Dr. Seuss Band for iPhone and iPad
Dr. Seuss’s books endure because of Theodor Geisel’s penchant for crafting pitch-perfect, brilliantly-metered, and endearingly silly rhymes. That his most famous books are the ones that also include his own whimsical artwork is no coincidence. Many of his best books are available in iOS app form, and they’re consistently ranked well in the App Store.
The company behind those successful book apps, Oceanhouse Media, is expanding the Seuss brand by bringing out the band: Dr. Seuss Band draws clear inspiration from Seuss’s oeuvre, and certainly inherits some of the late artistic wordsmith’s whimsy. At the same time, however, most of the app’s connections to the good doctor are tenuous at best. The app is best considered independently of Dr. Seuss and his books, evaluated instead on its own merits as a kid-oriented musical instrument and rhythm game.
Here’s how it works. You’re presented with a fanciful brass instrument, a Seuss-style trumpet of sorts. You get eight buttons across the bottom of the screen for playing an octave’s worth notes; tap the left or right arrows to move one octave lower or higher.
If you swipe on the different sections of the instrument, you can replace various parts of it. The horn’s initial incarnation offers a French Horn and Trumpet option; you swipe over the valves to swap them out. By scoring many points on specific songs—or by ponying up cash for in-app purchases—you can gain access to other sounds, including Trombone, Flute, and Clarinet. Swiping across the middle of the instrument lets you change among various effects, including ones that add echoes, bubble sounds, or off-tune accordion bellows. And swiping across the bell (the tail end of the instrument where the sound comes from) can add reverb, vibrato, tremolo, and other effects of that ilk.
Each of the three categories of instrument options include just a pair of choices when you first install the app. As stated above, you can unlock additional options by earning lots of points, or by purchasing effects one at a time (at $1 a pop), or in one fell swoop for $8.
You earn points by performing well when you play along with songs built into Dr. Seuss Band. Though the titles are familiar, trust that you don’t know any of these songs. “There’s a Wocket In My Pocket” is a fine, jaunty tune, I guess. But it features precisely nothing in common with the Seuss book of the same name, save for the title itself. Some of the songs are better than the others; “Horton Hears a Who” could more accurately be retitled “Horton Hears a Whole Lot of Lousy Music.” The app unfortunately offers no way to hear the songs played “the right way,” with their horn parts included.
There’s no easy way to say this, but some of the songs bizarrely choose to incorporate atonal flatulence sound effects into the music. This is most grating during the song (and here, I use that term loosely) “The Cat In The Hat.”
When you play along with a song, you choose Easy, Medium, or Hard mode. As notes scroll across the screen, you tap the corresponding keys at the right time. The more accurate your playing, the more points you score. (Annoyingly, though, you don’t get any indication regarding your score until the song is over.)
Is the game a lot of fun?
Should you buy your kids this one?
The connection’s rather loose
Between the game and Dr. Seuss.
The truth is that the game is packing
Music that is kind of lacking.
Rather than playing along,
It’s more fun making up a song—
Skipping all the in-game choices,
And then just playing with the noises.
My kids found Dr. Seuss Band more enjoyable when they didn’t bother playing along with the built-in songs, and instead just goofed around with the many permutations of sounds they could squeeze out of the app. I shared their preference: Playing along with melodically uninteresting and unfamiliar songs isn’t that fun. Playing around with a silly, tweakable instrument kind of is. It’s a shame that the app offers no way to save your musical creations.
[Lex Friedman is a Macworld staff writer.]