Picky Kid Rating: 2.4
You probably already know the drill… Pigs build shoddy houses, wolf comes and blows them in… Yep, all except for the brick one. That’s the basic gist, and there are lots of variations on the story. Luckily (for young kids at least), this Three Little Pigs storybook app recounts one of the less grizzly versions (the pigs all escape and nobody gets boiled alive). However, this app could use some improvement in other areas.
This book app can be downloaded for free, and this review is for the free version of the app — the in-app purchases may make it better/different, but they were not available when we first downloaded, and this is (thank you!) one app where you can get a decent experience without paying extra. You get the whole story at least.
The first time you start the app, be patient! It can take a while to load. So long, that I initially thought it had crashed, and restarted the iPad. (Load time seems to be better in version 1.0.1.) Eventually, you’ll get to the app’s start screen, where you can choose how to interact with the book. The options are Autoplay, Listen & Play, and Read Myself. In-app purchases are available (for $1.99) from a tab called Fun Activities, and you may also access settings from this screen. You may turn music on or off (I think it only affects the home screen), and switch the narrator voice.
In Autoplay mode, the book will run almost like a video. There are controls for pausing the story, and moving back or forward through the pages, but otherwise you cannot interact with the scenes. Pages will auto-advance in Autoplay mode. Listen & Play mode looks very similar to Autoplay, but the experience is quite different. You can interact with the scenes by tapping on objects or tilting the iPad, and you must advance the pages yourself with the navigational controls at the bottom of the screen.
These controls are one of our biggest pet peeves with the app. In Listen & Play mode, when you get to the end of page, the big orange “play” button in the middle of the controls replays the current page, instead of advancing to the next page. (You click the right arrow to advance to the next page… which also makes sense, but is less obvious.) A simple fix would be to change the icon on the orange button from a “play arrow” to something that looks more like “replay” in Listen & Play mode. But, this brings up another problem… When you replay a page, it doesn’t reset the scene to it’s beginning state. So, for example, if you have tapped the wolf to make him run out of the last little pig’s house, and then you replay the page, the wolf doesn’t come back. (And the scene falls flat without a wolf!) If you really want to see that wolf again, you must go back a page, and then forward a page to truly reset the scene.
… And when you move between pages, you’ll see another awkward moment in this app. Each page takes some time to load. The load time isn’t a problem — it’s quite short — but the graphic that appears during loading is the word LOADING… spelled out in different colored letters. A minor point, but it’s ugly and kids can’t read it, so why not use a loading graphic that’s more appropriate and fun?
In both Autoplay and Listen & Play modes, you can hide or show the text by tapping a cloud near the top of the screen. If the text is visible, words highlight as they are spoken, which may help beginning readers… if they can decipher the letters in the complex, and somewhat decorative font. A simpler typeface would make text easier to read.
The type is especially difficult to read in Read Myself mode, where its size is reduced to show more words at once (and remember, we’re playing on a full-sized iPad here, it would be worse on a phone or a mini). Instead of appearing in small cloud at the top of the scene, the text in Read Myself mode shows in a large cloud that covers the picture almost entirely. You can use the “play” button in the navigational controls to have the voiceover read aloud, with word highlighting if the text is visible.
In terms of design and sound, this app is ok. We like the flat graphic style of the scene backgrounds, but the characters and their animations are somewhat stiff. The typesetting could be a lot better — not only is the font hard to read, but in some sentences there’s inconsistent word spacing as well. The voiceovers are pretty good. Two are available — female or male in American English. We prefer the female, it’s more dynamic than the male. Both voiceovers would benefit from better writing; certain phrases in the story are awkward. The music (which only plays on the start screen) is too loud compared to the rest of the story, but is otherwise fine.
Bottom line: There are lots of book apps that are much more inspired, with better writing and design. But the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf offers a basic story and interactivity for free, so you may be willing to overlook its shortcomings.
[The developer of this app requested a Picky Kid App Guide review.]Review: The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf iPad App,
The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf
Played on: iPad 2, iOS5
- Kid’s Academy
Price: Free, with in-app purchases