The iPhone is a delightfully versatile little device. It is a telephone, mobile entertainment center and, of course, digital pacifier for restless geeklings. To this end, kid-centered apps are plentiful, with each desperately vying for its own piece of real estate in the sorely limited storage space of most handhelds.
In its quest to differentiate itself from the multitude of other kid-friendly activities in the App Store, Faces iMake from maker iMagine Machine comes through with a simple scope, an intuitive interface and charm to spare. Much of that charm comes from its obvious association with children’s book author and mixed media artist Hanoch Piven, and the app’s sole purpose is to inspire kids to ape his distinctive style of portrait collage.
Piven also provides the literal voice of Faces iMake, narrating his own series of easy to love but (slow to load) mini video lessons concerning the finer points of portrait creation and providing some insights into his own design process. But even without this artistic primer, the app offers pick-up-and-play simplicity. Choose a background color, one of 19 head shapes and then toss in onscreen representations of everyday items to give your face features and, more importantly, character.
These items – over 100 in all – are grouped by type, from the obvious fruits and veggies, buttons and kitchen items to more exotic fare like tools and toys. You can easily scroll through each subgroup and single-tap to select your desired item. Then it’s simply a matter of dragging it to the correct position on the canvas to serve as your face’s eyes or ears or, in the case of most of my five-year-old’s surreal creations, noses.
A secondary menu, visible only when an onscreen item is selected, allows users to easily rotate these new facial features or quickly delete them, and up and down arrows can be used to bring individual items forward or push them back on the canvas plane. There’s even a heart icon that is used to quick save your preferred pieces to a special favorites area, making it all the more convenient to create an army of calculator-faced robots.
Completed faces can be saved to a gallery and shared via email or Facebook. iPhone users can also assign these caricatures to their contacts, adding another level of fun to the proceedings.
While not exactly groundbreaking in functionality, Faces iMake does offer an enjoyable experience for both child and adult users. It pairs clever visuals with funny sound effects and a custom-made theme song that, once you tire of the silliness, can easily be muted. Perhaps most importantly, it encourages creativity and reminds us that inspiration can be found anywhere.
At the going rate of 99 cents, it’s an easy sell for a kid-friendly time-waster. While certainly not without its flaws, namely the inability to scale the size of items and some infrequent crashing, Faces iMake is, like the man who inspired it, in a quirky class by itself.
Wired: artistic fun on the go, intuitive interface, tons of silly options to make a face your own
Tired: a bit of a one-trick pony, occasional stability problems.
Review copy provided iMagine Machine