Tonka “Chuck and Friends: Friends for the Long Haul”
Produced by Ruckus Mobile Media and Hasbro

Compatible with the Iphone or Ipad.

Growing up I was always a fan of Tonka trucks, and my 3-year-old son Sam is no different. Tonka’s “Chuck and Friends” line of toys has already filled his toy box with a variety of sizes of Chuck and Friends trucks. So when I got the chance to show him the new app from Hasbro & Ruckus on our iPad he was very excited. We already have a few interactive books on our tablet, so he has already got the gist of how to use these new kind of “books.” After a few pointers from me he was on cruise control for the next 15 minutes.

Lets get to the goods:

Menu screen lays everything out well and the options are great: You can use the pre-recorded narration (which uses Hasbro’s “Chuck” voice), you can read the book to your child, or even better, you can also record your own voice for the narration. Personally I’d like to think I missed my calling as a “books on tape” narrator. But I digress. There are also options on how to play, meet the various characters throughout the story, and an option screen to erase your recordings or reset your child’s progress throughout the story.

Navigation throughout the app is very basic–swipe right-to-left to change to the next screen, left-to-right to go back. A tap on the screen with a finger will bring up a slider bar to show you how far into the “book” you are, plus a button to take you back to the menu.

As the child digs deeper into the story there are story breaks which involve the child to play either a card-matching game, or using his finger to “wipe” off either mud or water to uncover a hidden item underneath. The more you uncover, the more letters you will gather to form a word at the bottom of the screen. The completed word is then saved for use at the end of the story. The same premise is used for the match-card game. For every match, you get a letter for a word at the bottom of the screen for use later. There are also small little video vignettes in the book to help move the plot along as well.

Speaking of which, at the end, there is a paragraph with various missing words and all the words that the child has gathered throughout the story are now at the bottom and the child can drag the word to the blank and complete the story. There is also a “mad-libs” style story where your kids can make their own silly story.

My only gripe with the app, and its a minor one, if no narration is happening, I’d like it if the child touches one of the words on screen it would highlight and speak the word. It reinforces sight word learning. In other words, it helps show the child what a word actually “looks” like. The app does highlight the word as it is “reading” the book to the child, but it would be great to have the additional reinforcement. It also feels a tad long, but knowing that the book keeps your child’s place in the story, it helps keep the kids’ interest coming back.

Overall its a a very well designed interactive book for your kids. My 3-year-old test subject still kept coming back to it even after he had made his way to the end. So this techie dad gives this app a big thumbs up on this. Now, I’m gonna go play with Sam’s Tonka trucks.

Editors note:  Both Daddyshome and Mike Bowling received free copies of this app for testing.