Picky Kid Rating: 2.5
The Adventures of Slibby the Snail: The Stolen Food is an app that weaves lots of toddler-appropriate activities into a storyline in a book format. The activities are fairly good, but the story is so-so, so we’ll keep our eyes out for other apps that pull off this interesting format more successfully.
I really like the concept of weaving activities into a storyline — the idea that you must help a character solve a puzzle before the plot can advance — but in the case of Slibby the Snail, the activities mostly feel forced into the storyline. Here’s an example: Just as the story seems resolved and everybody is happy, a strong wind suddenly breaks Slibby’s “house” (actually his shell, which is not a house at all, tsk tsk) and we must help him fix it by doing a jigsaw puzzle. The narrative gets lost when the activities feel so arbitrary. Some activities are more fluid with the story — like when we need to move clouds out of Slibby’s way so that he can continue his journey. The app would be improved if all activities made sense like this.
The activities are quite varied. They include challenges like tapping moving objects, dragging and/or rubbing objects, finding differences, matching, dot-to-dot, jigsaw puzzle, mazes and repeating drum patterns. If an activity is too difficult, or doesn’t interest the reader, it may be skipped by tapping the “next” arrow in the lower right. Which is a good thing, because when we originally got this app, the maze scene flat out didn’t work — no matter how we tried to draw a line to Slibby’s town, he just wouldn’t follow it! This has been fixed in subsequent updates, but it is still odd because Slibby doesn’t follow the line very precisely — he slithers his way across the walls of the maze instead.
You can choose how you want to play from the home screen. The options are Read Along, which is narrated, or Read Myself, where the player or a parent can read the story as it appears on the screen. (There are two other buttons on the home screen, for “help” and “extras”. “Extras” should be called “more apps” instead.) The narration isn’t bad, and I find it much easier to let the narrator read the story than to read it myself because the writing is somewhat awkward (especially the dialog) and the punctuation is odd, sometimes even incorrect. (Apostrophe sticklers beware!)
Once you’ve started the story, you can navigate forward or backward by tapping green arrows in the bottom left and right of the screen. This is quite intuitive and, as mentioned before, allows the story to be read straight through without completing any activities. However, if you have completed an activity, the right arrow will pulse red, prompting you to continue. At any time in the story, you can tap the butterfly in the upper left to access any page. This is great for jumping to (or past) a particular activity or scene, but it is not very obvious or intuitive. Also, the butterfly icon covers the top left corner of the jigsaw puzzle activity, obscuring the placement of the “corner piece” that so many kids start with.
In terms of look and feel, the illustration style is interesting, and Slibby is generally a likable and attractive hero. It would have been nice if the designers had considered scaling the line work for elements that get reused. The combination of thin and thick line weights is distracting in some scenes, particularly when the items with light line weights (usually flowers) are in the foreground of the scene. That said, we love the richly-colored and textural artwork in this app.
Animations and touch actions are generally good, though we’ve experienced a few inconsistencies in play, for example, in the first scene sometimes we have to color Slibby a lot, and sometimes just a little. Occasionally, we’ve gotten a “Good Job” before we’ve put all the ants’ food into the sack. And the timing of the dot-to-dot activity is confusing, it draws a line to the next number before you’ve tapped that number.
Overall, we’re lukewarm on The Adventures of Slibby the Snail. The artwork is nice, but the story is a bit too long and is complicated by activities that don’t really make sense with the plot. We’ll keep looking for a better app in this genre!
Review: Slibby the Snail, the Stolen Food iPad app,
The Adventures of Slibby the Snail: The Stolen Food
Played on: iPad 2, iOS4