I don’t remember when I first learned how to read. I doubt any of us really do. But what I definitely do remember is constantly playing these “Read to Me” records on my little Disney Pluto record player. (The arm of the record player looked like a big dog bone. Cute, right?)
Anyways, I had a number of these read along type records, most of which included a comic book so you could read along from panel to panel while the narrator tells the story, sound effects and all. It was the most incredible, interactive reading experience a kid could have. At that time.
Nowadays, whoa, forget about it. First off, what’s a record player? Second, thanks to smartphones, iPads, game consoles, you name it, kids of all ages are practically born with an iSpoon in their mouth.
I was asked to review one of the latest interactive storytelling experiences around, and I’m seriously glad I said yes. The grrrreat minds at Growl Media have come up with Eureekah, a powerful app development framework that basically lets graphic artists and creative minds easily put together a fabulous product.
The Dubai-based company’s first interactive storybook based on Eureekah has hit the digital shelves. Currently available in the Apple App Store, Alfie, Haathi and the Magic Bioscope is a wonderful reading experience all around!
The story itself will suck any young (and old!) reader wright in as it features a young boy named Alfie and his rather large best friend Haathi, who, by the way, is an elephant. The two attend a local fair full of games, rides, balloons, and prizes. Yet somewhere amid the bright lights and loud blares of the carnival, resides a mysterious and peculiar looking shop filled with bizarre objects and an even odder old man. And it’s at that point that the story really begins to take off.
Besides a compelling story, though, I really enjoyed the artwork, particularly the coloring. It’s not your typical super sharp, bright computer colored type of work. Instead it’s a bit more muted, which gives it a much more picture book like feel. The font choice is spot on as well, giving a real “mystical” and foreign flavor to the book, as does the background soundtrack which was composed by Bollywood hotshot Ram Sampath.
But what really makes Alfie, Haathai and the Magic Bioscope shine is the interactivity. Heck, I’m 41 years old and I had a blast with it! Imagine how much a young whippersnapper would enjoy it! Every page has some basic animation that sees a few objects move around onscreen, including the words of the story. But there’s more. Every page has a number of “hidden” objects that you can interact with. See that Ferris wheel in the distance? Touch it and watch it spin around. Hit that balloon and see it pop. Touch the word “dusty” within the story itself and see dust clouds puff up!
You can click the question mark graphic in the corner to have all the interactive objects highlighted on a page. But I found it fun to try to find them myself by guessing at what should be moving or making noises.
I really loved this interactivity and could see it working for more than just kids books. Heck, I’d love it on some of the fiction novels I read now! Have some crazy cool sound effects pop up for specific words. How cool would that be? I really hope Eureekah catches on (which it should!) and many developers take advantage of its easy-to-use framework to build out some incredibly interactive stories.
Key Features of Alfie, Haathai and the Magic Bioscope:
- An interactive storytelling experience.
- “Read to me” option allows parents to turn off the voice-over and read the storybook to their children themselves.
- Page selector allows for easy navigation to a non-consecutive page.
- Professional audio narration.
- Custom background audio for each scene created by acclaimed Bollywood music producer Ram Sampath.
- Hints to guide parents and kids by highlighting all interactions in each scene.
- Objects, words and characters come to life with animations and/or interesting and educational factoids.
- This app is universal and has been optimised for Retina displays and the iPad.
You can download Alfie, Haathai and the Magic Bioscope for free at the App Store and preview the first few pages of the book to get a solid feel for the story and the storytelling. If you like it (which you should!), it’s just $2.99 to access the entire interactive tale!