If you are like me, you are constantly on the lookout for new iPad apps that your kids will like. My son is obsessed with Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 recently and I finally found an app that combines his love of the movie with his love of the iPad. The Disney Cars 2 AppMATes turns your iPad into an interactive play mat to explore. This app is a great extension of the movie and it is no wonder why this iPad accessory is one of the hottest toys this year.
The iPad app is free to download from the iTunes App store and can be played without the AppMATes, however the little cars (currently Lightning, Mater, Finn, Holly, Francesco or Zhu) add a lot to the experience. The MAT in AppMATes stands for Mobile Application Toys and has been developed by SpinMaster. After I initially heard about the Cars 2 AppMATes, I did my research, I wanted to know if it really did what it said it did. I read countless reviews and started noticing that more and more bloggers were talking about it. I was I was trilled when SpinMaster sent me a copy to review on my own to see what all the excitement was about.
The premise is very simple. Use the little Lightning McQueen (with his built-in electrostatic pads) to wander around Radiator Springs collecting hub caps (currency) and completing tasks for the locals. There are jumps to soar over and shacks to knock over. Once you gather enough hubcaps you can spend them in the local shops like Luigi’s Casa de la Tires to buy new tires that are better in the mud or leave cool tire tracks in their wake. Certain tasks get you a tow hook or a new horn. I have to admit one of the coolest features is that the game can recognize which car you have placed onto the iPad screen and when you make modifications to your car in the game, your car can magically change as well. When you buy new headlights that shine blue, your car also shines blue headlights. How does this happen? Its actually pretty ingenious! There is a bright spot located under the car when it has good contact with the screen. This bright spot shines through the bottom of the car, through a short optical path and illuminates the headlights of the real car.
With every game there are downsides. The biggest is that the car can lose a strong connection with the iPad screen, and you have to wiggle it around and readjust to get the contacts to touch the screen just right. The other is that you have to hold the car by its side windows or front windshield for the iPad to recognize the car. This isn’t a problem for adults but excited toddlers will likely challenge their fine motor and memory skills. There are obvious expansions planned for future release, a tunnel that is “under construction” and buildings that currently have no activities associated with them. There is a lot that the game designers can do with this game and product. I’m a believer and can’t wait to see what comes out next.
One final note on the Disney Cars 2 AppMATes is that they were recently nominated for a 2012 Innovative Toy of the Year Award and were listed as one of the top toys for children with special needs as decided by kids with special needs. The game requires concentration and fine motor control, both of which are essential to kids with developmental and physical delays.
Disney Cars 2 AppMATes at $12.99-$19.99 might be a perfect stocking stuffer for your kids this holiday season.