Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
I would like to let readers know about a new storybook app, The Journey of Alvin - based on the true story of Alvin Straight, who drove a riding mower a great distance to visit his ailing brother. Adults may wonder from this description if this tale is in some way connected to the David Lynch movie, The Straight Story, and they would be correct as The Journey of Alvin brings this tale of love and determination to children in a way they can appreciate.
I am quite fond of The Journey of Alvin as it combines many elements such as including both Spanish and English editions, computer-generated animation, music, ambient sound effects, and narration for a truly magical effect. I admire how the perfect radio voice tells this simple story of Alvin driving his mower to visit his brother, explaining to children how the journey is long as the mower is slow, making this story a process piece about the journey as Alvin comes across various other vehicles on the road that he is passed by - such as a train, a bunch of bikes, and even a turtle.
Equally impressive is the choice of computer-generated illustrations used that creates an interesting dichotomy with the peaceful music and sleepy prose that one would expect to possibly see in a more traditional watercolor landscape. I do love the look of The Journey of Alvin, with its bold use of color and use of geometric shapes - interesting choices that succeed in avoiding any overly sentimental tone that more traditional illustrations might create.
While not enjoying this app on AutoPlay, mild yet effective hotspots can be found that add rich details such as when one taps Alvin's neighbors to trigger a thoughtful use of pantomimed concern as they watch him start off on his trip, as well as other interactions that go towards adding more nuances to Alvin. He may tilt his hat while driving the ever-rattling mower, and there are other characters one can interact with and other moments that add to the experience, be it involving the animals he comes across or other elements within.
Within this app, Alvin is a solitary character who does not come into direct contact with others as he continues his travels, nor does this app include other family members as seen in Lynch’s 1999 film. I enjoy this almost meditative experience for kids, but the lack of other characters prevents the exchange of words explaining why Alvin is driving a riding mower instead of simply driving a car or taking any kind of transportation, which was explained in the film, and I do wonder if children will be wondering about this very question that isn't touched upon in The Journey of Alvin.
Likewise, The Journey of Alvin ventures away from the film by demonstrating the benefits Alvin gains from his slow travels as he can enjoy all of the animals, nature, and even the sunsets he comes across, creating beautiful, colorful - if not a little surreal - moments that children will find quite memorable. These are all reason enough to travel the way he does, using the mower possibly by choice and not necessity - an interesting spin that serves children well.
Although this app and Lynch’s film differ in many ways, movie fans will smile at the end scene as we finally meet the brother, presumably crafted with a nod to Harry Dean Stanton’s brief character. Yet this story is not muddled with the bad blood between siblings discussed briefly throughout the film, creating a more simplistic story of familial love that I find quite pleasing.
The Journey of Alvin is an important story perfectly realized in every way. I do hope to see more tales from meikme in the future; they are a developer to watch.