Picky Kid Rating: 2.4
Bebops is a relatively kid-friendly iPad app that puts you in charge of your own large (up to nine piece) band. It’s a good way to experiment with different sounds, and since the different band-members play co-ordinated loops, it usually sounds halfway decent. Our main complaint with this app is that it’s too easy for kids to access things you’d rather they didn’t.*
When you first start the app you’ll see a brief splash screen, then a nearly empty stage with a janitor sweeping the floor. The stage is well-lit — there are spotlights shining down (just waiting for band members!) and a light-up “Bebops” sign hanging in the background. It’s tempting to tap the janitor, and when you do, you’ll get a helpful hint about how to play Bebops. You might not necessarily figure it all out without these hints, so it’s a nice touch, even though kids can’t read them.
There’s a settings icon in the top left of the screen… but there are really no settings in the game. The settings screen allows you to restore purchases, rate the app or send feedback, and includes app store links to other apps. This area and the links within it are not protected by parental controls.
To start playing music, select a category by tapping one of the icons at the bottom of the screen, then tap or drag a performer from the category onto the stage. It sounds straightforward when I write about it, but in practice, this is actually a bit confusing. I think it’s because the icon categories at the bottom of the screen look like performers. When we first got this app, we tried to drag the categories on to the stage… which doesn’t work, of course!
Another thing that doesn’t help the category/performer confusion is that they’re all presented in the same row at the bottom of the screen. Categories come first, then the available performers in a selected category. If you have the free version of the app (which we do), there are only two available performers per category… the rest (13 more per category) are visible, but “locked” and grayed-out. You can unlock them in “packs” of 15 musicians (actually, I’m betting it’s only 13) for $0.99 a pop. We haven’t been compelled to do this.
The in-app purchase is very easy to access (just click on a locked musician) and not protected by any parental controls, other than Apple’s built-in confirmation screens. It’s also a bit disconcerting that tapping almost any area of the screen invokes the in-app purchase. (You’d think it would just be tapping the “Get this Pack” button with the super-happy looking face.) To abort your in-app purchase, tap the bored-looking guy on the left.
Even if you have just the free version of this app, you’ll still have twenty two different musicians in eleven different categories to play with. For us, that’s plenty! Of course, B is drawn to the category of animal musicians and particularly likes the quacking duck. (Which happens to be the most annoying performer.) Besides the obvious kid-pleasing musician categories like animals, robots and body parts, there are genre-related categories, such as rock, reggae, hip-hop, and classical, to name a few.
Experiment with the band by trying different combinations of musicians. You can adjust their volumes individually with a tap and hold, then a drag. Sound complicated? It is! It’s hard for adults to achieve, and pretty much impossible for little kids to do intentionally. You can also change a performer’s “song” (each performer has three different music loops) by tapping them while onstage... Well sometimes anyway. Tapping also sometimes take the performer off the stage.
If you get a loop going that you particularly like, you can record it by tapping the blue microphone icon in the upper right of the screen. It will start recording instantly. Tap the microphone again to stop recording. (There’s a limited amount of time you can record, indicated by a rising red mark.) When you stop recording, you’ll be prompted to Save, Play or Share it. Saving will save a video to your photo library. Play will play back the tune you just recorded, and you can share on facebook (if your iPad has facebook configured) or via email. Tap the X in the top right to get back to your band.
Bebops is quite rich in terms of design and animation. The musician characters are a nicely illustrated (they all have enormous bug-eyes though!) and well-animated. The music loops are good as well, as you’d hope from a music app! Like all loops though, they get repetitive after a while (especially the aforementioned quacking duck), so you may find yourself reaching for the volume control if your toddler plays for too long.
Overall, Bebops offers a fairly entertaining musical experience, even with the free version. Its weaknesses are the user interface, which is confusing and not always consistent. It is also prone to crashes, and it is too easy for kids to access the iTunes store, facebook, and email. Apologies in advance, clients, for those weird quacking duck music videos.
[The developer of this app requested a Picky Kid review. No fees were paid.]
Review: Bebops iPad App,
BEBOPS - Create your own band
Played on: iPad2, iOS6
- Lisbon Labs
Price: Free, with in-app purchases