Tuesday, June 12, 2012

5 Free Children's Apps with NO In-App Purchases!

So I have found the iTunes App Store being glutted with supposedly "Free" games that can be played for a while, but then require "In-App Purchases" in order to have additional features unlocked. I am actually playing a game called "Heroes Call", a sort of Diablo-clone app that has a rare in-game currency called "Gems" which can be purchased in lump sums for use in the game with real money. These gems can be used to purchase special weapons and armor or be used to speed up the wait time to the next mission, which for me at level 9-and-a-half is two hours. Now, I play this game on my breaks at work which come roughly every two hours, so that isn't an issue for me (it is also possible to play the previous levels all you want). The equipment I have also does me fine and dandy, so I don't feel the need to purchase gems.

However, I can understand how a bored child without a job or school can get suckered into getting their parents to buy them these virtual items with real cash, many of which can cost more than many pay apps and perhaps even more than a console game! Heroes Call doesn't pressure me to buy these gems like I've heard some of these freeium games do such as Monster Galaxy Zodiac Signs which tries to peg you for cash right out of the gate. I find these sorts of price-gouging disappointing as the desire for cash-flow outweighs the need to make a great game. Skylanders at least gave you a real-life, nicely-painted solid piece of something for the $9 you put down on its "Sorta-In-Game-Purchases".

So, in response, I have made a list of five free, child-friendly game apps that have no in-game purchasing in them at all.  Now, keep in mind that, inevitably, most apps that are put out, whether they are pay or free, exist for the purpose of making money unless they are a utility such as a QR code scanner. They might be demo versions of larger games or glorified ads for a movie or TV show, but in the end they are not intended to cost as much as these in-app-purchase programs which can sell premiums of up to $100!

NOTE: These are for the iPhone and such, I don't know if they are on Android.

1) Jake's Neverland Pirate School (Disney)

An app made to tie in with the new kids series on Disney Channel, this app is quite large (200+mb) and has all the bells and whistles to boot. It even works on the iPad! In this game, kids can steer a pirate ship, fly around neverland with Pixie Dust, search for treasure with their spyglass and know what a "Concertina" is (I certainly didn't). Upon completion, kids get a Pirate Diploma that they can decorate and print out to post on the fridge. Neato! Disney actually has a fair number of free apps out there, but this one in particular is quite well done and is a complete game, not just a trial version.

2) Angry Birds FREE (Rovio)

Come on, you guys knew this was coming. Angry Birds is likely one of the most popular apps of all time, and the free version is no exception. Angry Birds FREE currently has 24 levels kids can play and uses most of the birds. They also sometimes add more levels to the free version (my version used to have just 15 levels, but it's been updated a few times since then) making it a worthy addition to your app collection. Now it DOES contain advertising and suggests buying the full version, but Angry Birds is a cheap app and once you get you mileage out of the free one (I haven't worn mine out, yet) you can get the full version. The actual Angry Birds has some in-app purchases, however... Mighty Eagle anyone?

3) AppBlaster Alien Attack (Apptoyz)

This app is unique in, while the company who made it is willing to fork it over for free, it is actually meant to sell a piece of hardware, a $20 gun thing that lets you hold your iPhone in the proper firing position to use it. Now, you don't actually need the App Blaster device to play the game. The app is similar to a free program you can get on the Nintendo 3DS, where you engage in combat with aliens who come at you from all sides while using your camera to make the background. This app shows up from time to time elsewhere, but this is the only 100% free one I've found, aside from...

4) "SuperHero Augmented Reality" OR "Webslinger" (Sony Pictures)

These apps recently came out for free at Walmart and does involve a little trek around the store to take pictures of the ads that unlock additional features, but at least they don't charge you for that. The Avengers "Superhero AR" App has a game which is similar to Alien Attack, only you play as your favorite Avenger (once you unlock them). The game starts with Hawkeye unlocked and I think you can unlock Black Widow with the picture up there, so even though most of the signs have been taken down, the game is still sorta playable.

Its replacement is "Webslinger" for the Amazing Spiderman. While still sort of unreleased as more content will be added later this month, it looks like it might be as fun as Avengers AR and might be worth a look.

5) Where's My Water? Free (Disney)

Another demo version of a pay game. In this one, you try to maneuver pools of water into the tub of an alligator by getting rid of sewer sludge and manipulating spouts and locks. The free version has 24 levels while the pay version (which is just $0.99) boasts it has 200. Another one where you exhaust the demo version before getting the full thing.

Honorable Mention) Sol Free

An Honorable Mention because, while free, it's...solitare...

So, while not many of them are perfectly free games, at least they don't lure you in with candy then mug you in the back ally like a lot of these "freemium" apps do. I'd say keep a handle on what your children are downloading and make sure you check and see if the supposedly "free" app has any freemium features on them by checking the app in iTunes on your home computer, which lists all of the in-app purchasing content in the sidebar to the left. I think freemium games should at least get their own section as even movie tie-in games like Madagascar are adding in-app purchasing features now. There is the ability to disable in-app purchases on your phone, but to avoid the hassling of whiny kids who want you to unlock the in-app purchases and then pay for them, simply do not allow any games with those features on your phone and don't expect your child to show restraint if you do put one of those apps on there.

EDIT: Sorry, I had to correct something. The name of the Walmart Spiderman App is actually "Webslinger", but it works much the same way as the Superhero AR app.

Also, I have pictures of the ads to unlock The Hulk and Thor in SuperHero AR with a salvaged piece of the set. Could someone try out their iPhones and tell me if they work? Click the pic, then follow the instructions in SuperHero AR.

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