App Reviewed on: iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Storm & Skye - Magical Adventure for Kids is a marvelous storybook for children, with much of that thanks to a high production value. Told over nine chapters and more than 45 minutes in total, this app tells the tale of Storm, a boy who is going through a transition at home and is living in a new house and new neighborhood. During a trip to a local car wash, he sees what looks like a boy, as well as a dragon and a knight on horseback, who appear within the car wash after a magical red door leading to another world has been opened. Storm enters through, finding himself visiting a fantasy land that presumably will be investigated further in future chapters of this book.
At first glance, it will become apparent to children old and young, as well as their parents, that this app is something special, as the look of these illustrations is wonderfully conceived, bright and colorful. Although some movement is present as well as the effective scanning and panning of this artwork to create a subtle cinematic effect, I appreciate this app maintaining a more book-like feel instead of a heavy use of moving images akin to a simple video. Because of this, children will need to use their own imagination to conjure up their own images that go along with much of the storytelling. Having said this, a very literal child may point to moments where the image seen depicts something different from what is being said, however, it's a mild issue as most will not pick up on this.
Sound effects and music are also included that make for a pitch-perfect sound track to this storybook. Although words are not included, making this book one that children will need to listen to, I see great value in this app for pre-readers as well as those who have learned to read on their own and beyond. The storytelling here is quite elegant, full of details and character development that many other books would not have bothered to mention - wonderful for listening comprehension. No doubt part of this successful storytelling can be attributed to the narrator - a masterful storyteller that audiences of all ages will be eager to hear.
Early on in this story, the mom offers to take her son to the car wash as a treat that rings true as we do this for my son. Her explanation of the machines to be used to clean their car takes on a dark, suspenseful tone that, together with the illustrations used, makes for a memorable scene children will be mesmerized by. This level of suspense continues when Storm discovers a dragon - a beast with dangerous potential - but the tone suddenly shifts as Storm gets de-briefed by Skye,the other child who Storm has met, who explains the friendly nature of this creature. I found this scene to be both interesting and a bit manipulative, especially as Skye’s first reaction to the dragon does not line up with her familiarity of this character as introduced in the next scene of this application.
From here, a mundane chapter is offered where Storm is introduced to Skye - in reality a child who lives down the block instead of some sort of fantasy character who lives in the other world behind the red door, setting the scene for more buddy stories, yet for me this conclusion is a bit anti-climactic. I am also not a huge fan of seeing Storm driving around town in the front seat next to his mother, a dangerous predicament that I had a knee-jerk reaction to every time I saw an image from a driving scene within this app. I did however enjoy checking out the short credit sequence, complete with sketches from earlier within the development of this app, which I appreciate. Another interesting note is the reveal of Skye to be a girl, who corrects Storm, preferring to be referred to as a boy. I will be interested to see if gender is somehow touched upon here in future chapters of the story.
Although this app includes 40 interactions, parents will not be well-served if they purchase this app expecting engaging hotspots for children. These moments may include a sound effect or slight movement but are not quite up to the level of polish as seen within the illustrations, soundtrack, or quality of the writing, making these interactions an afterthought triggered by pressing slight rotating highlights. The areas that must be tapped need to be touched quickly as well, before one loses the chance to do so. Although only a limited distraction, I think this app would be better suited by doing away with these interactions altogether in future instalments.
It would also be a plus to have a chance to listen to this story all inclusive instead of having to continue from one chapter to the next. Although some children may benefit from these breaks in the story to absorb what they have heard, it would be nice to offer children a chance to listen to this tale on AutoPlay as well. Although one can pause this story with a tap, it would be helpful to bookmark areas within these chapters to return to a specific page in case children are called away mid chapter, and there is no gallery of individual pages to allow kids to find a favorite area of this app. I, as an adult, had a hard time remembering what chapter to check to review specific details. Even with these few notes about the use of interactions and user interface, I am eager to see how the story of Storm and Skye continues as well as to recommend this app to children of all ages who enjoy a good story.