You may know Fumiaki Shingu from his successful "Origami Club" website. Mr. Shingu specializes in very simple and fun designs, very suited for young children. So I was very intrigued, when looking for interesting iOS apps for my 2 year-old daughter, to stumble upon an app bearing his name in the app-store, specifically Mr Shingu's Paper Zoo designed by Scottish company Stormcloud Games. Trying to raise a next-generation folder, I immediately grabbed it.
The app is comprised of several layers. First, you get to virtually fold 24 different animals along with trees, shrubs and other features. To fold, the app presents you with a square and a crease line. You trace the crease line with your finger, and then a dot and a circle appear. You move the dot into the circle and the paper folds along the crease line while you do it, rotates itself for the next crease and so on. The animation is smooth, and it does look and feel like folding paper! When my daughter started, it took her a little while to figure out this interface, but now she does it quickly, and I sometimes follow along with real paper on hand, so she has a complete actual model when we're done. as an aside to the actual game, the app also includes full non-animated, traditional style step by step diagrams for all the animals.
When the model is ready, it comes alive in a designer area where you can name it, paint it, and fit it with a hat. After this is done you're off to the zoo, where your new animal starts running around with its other folded friends.
At the zoo, you need to equip each animal with a native terrain (a sheet of chiyogami!) and an appropriate house. You get these at Mr. Shingu's store, where you can also buy food for the animals, and toys to entertain them. To get money, you need to keep your animals happy - this is the Tamaguchi-like part of the game, which is not very difficult for little kids. The animals produce money when they're rested, fed and entertained, when the mess they leave after eating is cleaned-up, and when they play several mini-games. There's a simple status-bar showing the general happiness status, and clicking an animal will show you what it needs.
The animals can have babies, too! Just fold a heart, place an animal on each of its sides, and presto, a baby animal is born.
This is the basic premise of the game. You keep folding animals and adding them to the zoo, keeping them happy and playing with them.
My daughter is crazy about this game, and asks for "the panda game" all the time. Her favorite part is the folding of the animals, and she already mangles pieces of actual paper proclaiming she's making this and that animal, making me a proud folding dad. So at US$2.99, I find this game to be an excellent investment! One thing to note is that, unlike many other children's apps, there are no in-app purchases here. The initial purchase price covers everything, and there are no surprises.
Stormcloud has also recently come out with a free Halloween-themed version that can give you the idea of the folding interface.
So if you have young children, and want to bring them into the fold, this really is a winner.