About a year ago, an amazing app came out of nowhere. It was called Drawnimal, and turned the iPad into a cartoon animal face. The game? Kids had to complete the picture on analog paper, adding a mane to a lion or ears to a bunny.
Now Drawnimal’s visual designer, Lucas Zanotto, has founded a new company called Yatatoy that’s released an adorable sequel, Miximal ($2). The app is essentially an interactive flipbook, in which you swipe back and forth to mix and match the head, torso, and feet of various cartoon animals.
It’s a basic enough game that most of us have seen in one incarnation or another before. But what makes Miximal different is the sheer love put into every bit of its interface.
It starts with the animals themselves, which have been hand-drawn and animated with loads of character. Select a monkey head, and he’ll give you a cheesy grin. Select the torso of a dinosaur, and watch him flex his biceps. Select the feet of a pelican, and watch her toes be painted bright pink. Assemble three parts of the same animal, and you’re rewarded with a full-body animation, like a pink flamingo that, for whatever reason, spells out the choreography to YMCA.
Slaptastic sound effects support each of these animations–xylophones, drums, and rattles, mostly. And in the final payoff, whenever you press a play button, the name of your frankenanimal is read back to you. So a crocodile head on a flamingo body and feet is a Croc-Min-Go, while a chimpanzee head on a kangaroo body on dinosaur feet is a Chim-Ga-Saur. It’s a reading lesson masquerading as silly good fun.
“The biggest task was to find animals that you can divide in three syllables and that work in five languages,” Zanotto tells Co.Design, referencing the Spanish, French, Italian, and German versions. And no doubt, that’s why there are a few moments of cheating within the app (most of us would say “penguin is two syllables, but Miximal breaks the word down to pen-gu-in).
That slight phonetic transgression aside, Miximal is a perfect example of how a relatively simplistic user interface can transcend to a fantastic user experience. Because if a Flalephant doesn’t make you smile, well, that’s only because you don’t have enough flalephants in your life.