There’s a new private eye in town: you!
The latest title in Osmo’s iPad toy/app hybrid series is Detective Agency, where kids will get to help solve crimes by searching for clues around the world. The set retails for $39, and is available directly from Osmo or online retailers like Amazon; you will also need the Osmo base, which holds your iPad upright and has a small mirror that fits over the camera so that the app can see the space in front of the iPad.
The Osmo games have two parts: a free app that runs on the iPad and some physical components that the app can “read” using the iPad’s camera. In this case, the physical components come in a small cardboard suitcase covered with “stickers” showing various locations around the world.
Inside the suitcase is a magnifying glass (in a plastic tray) and four double-sided maps, each with a little tab that matches the various stickers on the suitcase. The magnifying glass is a fairly small lens on a long handle. One map shows the whole world on one side and Osmo Town on the other, and the rest are all real-world cities like Paris, Cairo, and Rio de Janeiro.
The maps are made of sturdy cardboard and fold up easily, and are chock-full of fun details, like famous landmarks and anthropomorphic animal characters (which you may recognize from Osmo Pizza Co.).
Now, on to the app!
When you first start up the app, you’ll meet Alto, a little robot assistant who welcomes you to your detective agency. Almost immediately, a client arrives—a bear who is missing her pet cat. (Is it weird that anthropomorphic animals have regular animals as pets? Maybe a philosophical question for another day.) Turns out the Loot Gang is responsible, and it’s up to you to track down the thief!
Alto will tell you where to look for the thief, and you get out the corresponding map and place it in front of the iPad. You’ll be tasked with finding a series of things: different buildings, specific characters or items, and so on. Depending on the difficulty level set for the game, you might be shown the actual image you’re looking for, or just a silhouette, or sometimes even just a description. Sometimes you’ll need to find several things, like stop signs, within a certain amount of time.
The app also allows you to set whether clues and descriptions are read out loud automatically. And if you get stuck looking for something, you can always use your hint, as long as it’s charged up. The hint will help you narrow down which panel of the map the object is on.
When you locate the object of your search, you slide the map so that the object is in front of the iPad, and then place the magnifying glass directly over the object. The app recognizes what you’ve encircled, and if you’re correct, displays a match and you continue on the case. Throughout the case, you’re treated to little cut-scenes (often animated characters over real-world photographs) as the culprit tries to sneak away, and then Alto and your client show up to look for the next clue. Find enough of the clues, and you’ll catch the thief and recover the stolen items!
Despite the theme, the game isn’t really about deduction so much as observation: it’s primarily a seek-and-find game, and solving a case is really just about finding all of the objects, without really worrying about why the Loot Gang is bouncing around from the bank to the bus stop to somebody who’s running to three street lamps. But it’s pretty cute nonetheless. My five-year-old has always loved search-and-find books, so this was right up her alley, and she got the hang of switching maps and sliding the maps back and forth very quickly.
There are also some very amusing things about the story because as you recover stolen items, your rewards are often those very items, which get put onto shelves in your office or hung on the wall. It seems like a bizarre way to run a detective agency, but what do I know? The animals all speak in the strange, gibberish language that they spoke in Pizza Co., and only Alto speaks English to you.
Osmo Detective is rated for ages 5 and up, and I think as long as your kid can handle the magnifying glass, they would be able to figure it out. My 12-year-old even got into it, though admittedly it was pretty simple for her, even on the highest difficulty setting. She’s probably on the outer edge of the recommended age—kids who play a lot of video games may not find it engaging enough to hold their interest. But if you’ve got a younger kid who enjoys hidden pictures and searching for small details, Detective Agency is a fun way to add some technological magic to the hunt.
Osmo is currently having a Black Friday sale, so if you’re in the market for Detective Agency or any of their other titles, you can save a little on a bundle!
Disclosure: I received a free sample of Detective Agency for review purposes.