'Inside the World of Dinosaurs' Feeds the Dino Lover in All of Us
Feb 6, 2012 5:00 AM PT
As near as I can tell, almost every kid goes through an intense dinosaur phase, and for some adults, the fascination remains for decades. Even years after the movie "Jurassic Park" brought dinos to life, I would still eat up all the dinosaur documentary shows I could find, like "Walking With Dinosaurs." When I saw Inside the World of Dinosaurs as an app made specifically for the iPad, I was interested. When I saw that it was narrated by Stephen Fry, the UK actor, comedian and writer, I bought it.
After all, if you're going to have a narrator of something sort of sciencey it doesn't hurt to listen to a dude with a British accent.
Basically, Inside the World of Dinosaurs is a lot like an animated and interactive iBook, except it's more app-like than book-like. It has 60 animated, slightly interactive and photo-realistic dinosaurs with a total of 310 3D models of things like dinosaur tails and the fossil creation process.
Many of the dinosaurs are animated and walk in place for you, which is cool on its own, but then the dino will belch out some sort of dinosaur roar or mating call. Obviously, these noises are imaginary -- the real dinosaurs millions of years ago probably all sounded different. Still, I must admit, hearing a Quetzalcoatlus squawk seem to make the animations all the more real.
From Plants to Fights
Inside the World of Dinosaurs is a lot like a thoroughly modern encyclopedia on the subject. I don't know how many dinosaurs are represented, but there's a lot. All the dinosaurs have a encyclopedia-like entry with an 3D model, and each has a page with a basic paragraph description along with key facts, like its habitat, the period in which it lived, and its length, height and weight. Then there's a second page that offers up something interesting about the dinosaur, maybe some comparisons to other dinosaurs and an animation of the dino in action.
A Giganotasaurus, for example, weighed eight tons more than the famous T-Rex. One of the photo-realistic 3D models on the page shows a pack of the carnivores next to an adolescent Argentinosaurus. In another illustration, you can drag your finger to show the Giganotasaurus running.
Want a closer look? You can use the reverse pinch move to zoom into a 3D model to make it larger, then drag your finger around to view the dinosaur from all sides (on a horizontal plane -- you can't view a dino from above, for example, which would be awesome). I expected a pinch move here to return back to the original dino page, but alas, you have to tap an "x" with a circle around it.
While you can read the text yourself, one nice thing about letting Fry do the narration (you can toggle it on and off) is that you can listen while you touch and spin the dinosaurs and look at the plants or ecosystems. And for kids, especially, I imagine listening could bring this realistic book-like app to an audience too young to read the big words on their own.
The book doesn't exit without an homage of sorts to the famous dinosaur hunters over the years -- the book highlights 15 of them.
The Timeline feature is appreciated, too. You can, at a flickable glance, see which dinosaurs lived during which time periods in relation to other dinos of the same era. If you tap on one, you'll launch into the fact page for the creature. That's nice, but I was expecting a back button to return to the timeline. Since there is no back button, you've got to navigate back to the timeline, which isn't terrible, just unexpected.
All in all, Inside the World of Dinosaurs is a great app. Can't really go wrong. At $14.99, it seems a little spendy, but as I've noted in previous reviews, I think there's some price sensitivity cultural issues at play here. A 2D book of this quality could easily sell for twice that price, and yet on the iPad, you get something vastly more interactive and fun. So technically it's a bargain -- especially if you've got some dinosaur-obsessed youngsters running around the house.