Planes: Storybook Deluxe takes readers to new heights

The long-awaited companion movie to Disney's Cars and Cars 2 is almost here!  Disney's Planes is flying into theaters, and it's going to be great.  The kids and I saw an advanced screening of the movie two nights ago, so we know your kids are going to love it!  They will love it so much that they'll probably be pleading for Dusty tshirts, model airplanes, coloring books and storybooks.

Fortunately (okay, luck had nothing to do with it and Disney product development had everything to do with it), young Planes fans will be able to get their fill of Planes even after they watch the movie, with the release of Disney's Planes: Storybook Deluxe app.  It's part storybook, part game play, part card collecting, and all fun. It has so much functionality built in, it's well worth the price for young Disney fans in general and young Planes fans in particular.

There are 3 main sections to the app; I'll go through each one separately:

1) Read and Fly
This is the storybook portion of the app that takes readers through the story of Planes.  Like all of Disney's Storybook Deluxe apps, older kids can read the story on their own, and younger ones can listen to a narration or a recording of their favorite grownup reading the story.  And like all of Disney's Storybook Deluxe apps, this one does a great job of bringing the story alive through film clips, music, and animated art.

A new feature to this particular storybook is the way the app games are woven into the story.  At certain points in the story, readers are taken into Race and Fly mode, where they can take the controls behind Dusty (or any other character they've already unlocked) and go on some test runs. While I love the games (see the next section, Race and Fly), I'm not sure I like having to interrupt the story to play a game.  Not to worry -- if you or your child feels like me, you can always opt out of the game and return to the story.

2) Race and Fly

The Race and Fly section lets kids race Dusty and other Planes characters through the use of tilt-and-play technology.  There are a total of 16 games -- a combination of time trials, races, and practice course runs with varying levels of difficulty.  When you complete a game successfully, you earn a Jolly Wrenches badge (the skull and crossed wrenches icon that actually plays a big role in the movie).  Collect as many of these badges as you can, because you'll need them to unlock the more challenging games.

Initially, you'll only be able to play the games as Dusty Crophopper, but the more you play, the more characters you can unlock.  As you work through a game, you'll see flying oil cans that you can collect.  You can use these oil cans to unlock more characters to fly with in the game.

There are a total of 14 characters to unlock.  Ten of them -- Dusty, Ripslinger, El Chu, Ishani, Supercharged Dusty, Racing Dusty, Ned, Zed, Bulldog and Skipper -- can be unlocked by "spending" your oil cans (some characters require more oil cans to unlock than others).

The final 4 characters --  "Jolly Wrenches" Dusty, Bravo, Echo and Liegenhosen -- can be unlocked by purchasing the Planes Read-Along Storybook and CD Bundle (available exclusively at The Disney Store and Disney Parks) and download the app using the code found on your storybook's inside cover.  If you don't have the Planes Read-Along Storybook, you can also purchase the 4 bonus planes via in-app purchase for 99 cents (I ended up purchasing them because one of my kids is absolutely mad about Bravo).

I give this games section a big thumbs-up.  I've really been enjoying the games in the newer Storybook Deluxe apps -- notably Brave, Monsters University, Cars 2, Wreck-It Ralph, and now Planes -- because each one is unique, each one is themed to the story, and each one is challenging and fun to play.  No more boring puzzles or coloring apps!

3) Scan and Fly
Kids can collect virtual Planes cards by holding their device up to any Planes logo (I did an image search and held our iPad up to my laptop screen).  Image recognition software will scan the logo and unlock a new card every day!

There are 10 cards to unlock and collect; they're displayed in the app's Adventure Album.

Each character card has a description of the character as well as a list of stats (height, wingspan, etc..). I'm a big fan of the card-collecting features in the newer Storybook Deluxe apps because it lets kids learn more about their favorite characters -- plus, they're fun to collect (and collecting them doesn't cost anything!).

You can download Planes: Storybook Deluxe from the App Store for $6.99, or purchase the Planes Read-Along Storybook and CD Bundle (available exclusively at The Disney Store and Disney Parks) and receive a code to download the app (plus the 4 special planes I mentioned before) for free!  The app is compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Disclosure: I received a sample code to download and review the app. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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