This week marks a slight departure from normal service for this column.

Rather than tackle a shiny – usually expensive – gadget, this week I'm looking at a game for children.

Mr Shingu's Paper Zoo could more accurately be described as an origami simulator, though to refer to it as such would be a disservice. Part Tamagotchi, part SimCity and part educational tool would be a better summary.

I've tried to learn origami in the past and have found the static diagrams in books impossible to fathom. The first few folds are simple, but the process quickly descends into a muddle of dotted lines and arrows that would challenge any Mensa member. By contrast, Mr Shingu's animated diagrams are easy to follow, both when creating virtual origami on-screen and when translating those instructions on to sheets of paper in the real world.

Paper Zoo isn't simply an origami tutor. Once virtual animals are created on-screen they spring into life on a sprawling savannah where players are encouraged to feed them and even build homes for them.

My three-year-old son – who, despite inheriting some of my DNA, has only a passing interest in computers – was instantly hooked. Not only did he love creating the origami, he also quickly developed a desire to care for his flock; feeding them, housing them and even adding toys for them to play with.

One of the most welcome decisions by the Dundee-based developer Stormcloud Games is to avoid additional in-app payments. Instead, Paper Zoo has a fixed, up-front price meaning young players – and their older iPad owners – won't get an unexpected bill.

My only criticism is with a couple of the touch and swipe interactions, which can be fiddly. The animal selection screen, for example, doesn't stick to your finger, making it unclear that a bold swiping gesture would have any effect. Conversely, the paint palette is surprisingly skittish, scrolling through rainbows of colour almost without encouragement.

I'm aware when writing such descriptions that my awkward wording is reminiscent of the first journalists attempting to describe "sending thoughts by lightning" through the telegraph. Perhaps 10 years from now we'll have a common language for "dragging icons in a way that they feel stuck to your finger" and all will be simpler.

These, however, are quibbles. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, I'd encourge you to give it a whirl. Having children is a great excuse to buy it, but in truth I've been enjoying the app just as much as my three-year-old.

Positives Instantly engaging; encourages real-world play.

Negatives Touch interactions could use some polish.

Twitter: @grant_gibson