APP REVIEWS: Shakespeare Insult Generator, FreePlay Shakespeare Quiz, The Sonnet Project, RE: Shakespeare

Yesterday, I mentioned that I recently purchased a new phone and had downloaded some Shakespeare-related apps. In that blog post, I reviewed The Sonnets, Shakespeare Search, and Shakespeare. Today, let’s take a look at Shakespeare Insult Generator by Superior n, the FreePlay Shakespeare Quiz by Handyx, The Sonnet Project by NY Shakespeare Exchange, and RE: Shakespeare by Samsung Electronics UK in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Let’s begin with the Shakespeare Insult Generator by Superior n.

Shakespeare Insult Generator by Superior n
Shakespeare Insult Generator by Superior n

There’s really not much to it: a space for the insult, and a button that says “Do it again.” Click it and you get another insult. Thou unmuzzled common-kissing giglet! … Thou venomed spur-galled hugger-mugger! … etc. It’s light but fun.

Now, FreePlay Shakespeare Quiz by Handyx…

FreePlay Shakespeare Quiz by Handyx
FreePlay Shakespeare Quiz by Handyx

This is a nice little app. It creates a series of different 10-question quizzes you can take. All multiple choice. No question in the opening round quiz is too killer-difficult, but all are fun (sample: The 1948 film Kiss Me Kate was based on which Shakespeare play? A Midsummer Night’s Dream or The Taming of the Shrew or Romeo and Juliet). Each question’s answer screen contains not only a button to take you to the next question but also an “info” icon that takes you to the wiki page of the question’s subject, as well as a video icon that takes you to a YouTube playlist for that same subject. It’s pretty slick. The app also keeps track of your progress not only through this quiz but also though the levels of quizzes, which do get tougher. It’s a solid time-killer, with a bright, colorful, clean interface and unobtrusive ads. Definitely worth your time (since it’s free).

Next up, The Sonnet Project by NY Shakespeare Exchange.

The Sonnet Project by NY Shakespeare Exchange
The Sonnet Project by NY Shakespeare Exchange

Now, we’re getting inventive. In theory. If you’ve ever visited the New York Shakespeare Exchange’s Sonnet Project website, you’ve found a crazy-cool concept. Video interpretations of the sonnets, each filmed in and around in New York City. Great little films, really well done, in many cases with professional actors. The app includes all these short films, with the possibility of accessing the films either by number or listing.

There’s also a neat little Google Maps interface which allows you to drill through a map of NYC, with flagged pins for each sonnet location–click on the pin and you get the film made at the location. This interface works remarkably well. But the default interface with just today’s sonnet is buggy. The first time out, it didn’t work for me… the video would begin to play then freeze, never getting more than a few seconds into the film. It only worked as expected after I had used the map interface. The listing interface never worked, always asking for an internet connection. So in theory this is a very cool app, if it only worked as designed. The map interface is great, but otherwise, I think you’re better off hitting up their website (at least for now).

Finally, we have RE: Shakespeare by Samsung Electronics UK in coordination with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

RE: Shakespeare by Samsung Electronics UK in coordination with the Royal Shakespeare Company
RE: Shakespeare by Samsung Electronics UK in coordination with the Royal Shakespeare Company

And this is where theoretical inventiveness meets technological execution of experts. The app begins with a quick intro from host David Tennant, the tenth Doctor Who, and recent RSC Hamlet and Richard II. He then takes us through three artists’ avenues into learning about Shakespeare: a hip-hop/Shakespeare quiz; love-lines and put-downs; and beatboxing Shakespearean rhythm. Each of these includes an interactive game, and all are just a prelude to an in-depth look at one of the RSC’s recent productions, Much Ado About Nothing.

The Much Ado section begins with a neat 360 degree view of the set during two different scenes from the play: the reunion of Beatrice and Benedick in the opening scene, and the post-wedding demand of Beatrice that Benedick kill Claudio. You play the scene, and it’s as if you’re on stage with the actors, and if you turn the phone, you can pan around the scene in a full 360 panorama, including a look out into the audience. Within these scenes, you can click an icon to get character breakdowns, another to see the script of the scene, and yet another to display or hide the lines of the characters as they’re being spoken.

After this, we get discussions by three members of the RSC on the what, how, and why of what the characters say. Again, with each discussion, we get an activity to bring the concepts to life. Great stuff. And it all culminates in a performance of the scene. You choose which of the two scenes, and the character you want to be. The scene then plays out in the point-of-view of your character. You are prompted with on-screen lines to interact with your acting partner (the actors from the actual RSC production); if you need to hear line readings, a click of an icon can do that for you, otherwise you can say the lines in response to the other actor. It’s really a fabulous exercise, one that can be repeated any number of times without it getting old.

The only downside is that these two Much Ado scenes are the only ones available. I can only hope that as the RSC continues to produce plays, that they take the time to create one of these modules for each play to include in this killer app. Simply fantastic.

So after yesterday’s one should-have, one don’t bother, and one must-have, what do we have today? Well, the Insult Generator is a could-have, the FreePlay Quiz a should/must-have, the Sonnet Project a should-have (it would be a must-have if the list interface worked), and the Re:Shakespeare app from Samsung and the RSC not just a must-have but a “drop-whatever-it-is-that-you’re-doing-and-get-to-Google-Play-and-download-it-now” must-have. It’s really that good. And as with yesterday’s apps, these are all free and available at the Google Play Store.

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