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Brian Cox's Wonders of Life review: Great content, but needs better presentation

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Great content, questionable presentation
There is a lot of fantastic scientific information here to explore (I can't stress this enough), but I have several issues with the way much of it is displayed.

For example, when you zoom in to the Earth's surface, there are only a limited number of anchor points you can touch to see more info. For example, from Earth's orbit (the default view), your only choices are to look at North America, Africa, and Australia. So, when browsing blindly (without following the narrative), it will feel like there isn't nearly enough content to look at.

But when you follow the narrative, you'll realize it's all part of a continuous story that is explained using examples from those specific geographic regions. In other words, while our world within the app is browsable, it's kind of a waste of your time. I'm not sure if it's because it feels like a documentary shoe-horned into an app, but it doesn't feel like this app was as well thought out as Wonders of the Universe.

Another problem with the app is that the music goes away during parts when you're reading more information. Though it may seem like a minor problem, what it does is take you completely out of the app's interactive experience, leaving you to read through the story. Zoom back out and the music starts again, but the result is an interrupted experience that takes away from the many great things about the app.

Brian Cox's Wonders of Life is packed with information that makes for a great documentary, but turning it into an interactive app only makes sense in some situations, and not in others. On the plus side for the app, the graphics are smooth with HD video and photos, the looped GIFs bring life to locations, and the background music provides a sense of wonder as you explore.

But somehow, in this mix of great things I like, certain aspects of the app pull me out of the experience. The free-browsing of the world gives the impression that there's not much to look at. Stopping the music during text content makes me feel like I'm reading an iBook rather than exploring an interactive app. It just seems like there must be a better way to design the app around all of this great content.

Still, if you can get past the problems and follow along with the narrative, there is a lot to learn here. Just be prepared to muscle through some of the app's rough edges in order to get to all the excellent information about life on our planet.

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