Bottom Line: Lives up to the considerable hype surrounding its release. In the crowded market of early learning apps, it's a diamond surrounded by cubic zirconia.
Bugs and Bubbles is the eagerly anticipated follow up to Little Bit Studios' hugely successful app Bugs and Buttons. Parents are likely rejoicing in the opportunity to add this app to their kids' repertoire, but for me as a reviewer, it is an unmitigated disaster. Before you send an army of flesh eating cock roaches after me for this blasphemy consider the following: Next time I review a 6-in-1 preschool learning app and discuss how much content it includes, I'll have to qualify my statement with "but not as much as Bugs and Bubbles." When I talk about intuitive interfaces, in the back of my mind will be "but not as user friendly as Bugs and Bubbles." I can talk about colorful eye-catching graphics all day long, but seriously what app is going to be as eye popping as Bugs and Bubbles? So you see the dilemma this bubbly beauty presents.
Bugs and Bubbles has 18 different games, activities and experiences set in Uncle Bob's Bubble Factory. The skills addressed cover numbers, shapes, colors, hand eye coordination, manual dexterity, patterns, balance and just having fun. The modules are divided into three stages which get progressively more difficult. Some have complained about the wide disparity in skills required, but I think it's good to appeal to a range of kids. Most families have multiple children so having one app that can be enjoyed by siblings aged 4, 6, and 8 is a good thing in my book and the difficulty only increases gradually as skills are mastered.
I'm one of the few people who doesn't have Bugs and Buttons so I did have a sense of maybe watching Breaking Dawn without having seen Twilight. Little Bit includes no verbal or written instructions in this app. There are some tutorials with a phantom hand, but for the most part, the app is designed to be plug and play or more accurately pop and play.
Kids can progress through the modules automatically and meet various arthropods along the way. The app supports multiple user profiles which are activated in the device settings. Users also have the option to pick and choose their favorites from among the 18 which include:
Bubble Harvest-help bumblebees pop star-filled bubbles as they fly across a flower strewn field (the weakest of the bunch)
Color Ninja-learn the names of colors as you pop bubbles but watch out for the bee-filled bubble as popping it ends the game
Whack'em-pop as many bubbles as you can but not those with bees in them
Counting-1:1 correspondence. The numbers increase as the game progresses.
Which?-language rich exercise that requires following directions to select balloons by color, size, quantity and other attributes. Perfect for special needs kids with language delays. This one alone justifies the modest $2.99 price.
Patterns-sliding bubbles into place to complete ABAB patterns which is a precursor to many math skills and a mainstay of IQ tests.
Bowling- balls made of roly polys and bubble pins.
Matching Bubbles-make pairs by popping letter-filled bubbles.
Shape Stacker-build a tower with square, rectangular and even triangular crates.
Load Balance-roll a cart with crates over a bumpy path into a waiting truck without any crates falling off.
QRacing-requires swiping back and forth, tapping with two fingers or turning a gear to move a butterfly or ant down the racetrack. Not the easiest to figure out how to play.
Pinch Garden-flowers quickly grow and sprout bubbles which must be pinched and collected. It's among the more difficult.
Bumble Flight-tilt to get a bee to sting star filled bubbles. This one is begging for Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee as background music.
Bug Chase-it's Pacman played on a bathroom floor.
Math Scales-put numbered boxes on a scale so that each side has the same total. My kids did this exact exercise in first grade.
Bubble4-Connect 4 with bubbles and a computer opponent. Would love to see the ability for kids to play each other or a parent.
Remember Where-standard memory game
Follow Me-tracing application that uses a foggy window for a writing surface. A bonus freestyle drawing fog board is also included.
There are certainly apps with more concentrated educational content. Playing this collection of games is not going to make your child a future Rhodes Scholar. You can be assured, however, that the skills which are addressed, no matter how cursorily, will be mastered as few apps look, sound and are as universally appealing as Bugs and Bubbles. Little Bit has created a backdrop unlike any other apps on the market. It reminds me of seeing James Cameron's Avatar in 3D for the first time. The dreamy quality of floating iridescent bubbles, combined with a classical soundtrack that includes Pachebel's Canon in D, which I walked down the aisle to, is simply captivating.
I'd selfishly love to see Little Bit design an app for older kids next time and include some elements more original than Connect 4, memory, and the ubiquitous numbers, shapes and colors. It would be interesting to see them turn their considerable talents to animated interactive ebooks. In the meantime, I'm going to have to dig out a thesaurus and come up with a whole new list of superlatives for future reviews as Bugs and Bubbles has taken all the good ones.
Jill Goodman is pleased to report her cat and house are now bug free.