Reviews
Lizard Island: Observation

By Jorge Figueiredo - October 21st, 2014

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Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get children interested in things that are good for them. Vegetables, chores, school – these are things that cause some parents to rely on bribery to achieve a reasonable result. While Budding Biologist can’t really help with the consumption of greens, they have made a very interesting app for iOS and Android devices called Lizard Island: Observation to help generate interest in science. This app allows your young scientist to experience some of what biology has to offer. What’s interesting about it is that it does offer a level of challenge that makes it far more than a passive experience.

The object of Lizard Island: Observation is to observe and catalogue brown anole lizards on a series of small microislands in the Bahamas. Using a few different tools, children will be able to catch lizards, measure them, and then tag them before releasing them back into the wild. While on their quest to discover more about the brown anole lizard, children will also be able to explore other flora and fauna along the microisland system. The game has been created using data from actual research done in this region of the world, ensuring that it is as scientifically accurate as possible. Having ties to the real world (more than just through the subject matter) makes this a very valuable educational resource, on top of being a great title for kids to get their feet wet in the methodology of ecological research.

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Explore multiple microislands in the Bahamas – without the pesky airfare!

Lizard Island does a great job disseminating knowledge – but you have to work for it. Capture and measurement are performed using the touch interface of the iPad or Android tablet, as well as the internal motion detection. Children can zoom and pan the screen using basic touch controls to find the lizards (which can be surprisingly well hidden at times). Foliage can be shifted around (and shaken) by simply touching the desired greenery and dragging the finger. When a lizard is found, the child simply has to touch it (gently) to zoom in and open up the capture interface, which gives a few different options to capture the quick little creatures. The first method involves drawing a circle around the lizard using one’s finger. The second method involves using the internal gyroscope to angle a loop around the neck of the lizard and then quickly shifting the tablet up to “snag” the subject. Once captured, a ruled is used (touch-based) to measure the subject; three different coloured tags can be applied to each lizard to keep track of them (red, green, blue – either as a single tag or a combination of up to three colours).

The game keeps “notes” whenever you discover new facts, “writing” them down in a tidy fashion. Discovering facts is a matter of using the touch interface liberally, tapping your finger on anything new that you find – which brings up the name of what you are observing, as well as a little factoid (tapping this label results in a handy narration of the contents by a nice voice actor). Tapping the same items multiple times reveal even more facts – so it’s good to circle back to the same plants and creatures across different maps. Accessing the notebook is a simple matter of swiping towards the center from the left edge of the screen; flipping through the book is done by using the arrows along the bottom of the page, and tapping a line summons the pleasant narrator again, to read aloud whatever you touched.

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There is a lot to see and do in the name of science.

Overall, I found the game quite interesting. Smallest Thumbs and I played it together at first, and it takes advantage of the addictive nature of collecting. Thanks to the notebook and the capture objectives along the top of the screen (the game tells you how many lizards are on each microisland), it is fairly easy to keep track of everything. Smallest Thumbs admitted that the loop-capture method was more difficult than the circle-drawing one – but she would challenge herself from time to time to use different methods (using different capture methods and unique tags for each lizard seems to amount to more favorable results in the level summary).

Lizard Island: Observation is a great game for older kids as it presents a fair challenge along with a number of achievements to keep things interesting – all presented with decent graphics and sound. This app is also a safe choice for younger kids, as I believe that it is never too early to foster a healthy inquiring mind. Scientific methodology is an important skill that applies to far more than just lizards on islands, after all. This app can be purchased for $4.99 from iTunes; it is also available for $5.47 from the Google Play store1. This is the first in a series of three apps from Budding Biologist – I can’t wait to see what they have in store in the next two games! Now, if only they could make an app to deal with chores and vegetable consumption…

1 – These apps also have “lite” versions for iOS and Android.
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    One response so far:
  2. By Lisa
    Posted on Oct 22, 2014

    Cool!

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