Review: Chicken Cha Cha Cha19 Sep 2013 0
If you don't have an iPad used by children, read no further, and come back later this afternoon for Owen's Pro Strategy Football review.
For those of you still here: Chicken Cha Cha Cha is one of the few games for children with an extraordinarily well-considered interface--perhaps no surprise, given that it comes from The Coding Monkeys of Lost Cities and Carcassonne fame. Not only are the chicken-related assets cute, the animations help direct players' attention to salient details, subtly for rarely-used features or those of interest only to adults, and more obviously to help younger players focus on their next actions without accidentally taking other players' turns.
The basic mechanic is Memory: there are a bunch of face-down tiles in the middle, and in order to advance a space on the outer track you have to turn over the tile which matches the space. At the end of your turn you return it whence it came, and the first chicken to pass each of the other chickens (plucking a feather from their tails as they go, to keep track) wins. Where regular Memory speeds up at the end because there are few choices left to remember, Chicken Cha Cha Cha speeds up because the players have made more progress on memorizing a large but stable set of options, which leaves parents feeling like it exercises a somewhat more challenging skill. Even better for parents, however, is the use of parental controls.
Though I never noticed it, iOS 6 introduced a new accessibility feature called Guided Access, which allows users to set a password in order to leave an app. Chicken Cha Cha Cha not only introduces this feature to parents who may have missed it, but also allows the user to set up a limited number of games (up to four) which can be played. After that, the chickens are shown going to sleep, and the iPad is essentially useless until the aforementioned password is entered. It's a brilliant use of a little-known feature, and has the added benefit of familiarizing parents with an option they might have neglected. Now I can hand my daughter DragonBox secure in the knowledge that I won't peek over her shoulder in twenty minutes to find her playing with ponies or leaving her infantry out of supply.
As a game for adults to play with children, Chicken Cha Cha Cha is only very slightly more interesting than Memory. It is possible to strategize somewhat in three- or four-player games, but the real fun of it is vicarious. My kids, at almost four and five and a half, are absolutely delighted when they remember correctly--they like it so much that they'll happily help each other despite a clear cost to themselves. I find this is perhaps my favorite way to play, easing off the competition and playing semi-cooperatively. If you have two children of roughly equal levels, you can even have them team up against the AI (with two children of very different skill levels one tends to silence the other). The AI comes in three difficulty levels, with the lowest being specifically designed to be periodically generous by revealing cards the players need. Little touches like this seem to do a great deal to help my children enjoy their games.
Child-centered app development of this quality warms my heart. Admittedly, it's basically Memory, which is just the sort of game children tend to have radically more patience for than adults, so I'll never play it without my kids. But it's implemented so well that I'm happy to play with them to witness their enjoyment and learning, and even happier that there are age-appropriate AIs.