Franklin Frog Is Frankly Not That Great


I usually write about apps that I’d love for parents, caregivers and teachers to download for kids, but in this case, I’m writing about an app that needs to change a lot before you should buy it.  

Rounds:  Franklin Frog – $4.99 for iOS

I have great respect for Nosy Crow, the developer and independent publishing company that puts out children’s books and apps, so it pains me to say that they’re heading down a bad path when releasing two mediocre apps in a row.  I reviewed the first Bizzy Bear app (On the Farm) but declined the second Bizzy Bear app (Builds a House) because it felt like an annoying re-skinned version of the same thing.  I’ve been waiting for them to release something as wonderful as Pip & Posy: Fun and Games, which I wrote about in a post called Lovely British Apps for Little Fingers – Part 1, but alas … Rounds: Franklin Frog is just disappointing.  In fact, it makes me grumpy.  And I’m writing this review in hopes that they’ll stop, refocus, and work harder and longer on ONE great project, and then the world can enjoy something more like Pip & Posy and less like … Franklin Frog.

Overall, Rounds: Franklin Frog follows Franklin Frog and the cycle of a frog’s life from tadpole to mating.  And then it repeats itself.  Twice.  Or endlessly, however you look at it.

Let’s start with the positives: the artwork is great, as is the music (if you don’t leave a certain screen on for too long, and then it gets repetitive).  The narration is fine.  The animation is a little blocky at times, but otherwise fine.  For a book app, I like that the text is highlighted as it’s read.  I like that there are facts in simple language threaded throughout the app.

Ohhh … and now for the rest of it.

I’m a little annoyed that Nosy Crow insists on using these blinking blue dots to hint to the user where they should press next.  In their Bizzy Bear apps, the blue dot is more of a hint as to where you possibly press, but here it’s as if to say, “press here because that’s the only bit we worked on animating in this entire scene.”  There are several scenes in which the user “helps Franklin jump.”  While you can make him go left or right, Franklin looks a little flat.  In fact, the whole app looks a little flat.  Land and water surface lines are completely straight across.  Some foreground objects are pixelated.  Everything lacks dimension, and what would really make this app stand out would be to have layered textures to take advantage of the Retina display of the new generation iPad.  And in what is becoming a Nosy Crow animation signature, tapping on certain characters makes them do a somersault on the spot, like a good ol’ callback to when Flash first came out in the late1990s.

So we finally get to the part where Franklin is ready to mate.  He attracts Felicity, who then spawns tadpole eggs.  Out of that bunch comes Fraser.  Fraser goes through the same life cycle until he attracts Flora.  Out of that bunch comes Fletcher.  Fletcher goes through the same life cycle until he attracts Ferne.  Out of that bunch comes Franklin.  And the story loops around again.  It’s boring.

I don’t know why this app is $4.99 when really, the drawn out story is a repetition of a third of the scenes.  Using the same assets, only names and the voice over have been swapped out.  A better price would maybe be $1.99 or even $0.99 if I can run this app on a first generation iPad without losing anything experience-wise.

Nosy Crow has been set to pump out an app per month since last month until November.  I beg of you, Nosy Crow, please adjust your timelines and stretch them out.  Your team and creativity are surely burning out, and it’s showing for the worse.  There are two 5-star ratings in the iTunes App Store review section, but it does nothing for you to give you false praise.

I know you can do much better.