I’m very excited to bring you my very first app review on the blog! (It’s part of a bigger secret project to come in the next few weeks.) And what an app this is! It’s Nosy Crow’s Three Little Pigs, A 3-D Fairy Tale, and it’s available now in the iTunes App Store and via your iPad. The full book is available for $7.99 and there’s also a free “Lite” teaser app for your playing pleasure.
There are many competitors in the Three Little Pigs arena. Since this well-known story has kid appeal and no licensing fees, many developers have come up with offerings. Having played a lot of these, though, recent and not so recent, I have to venture and say that Nosy Crow’s take is the best yet.
Nosy Crow is an independent book and digital book publisher out of the UK. Immediately, I can tell that they’ve got a great eye for art and design. A lot of the other Three Little Pigs apps available have cartoonish art that, to my picture book-honed sensibilities, looks cheap and one-dimensional. Not so with Nosy Crow. In fact, not only does Ed Bryan’s art and animation have its own charming and quirky aesthetic, but it is very much three-dimensional.
One of the coolest effects in this story has to do with the point of view. Using the iPad’s built-in accelerometer (which detects the device’s acceleration, tilt, motion, and rotation), readers can tilt the iPad up and down and to the sides in order to see past the story’s “frame.” There are also surprises — like a very cute spider and things that fall when you shake the iPad — for those kids who move around each page by tilting, shaking, and zooming/pinching. And it really does feel 3-D, which is all the rage for movies, TVs, and even phones these days. While some of the rendering was buggy and maneuvering around each spread got jerky at times, especially if zoomed in, it’s still a wonderful concept that enriches the feeling that you’re diving into a (very visually appealing) story world.
The story itself is winning and simple, the voice energetic and very kid-engaging. Readers can flick characters to make them jump and flip, trigger dialogue by touching hot spots, and help the pigs build their houses. The coolest part is that kids are encouraged to blow into the iPad’s microphone to help the wolf in his nefarious scheme! (Some apps, like Ocarina, are actually responsive to how and when a user blows on the mic. That is not the case here, as I was disappointed to learn. Even if you don’t blow on the microphone, the wolf will still go through the “blowing” sequence. Still, it’s a really fun concept.)
Kids can choose the “Read to Me” option, which plays the app straight through, the “Read by Myself,” without the narrative voice guiding the story, and “Read and Play,” which features the narrator but lets the reader “drive” the pacing. Each option lets readers interact with the characters, the scene, and the wolf.
One concern I had was the pacing/dialogue. On one spread, for example, we’re told that the wolf is trying to blow the brick house down. On the same spread, then, we’re told he can’t. That latter revelation would’ve been a much better fit for the next page. More suspense that way. The three piglets also have several phrases of dialogue on each page that they cycle through. Some phrases introduce the page’s action, others react to the page’s events. Sometimes, though, the pigs will seem to speak out of order as they loop through their soundbites. So one pig could be saying, for example, “Here comes the wolf!” while the next says “Good riddance!”
Another concern is the intricacy of the thing. This is a breathtaking app with beautiful art and really rich user interface. Are we shutting some of the younger kids out of the action, though? The pigs try to curate the story by guiding a reader from one hot spot to the next. Some younger users, however, may not get through a page’s events/dialogue in the order the designers intended. And it took a few plays to realize that the menu is also a tutorial. There’s just so much to do on each spread that the forward momentum could get lost. But I’d rather have an app that’s too engrossing rather than a flat, boring, and one-dimensional experience!
My favorite things about this app are the art (so stylish!), the interactivity (so many different layers), and the brilliant attention to every detail, from multiple perspectives. Everything has been thought through and through and I would recommend you check out this app today. I firmly believe that quality, visual appeal, and innovative functionality will be the hallmarks of the next generation of app developers, nay, artists. With their first digital release, Nosy Crow has become one to watch.
Speaking of watching, check out the app’s video preview, courtesy of Nosy Crow.
ETA: Added illustrator name, as there is indeed a credit screen.