Friday, 11 January 2013

Some app reviews

Hi Folks in the Smoke,

   I'm a huge fan of Nosy Crow's fairytale apps - Cinderella and The Three Little Pigs are gorgeous, detailed and fun, packed with lots to explore and great non-linear story-crafting. I played with some of their other offerings over the holiday and thought I'd round them up in this post.

"Bizzy Bear", ideal for pre-schoolers

 Bizzy Bear is the hero of a series of lovely board books and apps for pre-schoolers. He's a loveable and inquisitive character who explores a new environment, completes tasks and makes friends. In "Bizzy Bear On the Farm" and "Bizzy Bear Builds A House", you must help him by swiping objects, opening doors and operating machinery.


   There are eggs to collect, tractors to drive, horses to exercise, bricks to deliver, sand to shovel and cranes to operate. Benji Davis' art is cute, warm and fun and the soundtrack, highlighted reading and very young child narration all combine to make these apps really charming treats.


"Pip and Posy", ideal for pre-schoolers

   Pip (a rabbit) and Posy (a mouse) are best friends created by Axel Scheffler and they've had many picture book outings involving sharing their toys, bathroom emergencies, monster scares and snow creature construction. I've a real soft spot for them, they are very sweet and entertaining characters and their exploits are lovingly aimed at a toddler's experiences. This is their only app so far, and as the title suggests it's a game app to entertain fans rather than being story based.

   It features artwork from the stories and there are jigsaws to complete, differences to spot, card puzzles to solve and pictures to colour. My favourite task is the one where you point the tablet's camera at yourself and pull faces in order to copy Pip and Posy. Great fun with charming characters, complete with fun voice and music tracks.

"Parker Penguin", ideal for 3+

   Parker Penguin is the second in a new app avenue for Nosy Crow - non-fiction, specifically gentle but engaging natural history. The first outing featured Franklin the Frog. This material is composed by a couple Barry and Emma Tranter, who are responsible for the artwork and text, respectively.  The artwork is composed of circles, ovals, arcs etc, hence one aspect of rounds. The other is that the stories are cyclical - they begin with a baby animal and come right back around, that animal has offspring and we can go through their whole lifespan too, and that off their offspring. So we meet Parker, and his mate Penelope; and then their chick Percy and his mate Pippa and lastly Peter and Pearl at which stage we can keep the loop going by meeting their chick Parker.

   I think this is a really great, lively, layered and informative app. The use of a child's voice talent and really subtle music and sound effects are pitched perfectly. The art is funky and stylishly coloured. The interactivity (tilting the screen to make the penguin slide faster, nicely pulsing dots that tempt you to touch certain live areas) is clever and not at all intrusive. Helping Parker feed and then assisting the chicks as they shed their down were my favourite bits. And the text highlighting is lovely for early readers. It has great tangents to explore beyond the simple story of the life cycle - you can learn about ice-bergs and whales and seals, but it is never so much that you get bored of it or distracted from your character.

   Nosy Crow's next release is another fairytale - Red Riding Hood. I'm looking forward it and hope there are more Bizzy Bear, Pip and Posy and Rounds in the pipeline, too.

   Thanks for reading,

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