When I was a kid, i had a puzzle of the United States that I loved playing with. It taught me the capitols and geographically where each of the states were. I bought a similar puzzle for my boys. They enjoyed it, but are not fans of the cleanup and storage, nor am I really. The biggest problem is I can’t give a 3′ x 4′ foot puzzle yo play with in the back seat of the car or in a restaurant. Off to the App Store I went in search of a game that would provide the same function as the puzzle, but was fun and educational. Though most importantly, it had to hold the attention span of my 4 year old, when I need him to play independently. I downloaded every version of a State and Capitol application the App Store had to offer and The U.S. States and Capitols is without question the most user friendly, easiest to use and actually teaches you the states and capitols, not how to answer test questions. There is both a pay and a free version of the application. The pay version is only .99 cents while the free version contains only 15 states, but no ads. Its a true trial version of the full app.
The user interface of the app is what sets it apart from the other State and Capitols apps that are available in the App Store. The UI is simple, the colors are vibrant and very American, just red, white and blue of course. My favorite thing is there are no extrenious buttons for my four year old to press to get him out of the game. Very important when you need to keep a boy quite while you drive and cant assist him when he gets stuck.
Once you open the app, you have a choice of either States or Capitols.
Selecting States or Capitols, the game follows the same format. Currently there is no option to have both states and Capitols displayed within the same game. Its a feature that many other apps of the same ilk have, but in my opinion, the more options that are added, the more complexity that is added. The simplicity of this game is what makes it appealing to both younger and older folks so I dont mind or want this feature.
When States or Capitols is chosen, an audio cue of the name of the state/capitol is given as well as the state/capitol name and a pictorial choice of three states in vertical fashion. One state is the correct state and the other two are randomly chosen. Each time the game is played, the states are randomly selected so the order and the incorrect states differ every time. This ensures the user is learning the state name and its pictorial representation, rather than learning the procedure of test taking.
If you want to hear the state name again, simply press the caption bubble again and it will repeat it. The audio is very clear, professional and works just as well with the speakers of the phone as it does with the headphones. If the incorrect state is chosen, a different sound is given, though a rather positive sound, and an ‘X’ is displayed over the now grayed out state so that it may not be chosen again. This continues until the only the correct state is left to be chosen.
When the correct answer is chosen you get another audio cue that you were correct and the state zooms to where it is located on the map. It doesnt show the state in relation to the entire US, but if its a west coast state, it shows the western third of the US, a central state, the central third of the states etc.
When playing in Capitols mode and the Capitol is matched correctly to the State, the state zooms off to the area of the map where the state is, then displays a star where the city is within the state.
The game will continue until the user has correctly chosen every state or capitol and once that happens you get a nice little message congratulating you on identifying all 50 states or capitols. There is a tally in the left hand corner that displays how during the course of the game your current stats. When the game is complete, it displays the total right versus the amount wrong.
I think the app does a wonderful teaching folks the States and Capitols of our great nation, but I would like to see the app evolve to different levels of easy, medium and difficult. The current version I would classify as easy, since you get multiple choice and cannot move on without selecting the correct answer. The medium level could display the name of the state and user has to identify where on the map the state is located. The difficult level could display the state name and have the user type in the capitol. This would test the users knowledge and without any visual cues. Though admittedly, this will take away from some of the simplicity of the app which is its most appealing aspect. It would be great to learn World geography and this format could easily be extended to Europe, Africa, South America etc.
Both my six year old and my four year get something out of this game, but more importantly, both know and recognize many of the states, my 6 year more so than my four year, but thats not the point. The point is, prior to me purchasing this app, neither knew where any of the states are or what the capitols are. After, several weeks of playing with it, my six year old knows all of the states, and probably half of the capitols. My four year old knows probably 20% of his states and the capitols of a few. You know it works when you ask your six year old, what is the capitol of Washington and his response is ‘the City or the state on the upper left side of the United States?’ Without a doubt, the best buck I have ever spent!