Developer: Barefoot Explorers LLC
Price: $2.99 Download on the App Store
Barefoot Explorers’ Panda Hero for iPhone and iPod Touch is an ideal game to celebrate Earth Day and helps bring a bit of environmental awareness into the technology laden world of kids. Panda Hero is a unique combination of adventure game and virtual pet. And Barefoot Explorers has partnered with Trees for the Future to plant three live trees for every Panda Hero download.
Panda Hero’s adventure gameplay is simple – using tilt function to guide a mini explorer through a series of mazes in an effort to rescue panda bears. Along the way players encounter other caged animals they can release and use to battle poachers and collect coins to buy things to care for their pet panda. After successfully navigating through the first three scenes, players are rewarded for finding and rescuing their first panda by keeping it as a virtual pet that can be fed, played with and cared for.
Panda Hero is essentially separated into two different game modes. The first is the adventure mode, which is very similar to handheld mazes that you tilt a ball around and through. There are in-game instructions that leave players with a clear understanding of how to play and while the tilt response is pretty sensitive to movement, the mazes are a good blend of simple navigation and enemy objects so kids are challenged to keep playing without becoming easily bored or frustrated.
The virtual pet mode of Panda Hero is pretty adorable – especially if you like panda bears. The rescued pandas are placed in a wildlife sanctuary where you can interact with mamma and baby pandas by feeding them bamboo, playing ball with them and giving them love and attention. Similar to other virtual pet games, meters are displayed to show how content the pandas are. Fortunately, the pandas don’t die or run away if they aren’t fed or played with for a few days.
The eco-friendly twist of Panda Hero is what sets it apart from any other iPhone app for kids and I give kudos to Barefoot Explorers for that effort. Kids are made aware of Panda Hero’s environmental mission by in-game achievements that tell them a tree will be planted. The developers explain that while they have arranged for three live trees to be planted for each download regardless of game progress, the game still acknowledges the planting so that kids are aware of the event. In terms of environmental impact, Barefoot Explorers says that over their lifetime planting three trees is the equivalent of removing one car from the road for an entire year.
Panda Hero is a great way to celebrate Earth Day with kids. The price of the app equates to a dollar a tree and kids get a mildly entertaining game and their own virtual pet panda to keep around as a reminder that environmental awareness can be practiced every day.