Simon

What is it

Simon is a French TV show (translated into British English) for kids about a rabbit boy and his family and friends

Who is it for

The animation in Simon is simple and appealing enough that kids as young as 2 will enjoy it, and the themes presented are appropriate for kids up to age 9 or so.

What Kids Like

Simon is not as sanitized as most American and Canadian shows for kids are these days, and the characters are often bickering and dealing with bullies and other realistic situations. My kids like seeing characters handle scenarios that come up in their own life and thus are more relatable.

What Parents Like

I like that there is a show that hits the sweet spot between the overly safe PBS Kids stuff (e.g. Daniel Tiger) and obnoxiously sassy Cartoon Network/Disney stuff aimed at tweens (e.g. Teen Titans Go!). Simon manages to not talk down to kids but isn’t trying to be cool, either.

As it says on the Simon Wikipedia page:

He’s at an age when little rabbits (and indeed little children!) are starting to come into their own – challenging relationships with parents, embarking upon school life, learning about the world in general, dealing with authority and of course, language.

I also like that it’s a French show. Every culture has a slightly different approach to raising children, which is why I like my kids to see shows like Pocoyo (Spanish), The Fixies (Russian), PJ Masks (French), and Pororo (Korean), each of which gives a glimpse into a world that is not quite the same as the others.

And lastly, the “full” episodes are all 5 minutes, 19 seconds long. This makes the show a bit easier to digest and makes it easier when watching videos close to bedtime. I can say “OK, last one” and know that there will be closure within a few minutes. That’s harder to do with movies or longer shows.

What the Critics Think

IMDB gives Simon 7.9/10

A review at Animation Magazine

Life with Wifey puts Simon among the top 5 shows for kids on Netflix

Who Made it / History

The show is based on books by Stephanie Blake (American-born, living in France) who is best known for books such as “Poo Bum” (2011) and “Stupid Baby” (2012) which were originally published in France and introduce the character of Simon the rabbit.

The show is produced by GO-N Production and premiered on France TV’s Zouzous channel

More on Wikipedia

Where Can I Get it

Simon is streaming on Netflix and there is an official YouTube channel where the episodes are streaming for free.

Llama Llama

What is it

Llama Llama is a book series and an animated series based on the characters from the books.

Llama Llama is a young child with some separation anxiety, learning the basics of interacting with others and overcoming the conflict and resentment toward his mother.

Who is it for

The themes in the books make it ideal for very young children, age 2 to 4. The show is more general and kids as old as 6 might get something out of it

What Kids Like

The main plot of the first book Llama Llama Red Pajama is of a kid who doesn’t want to go to bed, who misses his mom and gets lonely. He screams for her and she comes running, but then scolds him for his “Llama drama”.

Our young kids relate to that very well and became obsessed with the book after having it read to them the first time. The red pajama book is worth sharing with your child. If they like it, you might consider the other books as well. A few others in the series deal with the same theme of the conflict that can arise between parent and child, especially at bedtime.

The appeal to kids is that, of all the kids stories out there, there aren’t many that explore the anguish of being left alone in a dark room at bedtime.

And the TV version also depicts scenarios that are not common in other kids media. For example, in one episode the child (called simply, “llama llama”) throws a fit at a grocery store and makes a mess by knocking items off a shelf. The mother (“mama llama”) then scolds him and makes him clean it up.

What Parents Like

The illustrations are fun and the rhyming language of the text makes it fun to read with a child.

I can’t think of another book, or set of books, that address the particular issue of the child getting angry at the parent. We see young adult literature in which teens defy the parent, but not board books for kids in which the child resents the parent for unfair bedtime practices.

And I like having scenes like the grocery store one described above. It’s good for kids to see depictions of bad behavior in other kids and seeing the consequences of it.

What the Critics Think

Several books in the series have won awards:

  • Llama Llama Red Pajama: Scholastic Parent and Child “100 Greatest Books for Kids” award winner; Bank Street “Best Children’s Book” recipient; Missouri Building Block Award winner; National Public Radio pick; Carolina Children’s Book Award Master List winner (picture book category)
  • Llama Llama Home With Mama: Children’s Choice Book Award “Illustrator of the Year” nominee (2012)
  • Llama Llama Time to Share: Children’s Choice book Award “Illustrator of the Year” nominee (2013); Thriving Family magazine’s Best Family-Friendly Picture Book finalist (2012)
  • Llama Llama Mad at Mama: Missouri Building Block Award winner; winner of Alabama’s Emphasis on Reading program (grades K-1); Book Sense Book of the Year Children’s Illustrated Honor Book (2008)
  • The show has had mixed reviews, with most ratings giving it ~3 stars out of 5.

    Common Sense Media gives the series 5 stars, however

    In some ways, the show doesn’t really distinguish itself from other shows aimed at young children, with themes such as the importance of sharing, how to express frustration, etc. The way that it does distinguish itself is in how it also addresses themes of conflict between a parent and a young child: e.g. the fights that happen at bedtime when the child decides he wants one more thing to eat before bed.

    Concerns/Flaws

    The show can be a bit generic – not bad, but not particularly different from Daniel Tiger or any of the other many, many wholesome kids’ cartoons out there now.

    In the cartoon, the mother is voiced by the actress Jennifer Garner, so to me the show sounds like a long Capital One commercial.

    Who Made it

    Anna Dewdney wrote and illustrated about two dozen books, most of them in the Llama Llama series

    She died at age 50 in 2016

    More on Wikipedia

    History

    Dewdney illustrated many books for other authors, but Llama Llama Red Pajama was the first one she wrote and illustrated herself in 2005. It almost immediately became an enormous hit.

    An interview with the author at Parenting magazine

    Where Can I Get it

    The books are published by Viking and are available everywhere. The show is on Netflix

    Blocksworld

    What is it

    Blocksworld (not to be confused with similarly-titled games such as “block world”) is one of many Minecraft-inspired games, but Blocksworld stands apart in the quality of the game, the number of features, and the implicit instruction of programming fundamentals.

    What Lego is to Minecraft, Duplo is to Blocksworld.

    Who is it for

    The game is complex enough to be fun and satisfying for almost any age. The controls are simple enough that kids as young as five can get something out of it.

    There is a social component to the game, where users can share their creations. While a nice idea, this can lead to some inappropriate creations being available to everyone. Blocksworld has moderators to sift out the inappropriate stuff, but parents should be aware that sometimes nasty things get through.

    What Kids Like

    This is currently my kids’ favorite game. They would spend ten hours a day playing it. It’s very easy to build stuff, and not just static things like buildings, but driveable cars with lasers and the like. There are the usual game components such as credits and badges and levels, which help motivate and get a sense of accomplishment.

    What Parents Like

    My favorite aspect is the pseudo-coding that the game uses to give functionality to the creations. If you build a car with laser beams, you need to “program” how the car and lasers operate. This kid of coding is perfect to teach kids fundamentals of programming.

    There are so many STEM apps out there, and most of them fail because they try to teach overtly. But most kids don’t want a game that teaches coding. They want a game that is fun, where the teaching is implicit.

    The best educational games are those where the education happens in the background. People who played RISK! or Axis & Allies as kids know world geography, not because they were explicitly taught, but because knowing that stuff helped in playing the game.

    What the Critics Think

    The critics don’t seem to like the game as much as I or my kids do.

    6/10 Steam
    3.8/5 iTunes – Apple
    3.1/5 Apprview.com

    A review at gameslikefinder.com
    and one at GeekDad

    Concerns/Flaws

    A couple things:

    • Wow, so many ads! This game has more ads than other games I let my kids play. I allow it because I think the game has enough merits, but the volume of ads is a concern. And since you don’t know what ads are going to be displayed, you need to supervise the kid a bit more than you would otherwise.

    • The social/sharing/multiplayer/community feature is well-done. The kids are motivated to share their creations and see what other kids have built. But it’s not hard to imagine what happens when some middle-schoolers find out that they can upload their “Momo” or “Evil Elmo” creations. Blocksworld has moderators who flag this stuff, and it’s generally a safe environment for kids, but again, supervision is strongly recommended.

    Who Made it

    Blocksworld is made by Linden Lab, A.K.A. Linden Research, Inc., who are best known as the creators of Second Life.

    Most Minecraft-like games are made by random teenagers learning to program, but Linden is a group of very experienced developers, and their experience is evident in the quality of the game.

    History

    From the Blocksworld Wikipedia page:

    Blocksworld was initially developed by Swedish independent video game developer Boldai, which was acquired by U.S.-based Linden Lab in early 2013.[3] An earlier version of the game was briefly available in 2012 in Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Denmark and Norway.[4] However, for the subsequent global release, the game was repositioned as a freemium offering where players have the option to purchase premium sets and games, additional building objects and pieces, coins, and other upgrades and extras for a small fee.

    Virtual coins serve as the in-game currency, which can be either purchased via the in-app shop or rewarded through various community actions such as having creations rated via stars.

    Players used have the option to pay 7.99 (US) or (CAD) dollars for Blocksworld Premium, which gives an infinite amount of designated blocks. Now, Blocksworld Premium is a subscription which has to be paid monthly/yearly and gives more benefits than the original Blocksworld Premium.

    In September 2017, Blocksworld was released on Steam, prior to that, you could only play it on your browser or on your mobile device.

    Where Can I Get it

    Blocksworld is not available for Android, but is for iOS and is now on Steam as well.

    I’m Just No Good at Rhyming

    I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups

    What is it
    I’m Just No Good at Rhyming is a book in the same vein as Shel Silverstein and Edward Lear, with clever wordplay and nonsense verses that often have profound thoughts buried in silly verse.

    Who is it for

    It’s for families that read together. I found that this is a book that the kids much prefer to be read aloud by an adult, rather than read on their own.

    The silliness is over the heads of the very young, so 5 may be the lower limit. Older kids who are competent readers and writers would also enjoy it.

    What Kids Like

    They like the silliness of it, the monsters, and the occasional whiff of possible violence. Many of the poems suggest at tantalizing secrets.

    They also like the whimsical illustrations by Lane Smith

    The cover of the book has an endorsement by B.J. Novak, who wrote “The Book with No Pictures”, which remains one of our kids’ favorites. This endorsement helped sell the book to my kids and convince them to give it a try.

    What Parents Like

    I like that ‘difficult’ or ‘challenging’ text is so appealing to my kids. And I genuinely like some of the poems. Many are like the best of Dr. Suess, causing me to stop and think a bit. My favorite is the eleven-stanza “A Short Saga” which has some of the absurd humor of the song “Oh, Susannah!” but goes beyond that.

    The sun that night was freezing hot,
    The ground was soaking dry.
    I met a man where he was not
    And greeted him good-bye.

    With shaven beard combed in a mess
    And hair as black as snow,
    All bundled up in nakedness
    And moving blazing snow

    I said, “Then let’s have never met.”
    To this, he nodded “No.”
    “This night, I’ll vividly forget.
    Until back then, hello.”

    What the Critics Think

    The critics love it.

    Reviews at
    * School Library Journal
    * School Library Journal (by a different reviewer)
    * Book Depository

    * NPR has an interview with the author

    * GoodReads gives it 4.35 stars
    * GoodReads gives it 5/5

    Who Made it / History

    From the publisher’s website:

    Chris Harris is a writer and executive producer for How I Met Your Mother and The Great Indoors, and a writer for The Late Show with David Letterman. His pieces have appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, ESPN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and on NPR. He was also the author of the anti-travel guide Don’t Go Europe! He lives in Los Angeles.

    Lane Smith wrote and illustrated Grandpa Green, which was a 2012 Caldecott Honor book, and It’s a Book, which has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. His other works include the national bestsellers Madam President and John, Paul, George & Ben, the Caldecott Honor winner The Stinky Cheese Man, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, Math Curse, and Science Verse, among others. His books have been New York Times Best Illustrated Books on four occasions. In 2012 the Eric Carle Museum named him an Honor Artist for lifelong innovation in the field of children’s books, and in 2014 he received the Society of Illustrators Lifetime Achievement award. Lane and his wife, book designer Molly Leach, live in rural Connecticut.

    Where Can I Get it

    I’m Just No Good at Rhyming is available at most major bookstores and Amazon.

    You can find educator kits at the publisher’s website

    And you can preview the book at Google Books

    Plus-Plus

    What is it

    Plus-Plus is a building toy made up of pieces that look like two plus signs: ++

    They are sort of like Legos, but also sort of like Play-doh

    Who is it for

    Anyone old enough to manipulate small objects and also old enough to know not to put little things in their mouth should be old enough to use it, so maybe 4 at the lower end. And anyone who still plays with Legos would enjoy Plus-Plus as well, so maybe 9 at the upper end. It would also be a decent office desk toy / stress reliever.

    The company also makes a larger version (called, simply, “Big”) that is more than twice the size of regular Plus-Plus and is easier for little hands to work with and are too big to choke on. These would be fun for kids as young as 1 year.

    What Kids Like

    The bricks/blocks connect easily and it’s very simple to make a figure or vehicle or whatever. Unlike Lego, which more and more rely on special pieces, Plus-Plus has only one shape and size of brick and this uniformity actually makes it easier to design things because you always have every shape of brick you need.

    Also, Lego requires rectilinear construction because of the way bricks fit together. But Plus-Plus can fit at angles, resulting in more organic, rounder creations.

    Perhaps the most appealing aspect, for some, is that the creations end up looking like Minecraft creations.

    What Parents Like

    I like having multiple options for building toys.

    I like that Plus-Plus are cheap. Because there are no special pieces, Plus-Plus bricks end up costing something like 5¢. The kids like taking toys in the car and on trips and when visiting people, and there is always the risk with Legos that a certain special minifig helmet or something will get lost. With Plus-plus, we can lose a few pieces and no one will notice.

    What the Critics Think

    The toy gets 4.6 stars at Amazon and 4.9 at FatBrain Toys

    The toy has won many awards, including:

    • Popular Mechanics USA “Best of Toy Fair 2019”
    • Mystery Makers highlighted as one of “2019 Most Trendy Products” at New York Toy Fair
    • Learning Express “Best Construction Toy 2018”

    Concerns/Flaws

    I keep comparing Plus-Plus to Legos because the similarities are obvious. Another similarity is that these things get scattered all over the floor and stepping on them is painful. They are a bit of a choking hazard as well for little ones.

    Who Made it/History

    The company was started in 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark and now has an office in Greenville, SC

    Where Can I Get it

    Plus-Plus used to be something of a boutique toy, only available at specialty educational stores, but they are now everywhere: Amazon, Target, Kohl’s etc.

    You can see the toy in action and images of the various sets on their website https://www.plus-plus.com/

    Pig Will and Pig Won’t

    My dad got this book for my kids. He fondly remembered reading it to my brother and me when we were young.

    What is it

    Pig Will and Pig Won’t is a simple book about two brothers, one of whom behaves well while the other does not. The good pig gets rewarded and the bad pig changes his ways because he wants rewards as well. Although this sounds a bit Machiavellian for a kids book — teaching them that good behavior is a quid-pro-quo situation where treats are ‘bought’ by not misbehaving — the story is fun, sweet, and engaging.

    Anyone who remembers Goofus and Gallant from the Highlights for Children magazine on the coffee table at the pediatrician’s office will recognize the theme.

    Who is it for

    All kids could use a reminder about the importance of good behavior, but we noticed the book resonated particularly well with our oldest, who is frequently chastised for behavior. The story and language is quite simple, so only younger kids will get much out of it.

    What Kids Like

    The kids like the classic Richard Scarry drawing style. They always enjoy looking at the details in his illustrations. And they like that the characters ‘win’ in the end.

    What Parents Like

    There really are not many engaging books that depict good manners. So many books now focus on space and STEM and try to be fun without really giving examples of how to act. Perhaps books on manners is an old-fashioned idea.

    What the Critics Think

    Goodreads gives it 4/5

    Who Made it

    Richard Scarry wrote and illustrated over 300 books until his death in 1994. He trained as an artist in Philadelphia before moving to Switzerland and many of his books take place in a kind of idealized Swiss village.

    His most famous characters are Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm.

    Where Can I Get it

    Google has a preview

    The Great Paper Caper

    Caution: Reading this book with your kids will probably make them want to start folding paper airplanes (and you will want to as well), so may not be ideal for bedtime reading.

    What is it

    The Great Paper Caper is a unique book, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, previously known for “The Incredible Book-Eating Boy” and many other titles.

    Most of the creatures (plus one kid) of the forest work together to solve the mystery of why so many tree branches are disappearing.

    Who is it for

    This is a fun one for non-readers and beginning readers as well as more mature readers. The story is not that complex, but most of the plot is implicit and the very young may not understand what’s going on. For example, on one page we see an owl alighting upon a branch, and a few pages later we see the owl trying to do so again, but no branch is there. Inferring that someone has sawn off the branch is a mental leap that very young kids can’t make.

    While younger kids focus on the animals and the overt aspects of the pictures, older kids focus more on the bear and his motivations.

    What Kids Like

    The book is very dense with details. Even the inside cover includes instructions for different paper airplanes (and the instructions on the inside of the back cover are different from the ones on the front). So they like poring over the drawings, studying the details.

    The book is also very varied in how it approaches storytelling. A few pages have overt descriptions of what is happening, other pages rely entirely on images to tell the story. Part of the book is a kid-level police procedural while others parts are a touching, almost somber exploration of the motivation of the “villain” in the story.

    And of course, they get inspired to make their own paper airplanes.

    What Parents Like

    I’m generally a fan of auteur works like this, where the pictures are drawn by the person who wrote the story. Having a single vision for art and word makes it a more personal and unique creation. Collaborative works can be wonderful, but they are more likely to have that taste of where the creative decisions were made by committee. This book does not have that problem, and the occasional weirdness or inconsistency in style makes it that much more interesting for both adults and kids.

    This is also fun to read because there are multiple ways to do so. Because so much of the story is told through pictures, I can choose to either describe the actions in detail, or briefly, or I can just stick to the text and let the kids figure out the meaning of the pictures on their own.

    The book hints at issues such as mistrust and guilt, and if you take the time the book can spawn some interesting conversations with your kids.

    The book is even used as a teaching resource to explore issues such as empathy and creativity

    What the Critics Think

    “The Great Paper Caper” gets 4/5 on Goodreads

    Publishers Weekly has a review, as does The School Library Journal

    Who Made it

    Oliver Jeffers is an Irish artist (born in Australia and now living in Brooklyn) also known for his childrens’ book illustrations, most famous for the pictures in “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt, and also for the pictures in “The Boy in the Striped Pajames” by John Boyne.

    Jeffers has many of his own books as well, that he wrote and illustrated on his own.

    He has been putting out two or three books each year since 2004.

    Where Can I Get it

    Google has a preview

    Harper Collins has an mp3 of the audiobook version

    On Beyond Zebra!

    Dr. Seuss wrote more than 60 books, many of them selling 10 million or copies or more over the past several decades. While “On Beyond Zebra!” has never been as popular as “The Cat in the Hat” or “Green Eggs and Ham”, it is one of his better ones, in my opinion.

    I don’t actually recall how we got this added to our collection, but it was probably a gift. And of all the Dr. Seuss books on our shelf, this is the one the kids pull out most frequently. “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” is fun, and we read that to the kids when they are very young, but they lose interest in that once they begin learning to read on their own.

    And while I frequently push for titles such as “Bartholomew and the Oobleck”, that just doesn’t resonate with the kids as much as “On Beyond Zebra!”

    What is it

    The book is typical of most of Dr. Seuss’s books, where each page is a nearly standalone depiction of a whimsical creature in a whimsical location, with a few lines of verse. In the case of this book, however, each page is also devoted to an exotic novel letter. That is, the book suggests there are letters that come after ‘Z’, which are needed to spell these creatures and their locations.

    Who is it for

    “On Beyond Zebra!” is ideal for kids in the first few years of learning to read. I would say ages 4 to 7

    What Kids Like

    The kids like the exotic creatures, such as the cow with 98 udders or the “Floob-Boober-Bab-Boober-Bubs” that float around as living stepping stones. They also like the invented letters. For new readers, the standard alphabet is already strange and foreign, so introducing them to ever stranger, more foreign letters actually gives them confidence about the standard letters that they do know.

    What Parents Like

    It’s a book that’s fun to read, and the images are so fantastical that I’m able to maintain my interest. And more than many other books, “On Beyond Zebra!” inspires questions about words and animals.

    What the Critics Think

    Goodreads gives “On Beyond Zebra!” 4 out 5

    Oliver Jeffers has

    Concerns/Flaws

    Some of Dr. Suess’s books have not aged well, with depictions of people or cultures or places that are now seen as offensive. This book has none of that, however.

    Google has a preview

    Someone has taken the time to add the “Seussian” letters of “On Beyond Zebra!” to the Unicode standard: http://www.evertype.com/standards/csur/seuss.html

    The Wild Robot and The Wild Robot Escapes

    What is it

    ‘The Wild Robot’ and its sequel ‘The Wild Robot Escapes’ is a very charming 2-part (so far) series about a sentient robot surviving in the wilderness, written and illustrated by Peter Brown.

    Who is it for

    The official website gives the recommended ages of 8 to 11, but every one of us enjoyed the audio book, even the 4-year-old. The books are chapter books, with occasional (wonderful) illustrations, so young readers who are used to a lot of pictures won’t want to read it. But the story is deep enough that adults and older children would enjoy it.

    What Kids Like

    It has robots, and fighting, and talking animals, but also feels like a “grown-up” story in some ways. Characters suffer and get distressed. Some characters die. This is all handled very well, and is not upsetting to kids.

    What Parents Like

    The story is surprisingly rich and deep for a book aimed at children. While the story on the surface may seem simple and childish, the themes of identity and purpose and community are thought-provoking.

    The audiobooks were rare examples of stories that both adults and kids were eager to continue listening to.

    What the Critics Think

    4.1/5 on Goodreads, 4.9/5 on Barnes & Noble, 4/5 on Common Sense Media, and 96% on Google.

    The relatively lower Goodreads score was a surprise to me, but I think some of their readers aren’t into robots.

    Who Made it

    The books were written and illustrated by Peter Brown, known for simpler books including “The Curious Garden”, “Children Make Terrible Pets”, and “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild”.

    The audio books were read by Kate Atwater / Kathleen McInerney (I think it’s the same person, but am not sure). The audio books are excellent for long car trips.

    History

    Peter Brown has a fairly detailed write-up of the process of creating the book. Interesting to aspiring writers or anyone curious about the process.

    "However, I wanted to tell a different kind of robot story. I wanted to tell the story of a robot who finds harmony in the last place you’d expect. I wanted to tell a robot nature story."

    "For this to truly be a “robot nature story” Roz would need to encounter a wide variety of natural elements. And the story would have to take place in the future to explain the existence of intelligent robots. I imagined how the wilderness might look in a few hundred years, and two things occurred to me: 1) because of climate change and rising sea levels, animals from far and wide might eventually be forced together as they all seek higher ground, and 2) some of that higher ground might become completely surrounded by water, forming new islands. With that in mind, I set the story far in the future, on a rugged northern island that was formed by rising seas, and that had a diverse array of weather and flora and fauna."

    "The Wild Robot is the story of Rozzum unit 7134, a robot who wakes up for the very first time to find that she’s alone on a remote, wild island. Roz doesn’t know how she got there, or where she came from: she only knows that she wants to stay alive. And by robotically studying her environment she learns everything she needs to know. She learns how to move through the wilderness, how to avoid danger, she even learns how to communicate with the animals. But the most important lesson Roz learns is that kindness can be a survival skill. And she uses kindness to develop friends and a family and a peaceful life for herself. Until her mysterious past catches up with her.

    It took eight years, but I finally found an answer to the question that led me down this path. What would an intelligent robot do in the wilderness? She’d make the wilderness her home."

    Where Can I Get it

    You can read a preview here although it does not include the illustrations.

    The books and audio books are everywhere.

    Machinarium – Amanita Design

    What is it

    Machinarium is a point-and-click adventure game featuring a cute robot solving puzzles in a beautifully-drawn quasi-steampunk city.

    Who is it for

    It’s for anyone, young and old, but some of the puzzles are pretty tricky and even precocious children under 7 or so would need some grown-up help. But it’s a great game to play with a child.

    What Kids Like

    The character is cute, the atmosphere is immersive and captivating, and most of the puzzles are very satisfying. There is no speed/dexterity component, so players do not need to rush and can go at their own pace.

    What Parents Like

    The puzzles make you feel smart when you figure them out, so the game feels almost educational. It is aesthetic, and as stated above, is a good game for an adult to play with a kid. The music, by Tomáš Dvořák, is fun, happy, and pleasant.

    It’s been at least 15 years since the ‘Golden Age of free Flash web games’ if there ever were such a time, back when Homestar Runner was the best thing on the Web, and Machinarium came out toward the end of that era. There were so many Flash games that I loved that my kids won’t ever see because Flash will no longer be available soon, but thankfully there are some relics of that period, such as Machinarium, that remain.

    I also like the Eastern European aesthetic of the game. The developers of Machinarium, Amanita Design, are Czech, and the look and feel of the game, the characters, the puzzles have a quality that is simply different from the American and Japanese games that flood the market.

    What the Critics Think

    Machinarium gets 9/10 on Steam, 4.6/5 on Google’s Play Store for Android, 4.3/5 on Apple’s iTunes for iOS, and 4.6/5 on Jay is games, which also has a nice write-up of the game.

    • IGF 2009, Excellence in Visual Art Award
    • Nomination for 13th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards (DICE Awards)
    • Gamasutra, Best Indie Game Of 2009
    • VGChartz.com, Best Indie Game Of 2009
    • PC Gamer, Best Soundtrack of 2009

    In 2011, Adventure Gamers named Machinarium the 17th-best adventure game ever released.

    Concerns/Flaws

    The only complaint is that some of the puzzles have the quality common to point-and-click type games, where you sometimes have to click on just the right pixel to prompt a reaction and there is sometimes a lot of frantic clicking trying to find that one spot.

    Who Made it/History

    Machinarium was the first full-length game, made in 2009 by Amanita Design, based in Brno, Czech Republic (more on Wikipedia) after years of success with shorter games such as their Samorost series

    Where Can I Get it

    You can play the free demo online using Flash. You may need to activate the Flash plugin in your browser.

    The full set of links (Humble Bundle, Steam, iOS, Android) is on the Machinarium page

    The game is going for $10 these days. If you don’t want to spend any money, or want more of a preview, check out Amanita’s other games, such as the free Samorost or The Quest for the Rest