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Review: Ben and Holly: Elf and Fairy Party

A closer look at the latest app based on toddler TV show Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom

We’re not the sort to turn up our noses at a free party, and that’s exactly what’s on offer with this new app based on the popular and actually-quite-good pre-schoolers’ TV show Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom.

The app is a collection of four mini-games all with a party theme. And, yep, it’s entirely free. No cost for download; no in-app purchases. A welcome relief.

But, then, you get what to pay for. Those mini-games are an odd bunch. There’s a decorating game, where you can choose a wand, horn or hat to spruce up. It’s basically pick a colour, now pick a pattern and…that’s about it. Not much creativity to be found here, although it is definitely accessible to its young target audience.

Next up is pinata – bash the sweet container with finger swipes and taps until it explodes in a shower of fairy cakes. This one is quite fun for a three-year-old and is probably the pick of the bunch – quite simply because as you play there’s a very clear on-screen result to your in-game actions. It’s certainly the one that grabbed the attention of our three-year-old reviewer.

The next game, balloon popping, is basic in the extreme. Just tap on the balloons as they appear to pop them – there’s no more to it than that, but little ones will get a kick out of hammering away at the balloons on-screen.

The last one requires a bit of a step up in co-ordination, so there’s definite potential for a bit of frustration here. Players pick five musicians to form a band and must then click on falling note bubbles before they reach each musician, to prevent them playing bum notes. As with the other games, there’s no way of winning and losing – and even missing the beats is actually quite fun as the musicians parp or get turned into giant frogs.

But overall this is an app that feels a bit lacking. There’s not an awful lot of the TV show’s cheeky character in the gameplay and the on-screen activity didn’t engage our particular reviewer enough to get him coming back for more (“I think I might go and play with my cars now…”).

Loading screens are frequent and can be slow (tested on a Google Nexus 4). When you’re trying to retain the attention of a permanently distracted three-year-old, that’s a bit of an issue – and even the appearance of Gaston the ladybird on those load screens will only hold their attention for so long.

But all that said, if your youngster is a massive Ben and Holly fan, they will probably get plenty of enjoyment from all the familiar cartoon art and voicework in this app. There’s certainly no reason not to give it a try – it’s free after all. But a little more imagination in the gameplay – even for this very young audience – wouldn’t have gone amiss.

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