A Christmas Carol for iPad Review
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A Christmas Carol for iPad Review

Our Review by Joey Davidson on December 14th, 2010
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: STEAMPUNKY
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A classic Christmas tale is given an interactive, if misguided, presentation.

Developer: PadWorx
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad

iPad Integration Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Re-use Value Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

A Christmas Carol (the App, not the masterwork) is certainly the most unique take on holiday literature available for the iPad. The title boasts an interactive way to experience the Dickens classic, a story that has been adapted to nearly every medium possible. But how does it read? How does it feel? And does it actually work?

This is an abridged version of the original text. A Christmas Carol was always a shorter story, but this retelling has been cut a bit in the interest of accessibility for younger readers. Children will still find the language a bit trying at times, but the story is far from insurmountable with the helping hand of a parent. The classic themes and holiday spooks remain, largely, intact. The only real separation in feel for the story is the steampunk look the designers have splashed all over the characters, artwork and interactive bits of the app itself. One could even contest that too much attention is paid to the style and not enough to the characters themselves.

The steampunk style misses the mark with Dickens’ tale. The look of characters like younger Scrooge or the ghost of Marley is often distracting from the moment at hand. An anime style for those that are living, and an odd, overbearing emphasis on mechanized life for the oddities of the story. And with the look comes a large arsenal of wooshes, hisses and whirs one would likely hear at a metallic, steam-based factory. Again, distracting.

But that’s not to say that it’s all bad. In fact, some readers may find a lot of charm in the steampunk presentation. It’s just that purists might find it to be a complete turnoff.

The sound effects and visual cues that work with the story, however, are wonderful. They bring this interactive read to life. Moments crop up that will force readers to pause and enjoy the app’s landscape. For example, the page at the beginning of the book when Scrooge strolls down the screen through the snow. The sentences split for him to make his way from top to bottom. The sound of the crunching snow and the howling wing are an extra treat for the moment. It’s thing like this that make A Christmas Carol for the iPad a worthwhile purchase.

What this experience amounts to is a fresh spin on the classic pop-up book medium. Sure, there are more visual and aural cues than one would find in a printed, cardboard version of this story; but, the presence and basic appeal are the same. Readers will be encouraged to touch, tilt and rub almost every page of the book. The downfall, however, is that folks will often go off touching what doesn't need to be touched. A lot of times, PadWorx builds in not-so-subtle visual cues for readers to tap and explore. Though it can be a bit frustrating when things can't be manipulated.

PadWorx is on to something here. They’ve done this with a classic tale before (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), and it seems they’re going to make a habit of it with this release. A Christmas Carol for the iPad is an excellent way to get younger readers to sit down and enjoy one of the greatest holiday stories ever told. Steampunk visuals and awkward interactive cues mar the experience, but it's nothing highly interested readers won't be able to look past.

iPhone Screenshots

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iPad Screenshots

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