Ease of Use
2.7Overall Score
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I don’t know a child who isn’t obsessed with gumball machines. I remember loving them as a kid too! There is just something magical about putting in a coin, turning the handle, and getting a prize out of that little silver door! Bamba Surprise takes a child’s love of gumball machines and combines it with the alphabet to create a learning app for young readers.

To play this game, children use their finger to put the coin into the slot on the gumball machine. Then they use their finger to twist the handle around and make the prize ball fall through the machine. As the ball falls, various letters light up and the name of each letter is said. After the egg pops out, the child taps the ball and a bunch of letters appear that spell a word as well as a shadowed picture of the word. The child must tap and drag the letters to their appropriate spot under the picture to spell out the word, at which time the picture comes to life and the child is rewarded with cheering and clapping. They continue this process, collecting pictures and learning to spell new words.

I really like the idea behind this app. It is indeed fun for children to go through the motions of getting a prize from the machine. They do learn the names of the letters as they spell the words. However, the magic seems to wear off pretty quickly as doing the same thing over and over again without any variety gets pretty tedious. My son was very excited when I initially showed him how to play this app, however, after about 5 minutes of play, he was bored and didn’t want to keep playing. I don’t know that it really helped him learn how to spell any words either because the words that are given are too difficult for beginning spellers but the game is a little too basic to appeal to more advanced spellers.

The other problem I had with this app was the prevalence of in-app ads for their other apps. It is very easy for children to tap the wrong place on the screen and be re-directed to a purchase screen for the other Bamba apps. Of the 5 minutes my son played this app, I probably spent 2 minutes getting him out of the ads and back to the game. As a parent, I am leery of letting my children have access to apps like this because I don’t want to end up with extra charges on my iTunes account.

Despite the “Gumball Machine” appeal of this app and the bright and colorful graphics, I can’t really recommend this app with confidence. It is a free app, so I guess you get what you pay for where this app is concerned. If it wasn’t for the plethora of ads in this app, I might say it was worth the time to download the app and see if your children like it more than mine did; but overall, I don’t feel like it is something I can justify recommending.

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