Picky Kid Rating: 2.7
Plenty of parents and children alike are fond of Eric Carle’s illustrations, known from classic books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Mixed Up Chameleon. And frankly, without such interesting artwork, we wouldn’t recommend (un-creatively named) Eric Carle’s My Very First App.
We had high expectations, considering this app is from Night & Day Studios who released one of our favorites, Peek a Boo Barn. But unfortunately, awkward user experience holds this app back.
Eric Carle’s My Very First App is essentially a matching game. There are three levels: easy, medium and hard. In easy mode, the screen is split into an upper and lower section, and players swipe through images in each section separately until a match is made. For example, if the color purple shows in the top section, a match is made when purple grapes are shown in the bottom.
The medium and hard levels are versions of the classic card-flipping “concentration” game, where a grid of cards is laid out, illustration side down, and players flip cards over two-by-two until matches are made. In medium-level games, there are 16 cards which must be matched in exact pairs (“grapes” match “grapes”); in hard games, there are 20 cards which must be matched in associative pairs (“grapes” match “purple”). The app comes with two sets of cards for matching, “colors” and “animal homes.” Other card sets — “animal sounds”, “numbers”, “shapes” and “food” — are available as in-app purchases for $0.99 each.
In all levels, a pleasant chime indicates when a match has been made, and a voiceover reinforces vocabulary when the cards are tapped. Voiceovers are available in American and British English, Spanish, Japanese, Dutch and German.
The best thing about this app is Carle’s illustrations. If you aren’t familiar with his artwork, his distinctive painted-paper and collage technique is both graphic and beautiful. But My Very First App leaves a lot to be desired in other areas.
Here’s where it falls short:
Vertical format — The vertical format is fine on the small screen of the iPhone, but it’s difficult for very small children to hold an iPad vertically.
In-app purchases too accessible — the base version of the app includes just two card sets, “colors” and “animal homes.” Other card sets, available as in-app purchases, are promoted in the game set-up screen, and are too easy for kids to tap.
The “easy” game is not very intuitive — to play the easy game with default settings, you must swipe to change the pictures on the top and bottom, and then tap the screen to hear when you have a match. It’s too complicated. It can be improved if you switch the settings so that “automatch” and “autonarrate” are ON. This causes the app to narrate the cards as they appear (otherwise you must tap to hear the narration) and to let you know immediately if you’ve made a match.
Poor placement of game play and user interface elements — in “easy” mode, a written word accompanies the voiceover when cards are swiped. The word appears under the image, and (because the top and bottom halves of the split screen are not distinguished) it’s not particularly clear which image the word belongs with. Also, the home button in the lower right corner in all modes is easy to top by mistake. There is a setting to prevent this from happening, but it’s off by default.
Some matches are ambiguous — for example, the “animal homes” card set has (among other things) a bird, a squirrel, a tree and a nest. You must match the squirrel with the tree and the bird with the nest. But doesn’t a bird live in a tree too? I would prefer less ambiguity in a matching game where answers are either “right” or not.
Technically, a turtle’s shell is not its “home” — yes, we’re being picky here, but that’s why we call it the Picky Kid App Guide! And a turtle without a shell is strange-looking.Review: Eric Carle's My Very First App iPhone App,
Eric Carle's My Very First App
Played on: iPhone 3, iOS 5
- Night & Day Studios