Bottom Line: The classic fairy tale gets a less than classic rendering in a 3D pop-up book. Poor narration and rather awkward interactive elements make it difficult to get through the 30+ pages.
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Cluepoint Co. Ltd has created a 3D pop-up version of the traditional Charles Perrault tale of Puss in Boots. I've never been overly fond of the story of Puss in Boots because before Puss became Shrek's smooth sidekick he was the original amoral swindler who deceives, threatens and cheats in order to promote his master. Nevertheless, I kept an open mind when first launching this ebook, but it certainly didn't endear the story to me either.
Story Toys tried the 3D interactive pop-up ebook first a few years ago. Cluepoint's version is highly reminiscent of these earlier efforts, even down to the format, the setting out of the graphics and decorations within the text pages. The whole thing, however, is of a much lower standard than those of Story Toys.
The app starts in a standard ebook format with the title page and the options of ‘Read to me’ or ‘Read it myself’. A contents page follows which links directly to chapters in the book. Make note
that’s chapters not pages as this is a very wordy book with text best suited to ages 8+ for independent reading. The navigation is well set out with no surprises - there’s a little house icon which returns you home at any stage in the book, there are forward and backward arrows to navigate through the book, and there is a musical quaver icon to turn on/off the music. The story itself is a traditional version and apart from an overuse of commas, flows well. This, however, is where the usability of this app ends.
The narrator in the ‘Read to me’ option is not a native English speaker and words are regularly mispronounced. For example in the phrase ‘I am much obliged to the Marquis’, both ‘obliged’ and ‘Marquis’ are pronounced incorrectly. Many sentences are stressed incorrectly, there are long pauses in places where there shouldn’t be, and the narrator frequently adds little connecting words which aren’t in the text that cause the narration to not make sense. An example - ‘for it was to his castle the cunning cat who had told the coachman to drive’. The narrator added the ‘who’ which renders the phrase incomprehensible. There’s a lot of this, so much so that at times it’s very difficult to follow the story. The text itself is correct (if somewhat riddled with extra commas) and the ‘Read it myself’ option is useable. However, when I chose this option and then skipped to a chapter from the contents page, I ended up with narration anyway.
There is no interactivity in the text pages of the app; all this is left to the minigames which pop up off the 'page in a 3D format. The 3D animation within the pop-up pages is not smooth at all, and the games themselves are difficult to negotiate as the controls are clunky. The instructions in the games lose a lot in translation. They also disappear as soon as the screen is tapped, so if you have an eager little screen mashing tot like I have, you'll suddenly find yourself without instructions and no option to repeat them.
The games have some relation to the section of story heard prior to them, but contextually, they don't add anything to the comprehension of the text. An example of such is the minigame where the player needs to throw a boot to defeat the ogre who has turned into a lion, and then into a mouse. Yes, in the story the ogre turns into a lion and then a mouse, but Puss is frightened by the lion and then tricks the ogre into turning into a mouse, which she jumps on and kills. Where does the boot come into all this? And while I'm asking questions, when was Puss in Boots a she? Did I miss a memo?
There is no cursor that follows the text, which would be a great help to young readers. There is background music, but rather than setting the mood, it's intrusive and poorly rendered and repeats throughout the whole story. There is, thankfully, the option to turn it off. There are external links to other apps at the very end of the book, but I'm okay with this as they are all the way at the very end.
All in all I can't recommend this book, even at $0.99, as there is too much wrong with it and it's not enjoyable enough. If you're not going to bother writing an original story, the least you can do is make the e-version original and engaging.
Eleanor Holland likes the smell of freshly mown grass. She also likes pina coladas and walks in the rain. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.