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REVIEW: Happy Geese for iOS and Android


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happygeese_icon_180

Finding entertainment apps adapted to children with special needs is one of my favorite activities, but can also be frustrating. Sometimes a simple text button can be enough to ruin the usability of a game that initially looked very attractive. At other times, the educational elements that have been included in an app are not compatible with the cognitive levels of all children.

Two years ago, the search for apps (entertainment, communication or learning) and their analysis led me to start iAutism. This has also led me to getting involved in the development of Happy Geese, an app that essentially is an adaptation of the game of Snakes and Ladders and the Game of the Goose (more popular in Europe) for children with special needs.

With a design that is suited for these children and variety of visual aids, Happy Geese allows me, at last, to play board games with my whole family.

Two games in one app

The first thing you see when starting Happy Geese is a menu with two panels that correspond to the two games included in the app: Snakes and Ladders and the Game of the Goose.

Happy Geese 10

Tapping any of the two boards takes you to the configuration screen of the corresponding game. Happy Geese allows you to create hundreds of combinations of items, which is great but requires a slightly more complex configuration process than with a typical board game. This aspect is partly addressed with help screens that describe each configuration option one by one.

Happy Geese 11

On the left of the configuration screen, you can choose the board you want to play with. There are 5 boards per game with increasing difficulty. The free app for iOS includes two “easier” boards for each game and you can buy the 3 more advanced boards through an in-app purchase, while the full version for iOS and the Android version include all the 10 boards.

On the right you will find 5 settings buttons. The first allows you to choose the type of cells to be used on the board (colors, white or colored letters, white or colored shapes) and dice (the same five options, plus dice with numbers and dots -one or two dice-).

The next two buttons allow you to set whether snakes and ladders or geese and bridges should be included on the board. These are items that involve more complex rules and taking these away allows you to simplify the game during the initial rounds with your child.

The last two buttons allow you to enable visual aid (if you do, the cell where you have to move your chip will always be highlighted) and to decide whether you want the final cell to be multiple o not. If you do, the cell will show all colors, letters or shapes, and there will be no “rebound”.

In total, this gives you 280 different possible configurations per game. In addition, the sequence of letters, shapes or colors on the cells of the board will be different between each round, which produces an enormous variety of scenarios.

Happy Geese 14

Three types of chips

Happy Geese allows you to choose between three types of chips: drawings of faces of 16 children and adults, 8 faces of animals and the option to use your own pictures to create custom chips (which serves as another visual aid during the game).

As an additional treat, you can select a player as the King (or Queen) of the game, in which case the app will influence the dice to help that player win. This is an interesting option to help avoid disappointments with children who are learning the game and can be put off by several losses in a row. Just make sure that your children don’t see how to set that option in the configuration screen!

Let’s play!

When the game begins, there is an initial draw to see who goes first. To help you see whose turn it is, the chip and the die of that player are highlighted. Each player has a cubbyhole for his die on his side of the iPad, along with his name, and the die only appears in front of the player whose turn it is. With visual aids turned on, or if a player waits a long time without moving his chip or moves it to the wrong place, the destination cell is highlighted too.

Happy Geese 05

A typical die with dots or numbers can be a real challenge. Happy Geese solves this by offering dice with colors, shapes or letters. With these dice the chip has to be moved to the next cell with the color, form or letter that is drawn.

Snakes, ladders, geese and bridges come with fun animations that help understand their functionality. Other nice details are included in the games, such as the chips that move out of the way of the chip that is playing to help see the letters, colors or shapes on each cell.

Each time a player gets to the final cell, a podium appears with his chip together with a celebratory melody. The game continues after that to allow everyone to get to the end of the board, even when only one player remains (pressing the pause button on the board allows you to stop the game earlier if you wish).

Over time, players can gradually learn to play with the different items in each game (like snakes or ladders; each of them can be added or removed in any order) and can progress to the more difficult boards. The most advanced board of each game looks quite similar in shape and length to that of the original game and once a child is comfortable with that one, the jump to the original game is not that great anymore.

Happy Geese 17

Assessment

Compared with the many versions available of Snakes and Ladders and the Game of the Goose, Happy Geese presents a more accessible option for very young children and children with special needs. Its wide range of possible configurations allows you to adapt the game to the capabilities of every child. The help in managing turns, the chips with pictures of the players or the dice without numbers (never mind dots!) greatly increase the accessibility of these games.

Having participated in the design of this app, I find it hard to criticize it, but I can think of many things I would like to see added to the game, like the ability to play with larger cells and chips, especially if you use an iPad mini.

In summary, I think Happy Geese should be seen as an interesting addition to the category of gaming apps adapted to children with special needs.

- Francesc Sistach is the Editor of iAutism and has been actively involved in the development of Happy Geese.

 

Happy Geese 1.0
Developer: Appically
Languages: English, Spanish, French, Catalan.
Summary: Snakes&Ladders and The Game of the Goose designed for children and adults with special needs.
Versions: For iPad and for Android tablets.
Price: iPad: Free version with In-App Purchases. Android: full version for $2.99 / €2.99.

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