving. Similar both in concept and in organization to Mazescapes, the app’s interactivity is heightened as kids tap the screen and make things happen.

Another cool feature is the ability to move from the default car to other forms of transportation (including a canoe, a raft, and a hot air balloon) in order to explore different terrains. Not every vehicle is steerable—it’d be fun to actually control the plane, for instance—but it’s still satisfying to figure out what vehicle to use to overcome obstacles and move on to the next part of the maze.

At first, I was unsure for what age group Roxie’s A-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure is intended. It requires no reading and asks players to identify numbers and letters, which would indicate a younger audience; the mazes and seek-and-find are challenging enough for older kids and even adults. But when I learned that Munro and developer OCG Studios intended to make the app accessible for players internationally, the lack of reading makes more sense. The app is rated ages 4 and up, but given the complexity of the mazes I’d suggest a minimum of age 6.

OCG Studios has a fascinating making-of blog here.

—Katie Bircher

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