There’s a reasonably credibly founded stigma regarding crossovers between video games and other media: it doesn’t work well. When it comes to basing video games off of other media, you tend to lose the story in favor of events that simply take place in the same universe. Go the other route and you find that many comics based off of video games pretty much have to come up with their own stories because the source material doesn’t have any. Either way you tend to have a match that doesn’t feel made in heaven. Ape Entertainment is trying to do their part to stay on the winning side of the curve with two offerings based off of currently popular mobile games: the Squids franchise of action / RPG games and Temple Run, the game that did for infinite runners what Angry Birds did for physics action games. In terms of content they’ve mostly succeeded, though I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the interface.
When you first load the app it starts in the store, which is fine when you don’t have any books. If you own some that you haven’t read yet, however, starting in the My Comics section would be preferable. When you go to My Comics you get kind of a cheap looking iBooks style interface where you can tap the comic you want to read. Navigation is simple enough as you swipe left and right to turn pages, but pulling up the minimal interface once in a book requires you to tap far enough from the edge that it doesn’t think you’re trying to turn the page. When you first launch a comic it’s in portrait as well, so you have to tip your device a bit to get it to readjust to landscape mode, which is slightly sloppy in my opinion. It would also be nice if the two series didn’t require different apps since they are clearly really the same app and they both come from the same publisher. I’m sure there are reasons for that.
Content wise I think I like the Temple Run series just a bit better, though I will admit that it’s probably partially due to the fact that I’ve actually played Temple Run, whereas even though I own both Squids games I haven’t had the chance to dig into them yet. The Temple Run story has an Indiana Jones feel to it, and it does a nice job of retaining the flavor of the game where humor is concerned. Of course the game itself doesn’t really have a plot, but they did a nice job of integrating the odd endless maze configuration into the comic, even if you only get a glimpse of it in the last couple of panels of issue 2. As for the Squids books, it’s your basic tale of evil ruling the land and a tattered band of heroes trying to find their fallen master and his crew to save the day. Again this might parallel the games, but I don’t have the background to confirm that. I do like the characters in the Squids series, but I wish they would have saved the training flashback until the end instead of using up half of issue 2 for it.
Both series have quality artwork. Maybe not the best I’ve ever seen, but definitely good enough that if I saw the books sitting out on a store shelf I’d potentially buy them just because of the images. Of course the Squids comics stray a little more towards Archie Comics style artwork, while the Temple Run stuff is something you might expect to see from a mainstream D.C. / Marvel title. For those of you looking for a multimedia experience, however, you’ll need to look somewhere else. This is strictly a good old fashion comic book in electronic format, so there is nothing to click to get animation, nor are is there any music or sound effects. But, sometimes that’s all you need.
I enjoyed reading both series, and I’m looking forward to the next issue of each. They are fairly quick reads, and at 99 cents they are certainly a bargain compared to anything you’ll find on the newsstand these days. If this is a sign of things to come, at least from Ape Entertainment, I’m getting my list of games that need comics ready to email in to them (just kidding – please don’t flood their inbox with emails).
These apps were reviewed on an iPad 2 running iOS 6.0.1.