I’ll be perfectly up front about this – while I had some interest in this application, I mainly downloaded it so I could fill in a quick survey and get a $10 iTunes card. As it turns out, even if I didn’t get my survey submitted in time to get the gift card, I’m glad I made the purchase. I don’t know how close the story is to the original book, but it’s certainly more interesting than the classic MGM film starring Judy Garland (no offense to the film, which I do enjoy). Additionally, the interactivity with the images on screen – and occasionally the words – is actually quite fun. Now I just need to let my kids look through it…
I sometimes wonder how much more reading kids would do if everyone could afford iPads and have access to ebooks like this. At any rate, the basis behind this eBook is the book “The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. If you’re curious about the source you could do something novel and actually check out the book from your local library, or at least download one of the many free offerings on the App Store. The story here may be abridged (I won’t know until I’ve read the “original” version I’ve downloaded), but it certainly has more substance than the 1939 movie. I do suppose it might have been a bit hard to simulate hundreds of field mice carting the lion around back then. You can have the story read to you or read it yourself, and if you choose the latter the print is nice enough that most people shouldn’t have any trouble with it.
So why get this over a standard eBook (besides the narration, of course). Because you get to play with it! The vast majority of pages have illustrations on them, and while some of them offer nothing more than tapping a couple places to get some cute sound effects, many have quite a bit of interaction. There are even a few pages that are just graphics, and it’s almost like a challenge to see what happens when you tap on different spots. Occasionally you have the option to drag things as well, though that doesn’t happen too much. I do like the fact that there’s a high level of usability without the developers needing to resort to inserting mini-games every few pages. To me that usually ends up breaking up the flow of the story, whereas the biggest drawback here is that sometimes you might get to playing with the images and forget to actually pay attention to the tale!
I think if you spend enough time with it you will find a number of hidden treats as well. There are 15 flying monkeys scattered throughout the book, and if you find them all you will unlock a special story centered around the monkeys. Additionally, though, I did find one “Easter egg” that gave me some detailed information about the backstory of the Tin Man. I can’t believe that was a solitary instance, so I’m assuming that I’m just not very good at finding the secrets. That’s why you need to make sure you let your kids go through the book. Navigating the pages was really the boring part of everything, as you simply click an arrow in the lower left or right corners to go back or forward through the pages. With all the creativity somewhere else, I can’t believe there couldn’t have been more inspiration for the navigation.
The visuals are quite neat. They are very stylistic, and when there is animation it almost has a paper doll type of effect. The full screen images are especially striking, and also extremely fun to play with. There are sound effects scattered throughout the book, most of which are pretty decent. Music is fairly sparse, but on the occasions when you are treated to a tune it’s upbeat and also repetitive. The narration is decent if not maybe just a bit stilted. What I don’t really care for is the fact that all the voices sound feminine. It would have been nice to have men at least reading the parts of Dorothy’s three companions.
Despite purchasing this simply to get the iTunes card, I’m glad I invested in this particular eBook. Besides getting a much better appreciation for the story of Oz than the MGM movie offers, the software has kept me entertained throughout the tale. If I would have one gripe it’s that all the interaction is almost too fun, often causing me to ignore the narration so I had to go back and read the text myself. This is definitely something you should consider if you have kids or grandkids that you wish to share the trials of Dorothy and company with, but I’d also highly recommend it to anyone that is interested in a more thorough take on the original work.
Overall Score: 9/10
App Store Link
This app was reviewed on an iPad 2 running iOS 5.1.1.