If you and your kids like making faces, there’s a fun new app that you’ll really love: Create a Monster by Just Fun pairs an easy-to-learn interface and lots of bizarre parts to help you create oodles of weird creatures. Of course, there are lots of similar apps to this one — Faces iMake is one that we’ve mentioned here on GeekDad that uses real-world objects to make faces, with some intentional limitations built into it. A search for “Create a Monster” in iTunes will actually turn up a lot of other similar-sounding titles, and I’m sure that many of those are also a lot of fun, too.
However, when I first heard about Create a Monster and watched the video on their website, I was immediately drawn to the graphics, which are big and bold and colorful. It also looked really easy. Just Fun kindly granted my request to try out the app, and after fiddling with it briefly I set my kids at it to see what they would make.
For each monster, you can choose a head shape, eyes, noses, mouths, ears, horns, glasses, hair, and various other features like scars, warts, wrinkles, and so on. Many of the items come in a dozen colors so you can adjust them to your liking. Double-tap to select an item, and it appears on the image with a box around it: drag the white circles in the corner to resize, or the yellow circles on the edges to rotate. Want a symmetrical face? Tap the “reflection” icon at the top of the screen and it automatically makes a copy that resizes and moves with the original, or helps you center a feature if you only want one.
Once you’re done, your monster gets saved to the gallery, which lets you browse through all your faces with a fancy gold frame. You can delete monsters you don’t want, or share your favorites via email, Twitter, or Facebook. You can even send them directly to a printer (if you have a wifi-enabled printer). Also, once a monster is saved, there’s a button to clone it in case you want to use it as the basis for creating a similar one.
My kids took to it immediately and created a dozen monsters or so, mostly with long hair. It’s been funny to see the types of things that they come up with, and it’s so easy that my four-year-old hasn’t had any trouble creating pictures by herself. But I’ve also made several myself, and it’s a very satisfying experience to try out different parts and see how they come together.
A few things that don’t work quite as well as I’d like: first, once a part has been placed and you’ve gone on to something else, it can be difficult to delete unwanted parts. Sometimes you can make it work, but it can be tricky (particularly if you’ve already piled some other things on top of it). There are limits to the sizes of the pieces, which I’m sure keeps the app simpler to use, but occasionally we wanted a hair type or something to be just a little bigger than it would allow. I’d also like the ability to take a feature and flip it over without reflecting it. For instance, if I wanted to make two mis-matched eyebrows, that would be difficult because you’re just given the left one for each style.
Also, while the monster-creating interface seems pretty intuitive, the gallery isn’t as nice as the standard iOS photo gallery. You get the fancy frame with the current monster, and then a scrolling gallery below that of all the saved monsters. What’s weird is that you have to double-tap on the gallery to bring up a monster. It would seem more intuitive on an iPad if you could just swipe the large image itself to scroll through monsters, I think. The other thing is that, although the gold frame is a cute touch, I’d like to be able to view the monsters at full-screen, too. You can save them to your Photo Gallery (in which case they appear full-size without the frame) but it’d be a nice feature to do that within the app, too.
However, none of those things seem to really bother my kids, who just enjoy making faces, and Create a Monster is still a really fun app. At $2.99, the app costs a little more than some of the other monster-making apps I’ve seen, but I think the quality of the graphics and the ease of use are entirely worth it if you’ve got an iPad.
For more info, check out Just Fun’s website, which has a gallery of monsters and a video showing the app in use.
Wired: Fantastic graphics, easy to use interface.
Tired: Monster gallery isn’t entirely intuitive, some limitations on sizing.