The Gwaii Part 1 is an interesting universal app based on a graphic novel of the same name, now brought to devices in a style akin to that of motion comics, adding voice acting, sound effects and sporadic animated elements found throughout these pages to this comic-styled story, but without the fully animated look of a cartoon.
The Gwaii, Part 1 is a story of a young Sasquatch, Tanu, who calls the Canadian wilderness home, has his world turned upside down as he witnesses his mother, Awa, being shot and captured by hunters. Tanu now must travel a long distance to try to save his mom with the help of his new friend, Jaada, and includes a nice moment where Awa communicated telepathically to Tanu giving him wise instructions, a part of this story that I enjoyed.
For me, this application is a mixed bag. I like the basic storyline and theme used here, as this is a cautionary tale of sorts from an animal's point-of-view, as here, Tanu is taught from a young age to fear and hide from humans. Man is a villain of almost mythical proportions, and one can see why as Tanu’s mom gets shot and taken away in the first few pages of this story. I like the inclusion of the more mature and sophisticated character of Jaadaa as she is a thoughtful character in contrast to the one dimensional depiction of Tanu, who would easily get himself killed without her help as he tries to confront the humans on his own in ways most foolish. I appreciate the character also of David, the son of one of the hunters who has captured Tanu’s mother because he is the sole sympathetic human within this story. His character adds a dimension that would be lacking without his presence as the other humans are depicted as redneck buffoons.
As much as I have enjoyed this basic story, I don’t understand why Awa tried to defend herself and Tanu because they simply could have hid out of sight, avoiding being shot and captured altogether.
The look of this app, from what I have seen, maintains the same look of its original source, but instead of panels being displayed one per page, or a few stacked vertically, here, each page consists of what would be only one panel. Often a smaller panel within is added to center screen which may be a close-up or reaction shot, sometimes crossing the director's line, and is added to direct the reader to a specific moment in time or from an additional point of view. I understand the style that this smaller panel is trying to achieve and the added information does add to the richness of the experience, but I find that the image-upon-image can be distracting and takes away from the original panel now delegated to the background.
This app does have some 3D effects as well that are best seen as one moves the device, looking at the additional angles that this provides. The 3D here is effective but somewhat overly sensitive to touch and there have been moments that I wish I would have turned this element off, trying to keep my hand steady to minimize the screen movements. I think this effect may be a distraction for some children, while others may really enjoy this effect.
I have chosen not to show this app to my son; my mind was made up as soon as Tanu’s mother gets shot - for the same reason that I have not exposed my boy to the movie Bambi. Once children are of an age where parents feel this subject matter is appropriate, this may be a nice choice as it is lengthy and shows the plight of animals from their perspective, a story that will start some interesting conversations to be sure.
I do not like, however, that this app contains only part one of a three-part series, and due to the cliffhanger at the end of this first part, parents should not download this app unless they plan on purchasing parts two and three as part one in no way stands alone as a story and is of little value on its own.
I am not a fan of in-app purchases in general and would rather see parts two and three be separate apps if need be so that one could read others' reviews in iTunes and look at screen shots - not possible with in-app purchases at this time. What I would prefer to see is a change made, including all parts within one purchase as I can imagine a parent thinking that he is buying a complete story for the relatively low price of one of these sections, when in reality it will cost three times as much for the complete story. Compared to other apps at the same price point of these combined parts, this story as a whole seems expensive to me as well.
Adults reading this review may be curious now to know about parts two and three in order to help shape their decision whether or not to buy part one.
Part Two continues Tanu and Jaanaa’s adventures, but here they meet other characters as well - some friend, some foe, and we learn more about Jaanaa’s backstory. I also enjoy the interaction between David and Tanu’s mother also found within part two, the plains the hunters have for this captured Sasquatch and others like her, as well as the morally ambiguous choice of the other creatures not to go after Tanu’s mother as this will slow down their migration, putting themselves at risk. This section of the app ends with Spirit Bear, a very influential character within this story, telling Tanu how many hours his mom has left before she is killed.
Part Three is the conclusion to this tale, with Awa escaping, but going back to save David after a fire breaks out in the cabin in which she was being held captive. At this moment, Tanu appears, and Awa demands that Tanu help save David instead of trying to free her from the burning building where she is trapped. Luckily other Sasquatch have come to their aid as David refuses to leave his hunter-father caught in the fire as well. All ends well, which kids may find satisfying, but is a little too predictable for my taste, but this is not a major issue as this app is designed for children. I do like the idea of these “younglings” Sasquatch being left behind from the group who has moved on, a choice they made when they went to the aid of a friend, and this story ends on some sage advice and a nice moment from spirit bear as well.
The basic look of this app is well-done and will appeal to young comic enthusiasts. There are few actual animated moments within, but the images that do move are effective in adding interest to these pages. Options here include narration or not, an ability to resume where one has left behind and a table of contents - important features as the completed story contains 84 pages. I did notice that page turning and the changing of setting choices are sometimes unresponsive, and it is hard to get back to the story after one visits the settings page.
Another issue I have is that when each page loads, this takes time and these pages look bouncy as they appear, adding a few seconds of wait-time per page that added up as each part of this story has around 30 pages. It would also be nice if there was a setting for these pages to turn automatically.
Having made these notes, this may be a nice choice of apps for slightly older children who are just getting into comic books, graphic novels or motion comics. Although motion comics have been criticized as “less than” cartoons or even their comic book counterparts, this brings a unique style to devices that kids may enjoy.