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It’s Not an App or a Game, it’s a Real Toy and a Real Treat: Playtime Theater part. 1

Read Part 2 Here.

A SAHGeekMom & Pump Featured Article.

  • by: Playtime Theater (Seth and David) Make Believe Worlds, LLC.
  • Price: 2.99 (Introductory Sale!)
  • Version 1.0
  • Platform: iPad Only
  • Multiplayer & Multitouch
  • SAHGeekMom gives it 5 STARS
  • Pump Insists Playtime Theater gets an unprecedented 6th STAR!!
  • Recommended age: 7 to 107 (4-6 with adult help)

When I first started thinking about what I really wanted to do with my blog I discovered I had 3 priorities:

  1. To share my awe and wonder for the iPad and the apps that make it shine
  2. To seek out the highest quality apps with educational value and replayability for children and parents
  3. To promote apps by independent developers who are responsive and dedicated

Playtime Theater fits my criteria so perfectly it can serve as the gold standard for subsequent reviews because this is truly my definition of a 5 star app.

That doesn’t mean it has no problems, quite the contrary, Playtime Theater is a work in progress. But I can say with as much certainty possible that the app will mature quickly and that it will not be one abandoned by its developers in two months or even two years. This one is a keeper.

I had to take some time to seek out David and Seth, the two dads behind this amazing new app, and they have generously shared a lot of information about themselves, their product and their future plans.

About Playtime Theater:

Playtime Theater is a virtual puppet theater, with a medieval castle theme, which allows you to create very elaborate scenes with an amazing assortment of puppets, costumes, props, sound effects and music. You can then record your creation with your dialogue and play it back fully animated.

The Set




There is at least one other app I can think of that does something similar and was featured heavily in the app store last week, Toontastic, (which is also a fab app – I will be covering it in a future post on other great creative-play applications for iPad.) But Playtime Theater is more compelling to Pump even if it’s more complicated at first glance.

What makes Playtime Theater unique, (genuinely unique as in one-of-a-kind,) is that it somehow manages to transcend being a digital app. If feels and responds, and more importantly kids respond to it, like a real toy. Owing in part to the hand-made look of the puppets and to the almost infinite ways you can customize your experience, it is more a hybrid of an old-time home puppet theater and a modern play-set like Playmobil makes, than a digital animation studio. (Playmobil Castle for Hanukamass was $195.00 CND plus tax.)

Current Features

You can:

Change the appearance of the main characters:



Choose Your Bit PlayersDescription: Lisa's Library:Previews:2011:01:31:20110131-131544:IMG_0218.PNG

Description: Lisa's HD:Users:sophiedoyon:Pictures:iPhoto Library:Previews:2011:01:31:20110131-131544:IMG_0216.PNGSelect from a large number of sound effects and props.

Description: Lisa's HD:Users:sophiedoyon:Pictures:iPhoto Library:Previews:2011:01:31:20110131-131544:IMG_0219.PNG

Description: Lisa's HD:Users:sophiedoyon:Pictures:iPhoto Library:Previews:2011:01:31:20110131-131544:IMG_0220.PNG

You can select also one of several background soundtracks. It records
your voice as well, so you can dialogue and narration.

The Difference Between How a Child and a Parent Interacts with the Interface.

When I first looked over the app before setting Pump loose, I confess I was not entirely sure how to proceed. I had to look carefully at the in-app documentation to get started:

Description: Lisa's HD:Users:sophiedoyon:Pictures:iPhoto Library:Previews:2011:01:31:20110131-131544:IMG_0222.PNG

Description: Lisa's HD:Users:sophiedoyon:Pictures:iPhoto Library:Previews:2011:01:31:20110131-131544:IMG_0223.PNG

And even still, there are so many hidden surprises to be found by tapping around, like an animated cannon and drawbridge, a door that magically transports the character into the castle, hilarious little scenes in the windows etc. that I only discovered about 65% of them.

Thankfully there is now also a video tutorial to make sure parents know exactly how this works:

I completely expected to have to take Pump step-by-step through the process it took me about 30 minutes to get the hang of, but as I have explained, my policy is to let him interact with apps alone to gauge how intuitive they are for their intended audience, children.

So I sent him to his room to have a go at it, and was astonished by the almost preternatural quiet than descended over the house and the length of time he was gone. I gave it to him moments after he came home from school, even before a snack, and he didn’t reappear, seriously, for an hour and a half! If you have a 7ish year old child or one who was 7 once, you should be amazed. The most he can concentrate on any other non-physical activity is an hour, and really 30 minutes is about as long as he can truly focus.

When he did finally emerge from his room he was as excited as he has ever been to show off his play. Mind the video tutorial was not up, and he is a pre-reader in English so he had no instruction of any kind. (He goes to a French immersion school, he’s not daft!) Yet he managed to create an elaborate story using every feature including all the ones I had missed entirely.

Of course he discovered all the hidden treats I mentioned, not 65% or even 95%, but 100% of them. Here are just a few:

Tapping Windows Reveal Charming Surprises:

Description: Lisa's HD:Users:sophiedoyon:Pictures:iPhoto Library:Previews:2011:01:31:20110131-131544:IMG_0209.PNG

You can go from Day to Night and the Drawbridge, Cannon and other props are fully animated.

Description: Lisa's HD:Users:sophiedoyon:Pictures:iPhoto Library:Previews:2011:01:31:20110131-131544:IMG_0212.PNG

Our favorite – you can see (and change) who’s peeking out from behind the waterfall

Description: Lisa's HD:Users:sophiedoyon:Pictures:iPhoto Library:Previews:2011:01:31:20110131-131544:IMG_0225.PNG

I can’t explain it, but obviously for my son anyway, and likely your child too if they are in grade school and inclined towards gadgets, this game and its interface was quickly understood.


I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, like most young people he catches on to new gadgets faster than even his uber-geeky mom. Still when you check the app out I think you will happily surprised by how quickly it’s put to use and stays in use.

It also has one huge advantage over a deluxe playmobil-type set. No matter how much you spend on it, what you get is what you get. You are not going to regularly get packages with new men and parts; in fact unless you are more organized than I can ever hope to be, you will slowly watch the parts of your deluxe sets disappear as they get lost or broken.

This is not to say that digital toys are superior, we all know the value of imaginative play-sets and hands-on tactile experiences, but Playtime Theater is the closest thing you will find in the App Store to tactile experience which is why Pump and I both keep coming back to it.

Read Part 2

Coming up:

  • What’s Missing and What’s Coming with an exclusive sneak peek at version 1.1 and beyond.
  • An interview with David and Seth, the 2-dad team behind Playtime Theatre
  • Pump’s Points: Pump discusses what he likes and doesn’t like about Playtime Theater


Comments on: "It’s Not an App or a Game, it’s a Real Toy and a Real Treat Pt 1" (1)

  1. This looks fantastic! Now I’m dying for an iPad to play this on.
    Fabulous review, btw.

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