Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blow the house down!

Crows normally freak me out—their carrion-eating, raucous-cawing ways give me the willies. But when it comes to kids' apps, two Crows seem to know what they're doing.

Loud Crow Interactive (producer of the awesome PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Sandra Boynton apps) had better make room in the nest for Nosy Crow, whose The Three Little Pigs is an app-only retelling of the familiar tale.

Nosy Crow's story is faithful to the traditional tale with a few original touches, including making one of the porcine siblings a girl and having the brick-building pig be the youngest one. While the narrative doesn't offer much that's new, the illustrations and interactive features are clever (though not problem-free) and imaginative. Users can choose to read the story themselves, be read to, or be read to and play along. I was skeptical about the decision to use actual kids as narrators—I was worried they'd sound irritatingly perky, like the kids on Barney and Friends—but these young readers' performances are refreshingly unaffected and engaging. Their delightful British accents don't hurt, either. Hearing the wolf's and the parents' lines delivered by child readers takes a little getting used to, however.

There are lots of interactive elements to draw kids into the story, so many that it slows the story down (which may be not a bad thing, since the story will be familiar to most users). New and cool to me: at the prompt, users can choose to help the wolf huff and puff by blowing into their iPad's microphone. (If you share your iPad with a lot of people, though, you may want to opt out.) It's hard to know when you've exhausted all the things to do on a page (flip the characters, make them speak, move items on the page, shift the perspective on the page) and can proceed to the next page, but multiple viewings may help with this problem. And speaking of multiple viewings: it's frustrating not to be able to skip around in the story; to revisit a particular page, you have to go through the whole thing again. Page by page.

Nosy Crow's "Three Little Pigs" is an auspicious debut, and I look forward to seeing what they hatch next.

—Kitty Flynn

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