Brian Cox's Wonders of Life comes from the same team that brought us Wonders of the Universe. If you've so much as glanced at the stunning visuals or touched the magnificent gesture-based navigation of that app then, well, you've probably already tapped out of this review and are busily buying Wonders of Life, aren't you? For those who haven't, like Wonders of the Universe before it, Wonders of Life takes you on a journey, this time not of stars and solar systems, but of plants and animals. It's not just the journey here that makes Wonders of Life such an amazing iPhone and iPad experience. It's the experience that makes Wonders of Life such an amazing iOS app.
There are almost three dozen 3D creatures and habitats to explore, 2 hours of video to enjoy, 1000 photos with commentary, a cinema-quality soundtrack, and additional, optional features you can enjoy by signing in. All of it driven by Professor Brian Cox and BBC's head of science, Andrew Cohen.
Gesture navigation, of course, isn't always discoverable, especially for people new to multitouch. Wonders has button alternatives where it needs them, but because of the interstitial 3D animated transitions, a wrong pinch, pan, or press can literally send you careening around the world for a moment or two. That can cause some initial frustration, even if you do end up on some previously undiscovered area, but the mechanics become familiar quickly enough. For the nerdier among us, the navigation is all based on the same Glide platform that powers not only Wonders of the Universe, but The Loop Magazine, and that means, once you master the basics, you'll be soaring not only through bugs, birds, caverns, and dens, but through the videos, images, and text as well.
I've been using the beta for a few days now, and it's absolutely the mesmerizing, immersive experience I imagined it would be. Beyond that, I love that Harper Collins cares enough about user experience to not just phone in some junk wrapper app, but are willing to go the many extra miles it takes to deliver an app every bit as good as the content its presenting.
Wonders of Life is not only an amazing achievement, it's modern media done right. More like this, please.
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