Edutainment. Say that word to a lifelong gamer and watch for the eye-roll. That mashed-up word – which can actually be found in the Oxford Dictionary of English – is the verbal embodiment of adults trying to pull the wool over the eyes of kids.
As a kid in the ’80s, I remember learning the value of buying low and selling high not from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, but from a game on my TRS-80 called Lemonade Stand. I also remember my parents thinking Maths Invaders was a good idea, but it never took me long to find my way back to the trusty old Atari – shooting aliens with bullets instead of numbers was much more satisfying.
Starting life on the Apple II, Reader Rabbit was part of the edutainment software vanguard, vying for the attention of children alongside Mario and Sonic. After a long, righteous life, it seems fitting that the character should find his way to the big screens of 2018 via the tech-giant’s more recent hardware – Apple TV.
This latest incarnation of Reader Rabbit, developed by Dashalope Games and published by Games4Kids, should be a much easier sell for parents to make – all it’s really trying to teach, is how to play 2D platform games.
Aimed at around the 5-8 age demographic, Dashalope Games have put together a very competent 2D platform game that feels like a good fit for developing motor skills and pathfinding.
Visually, Reader Rabbit: Jumpsmarter has a cel shaded look, with characters and environments reminiscent of the Merrie Melodies cartoons from the 1950s and ’60s.
As for gameplay, after playing a whole bunch of levels from a beta version, my experience so far has been a very positive one.
Starting out with very simple levels and gradually increasing in difficulty, Reader Rabbit can be described as a very safe, friendly introduction to the 2D platform genre, slowly drip feeding classic tropes into the game.
Platforming and pathfinding grow in complexity through environments such as villages, forests, and caves, with players encouraged to seek out harder to get to areas by completing collectible sets in each level. Can you find 100% of the carrots? How about all of the letters to spell S.M.A.R.T? And all three books? Every level hides these items somewhere within, and players can take the easy path to completion, or challenge themselves by ticking all these boxes.
Pacifists can choose to avoid enemies altogether, bop them on the head, or defeat them by throwing acorns found throughout levels.
It might sound like I’m describing the characteristics of any worthwhile 2D platform game, and essentially that seems to be the whole point.
Anyone who has played Dracula Twins on iOS might detect a familiar structure in Reader Rabbit’s DNA, and they wouldn’t be wrong, given that Reader Rabbit is produced, designed, and directed by Björn Larsson of Legendo Entertainment – the studio behind Dracula Twins. The team at Dashalope Games are also licensing Legendo’s Thorodin Engine to build Reader Rabbit.
On a quick side-note, Legendo is currently working on Dracula Twins R2: Rapidez Renegada (R2DT), a follow-up to the iOS plaformer, which ATVG will continue to keep its eye on.
With the young demographic being targeted by Reader Rabbit, Dashalope is releasing its title as a premium game for a few dollars, with no in-app-purchases.
“[Reader Rabbit] hopefully reintroduces the Mario we all grew up with to younger audiences without the stress/fuss of constant IAP requests or Casino-like hooks,” Larsson wrote in response to my enquiry about the choice of business model.
This will be a tick in the right box for parents, knowing they won’t have to hold their breath for any surprises when opening the monthly credit card statement.
Reader Rabbit: Jumpsmarter has all the ingredients of a solid 2D platform game from what ATVG has seen so far, and, thankfully for kids, not that much in the way of Edutainment. Although with the growing list of options with which gamers can now turn pro, maybe Reader Rabbit is more educational than we think?
Playable with either the Siri Remote or a controller, Reader Rabbit is expected to release late-August, and initially at least, will be an Apple TV exclusive.
If you’re new to The Apple TV Gaming Blog (ATVG), or just new to Apple TV gaming in general, or both, then the best place to get acquainted is our Best Apple TV Games Of 2017 article. You’ll find a great collection of games to play, and a bunch of useful links to our previous site content. Enjoy.