As a parent, one of the many frustrations with kids’ apps is downloading a freemium game that has virtually no access to the “good stuff” without some major IAPs. This is especially true when the app features a hugely popular and beloved character that my four-year-old happens to be obsessed with. Unless the app provides an enriching and valuable educational experience I very rarely make IAPs, based on principle alone.
That’s why I was disappointed with Budge Studios’ latest offering, Strawberry Shortcake Sweet Shop. Montreal-based Budge has a long history of making fun kids’ apps featuring well-known kids’ icons (Caillou, Care Bears, etc). Up until recently these quality apps have provided some educational content at a low download price, but the latest foray into the freemium arena doesn’t prove to be as successful.
Now, I should add this disclaimer: We were offered a $15 PayPal reimbursement from Budge to cover the cost of unlocking all of the game’s content but I decided to download the game and explore the free content before pursuing any IAPs. Even though I had received an e-mail telling me about the release of Strawberry Shortcake Sweet Shop before it hit the App Store, I figured I would approach this review from the standpoint of a parent who casually downloads the newest free app for my Strawberry Shortcake-obsessed 4-year-old.
The app is comprised of different mini-games in which players can create their own cakes, ice-cream sundaes, and other sweet treats. Making smoothies is the only accessible mini-game with the free download – just 5 minutes into playing the game (which my daughter was thrilled to have me download) she came to me asking for help to unlock content. She couldn’t even access all of the content within the free smoothie mini-game; it would cost something like $3 just to unlock different-colored straws.
Yes, I did read the part in the App Store description about possible IAPs to unlock content. Yes, I did see the column of Top In-App Purchases with the price list ranging from $2.99 – $9.99. And yes, I did still download the game. I figured (and maybe naively so) that there would be enough content to keep my preschooler engaged for longer than 5 minutes. If you have a 4-year-old you know what it’s like to have to explain them why they can’t play all of the other games on the app. (It’s not fun at all and requires much cajoling and some bribery in the form of Goldfish crackers.)
I was so let down by the high price of IAPs in this game that I didn’t even bother to go through with the full content purchase despite the promise of reimbursement. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would rather pay a higher-than-average download price for a fully unlocked app than be baited by a free download and exorbitant IAPs. While I’ve been impressed by Budge in the past, Strawberry Shortcake Sweet Shop really falls short of the studio’s previous work.