Did you get your little ones a tablet for Christmas? Or like me, are you trying to find more educational or interactive (*read guilt-free) ways for your children to use tech devices at home? Either way, Pebli Town from Toys Alive might be for you!
We were sent this interactive ‘toys to life’ game to review just before Christmas and it’s been a huge hit with Maia over the holidays (she’s almost 4). Like a lot of children her age, she is ‘i-mesmorised’ and loves the occasional treat time on the iPad, navigating it like a pro. As she already has a LeapFrog learning tablet for games, photos etc, we find ourselves only ever using the iPad for YouTube clips (mostly Play-Doh related) when treats are earned, or more likely, when distractions are needed. Pebli Town however adds a whole new dimension to kid’s tablet usage at home – it claims to merge the digital and physical play world. Intriguing right?
Kid’s tech usage often gets bad press, but I’m a big believer in the positive role technology can play in a child’s development. Like it, loathe it, or fear it, our kids are growing up curious and excited in an increasingly digital world, and it’s our job to guide them through it! Yes, there are some danger zones, but I believe the right technology, used in the right way CAN provide fantastic learning opportunities for any child. Pebli Town is a fine example of this.
A unique mash up of old board game style with tablet play, Pebli Town gently, and cleverly, bridges a gap between technology and ‘real’ 3D play. Like a regular board game, there is a physical, sturdy playing board, 4 x chunky characters (perfect for small hands) and town buildings to add to the board to give a pop up town effect. This board and these characters however, are interactive and link up to a tablet via an app, bringing the characters and town to life on screen for game play – and more. (Note, the tablet is not included with Pebli Town. A stand however is included to house your personal device during play.)
Pebli Town works with a selection of iOS and Android devices, listed HERE. It’s well worth checking this list before purchasing the game. Unfortunately, being an eager early adopter of the iPad, our ‘vintage’ iPad was too old to be compatible, so we had to use the iPhone 5c to test drive the game. I’m sure the larger iPad screen would be more impressive to look at, but the quality of the game play was still excellent via the iPhone, and the smaller screen didn’t seem to lessen Maia’s excitement or interest.
To get started, you simply download the Pebli Town app to your compatible device – as a cute touch there are a couple of Spot The Difference games to play with little ones while you wait.
You then ensure your Bluetooth is on, add batteries to the board (2 x AA) and sync your device to the board via it’s big blue button. Easy peasy.
We connected very quickly via Bluetooth and placed our iPhone neatly on the stand to begin play. You are guided clearly from the start and shown how to add the town buildings and characters to the board. The simplicity thrilled Maia and she took charge from the get-go!
You place the Pebli Town characters, one at a time, in to the various game circles on the board. As soon as you do that, an animation of that exact character appears on screen and introduces his/ herself – there is a fireman, a chef, a nurse and a painter.
From this point, you can choose one of the four modes of play:
- Story Teller features four stories for your child to choose from with 22 different endings to discover, helping to develop children’s vocabulary, focus and life skills
- Game Player features four different games with 25 levels in each which will test your child’s problem solving, logic skills, item association, hand eye coordination and fine motor skills while also building children’s speed and shape recognition, short term memory and creativity
- Story Creator allows your child to choose their favourite characters, record their own voice, add special effects and direct stories, then watch their creations back in the Pebli cinema helping to develop children’s creativity, imagination and social skills
- Video Room gives access to 200 pre-approved child friendly educational and entertaining videos, each relating to a Pebli Town character and wil help to develop children’s logic and reasoning as well as life skills
Maia is in a ‘storytelling’ phase at the moment so she loved in particular being able to decide ‘what happens next’ and to who, in the story teller mode by moving the characters around the board . This was further fueled in the story creator mode where she could add her own voice (and mine) to the story, plus special effects, like changing the weather! Your little one’s first movie can even be premiered on Facebook at the end, if you want to crow about your mini Spielberg in the making.
The video room mode brings us back to how we normally use the iPad – to watch short, age appropriate video clips. It’s the least interactive part of the game where you place a character on the board to see what type of TV he / she likes to watch. While certainly passive viewing, I view this mode as a little ‘time out’ zone for the kids once their creative juices have been used up in the more interactive modes.
Though advertised at a price of around £60, I’ve seen Pebli Town online recently for as little as £30 (ELC), so look around if you are keen. At £60, it’s a little steep, but overall I think it’s a great addition to any pre-schooler toy box. Between the four modes, there is a wealth of challenges and fun for little ones to enjoy, so there is a good degree of toy longevity here. It isn’t a one weekender toy, like a lot of our other Christmas games from Santa seem to be. Sigh!
The only thing I found that could be a little temperamental was some of the game circles. As the mat isn’t fixed down completely on to the board, sometimes it stopped the characters from fully fitting on to his / her designated spot, so a little bit of wiggling was required to get the tablet to register a character every now and then. Maia also needed a bit of guidance when wanting to change modes initially, but she soon got the hang of it and after a while was pretty self-sufficient playing the game. I finally had the time to respond to all those texts and what’s app messages I’d been banking for days….
But…… oh wait, she has my phone in the game. Damn it!