Bottom Line: Poland's first Top Pick is worthy of five stars for those kids who are not afraid of the boogie man. There's a Free Lite version but just go for the real thing as this is one interactive book app not to be missed.
If you are a brave soul, then you should definitely download Amelia and the Terror of the Night ($2.99 iPad/iPhone) using these links to TwiTunes:
It's somehow fitting that OhNoo Studios choose 12/12/12 as the release day for Amelia and the Terror of the Night because it is truly a once in a lifetime kind of app. I spent over an hour going through it the first time and went back twice to collect the last of the hidden stars to unlock a bonus page. Before I knew it, I had 15 screenshots which is far more than I need for the average review. Each page was simply more incredible than the one previous.
Clarisa at Digital Storytime called the story thin and she's right in a sense. Amelia's tortoise friend Little Pencil has his soul snatched by the nefarious creature of the dark forest, The Whine. She and her sidekick monster TeddyTeddy and two-wheeled cat set out on a quest to recapture the soul and free Pencil from his zombified state. They venture into the dark forest and infiltrate Whine's lair. A heated battle ensues and finally Whine is defeated with a blinding blast from a flashlight. They free the souls, return home and presumably live happily ever after.
If that were all there is to this app, I'd read, review and delete it as I do with the bulk of my 400 book apps. But, consider that the story plays out over 42 pages of the most detailed, imaginative, highly interactive settings ever put into pixels. Even something as mundane as page turns is anything but ordinary in this stunner. Readers get to claw their way through this book with the help of some mysterious furry padfoots that stretch across the pages and scratch them back.
The story is narrated in English and Polish. It's accompanied by a suitably haunting soundtrack and further enhanced with sound effects, very cool 3D tilt animation, and about 200 interactive areas to tap. There are four games embedded within the pages and enough bugs and creepy crawlies to keep the Orkin man busy for a month. If you've ever wondered what your iPad would look like if you dropped it while clad only in a Smart Cover, then check out page 35. Users must tap the screen to break the bell glass imprisoning Little Pencil's soul. It's just one of many incredibly realistic animations.
Nothing about this app is ordinary or run of the mill. The Simon game calls for readers to replicate musical notes in a given order that are croaked out by a group of horny toads. Dress-up includes outfitting Amelia and her friends with aviator shades, vintage hats and their weapons of choice - flashlights. The task of finding all 60 stars hidden within the pages is actually quite arduous. Some are underground while others are not even visible unless the screen is tilted just so. Hunting them down gives kids a chance to really explore all the nooks and crannies contained on each of the pages.
The page index tracks how many stars have been located, so it's easy to return to a page where one was missed. Narration can be paused or replayed and many of the animated areas are highlighted with a white circle. Basically every animal makes a sound or plays an instrument. Many peek out from behind trees only to run away when tapped. Some ride elevators up and down the sides of the page. It will take even the most curious tap happy child several times through to discover all the fun surprises in Amelia's dark and dreamy forest.
While the narrated text of the story is rather short, it's but a small part of the unfolding tale. Each of the four friends has dialogue that is spoken after a tap or two. More can be gleaned from the detailed hand-drawn artwork. SAFK readers should know by now a good story doesn't even need words. Fairy Tale of the Year nominee Lil Red was told entirely in pictures, animations and thought bubbles while Special Education App of the Year nominee You're the Storyteller left the actual story up to the imagination of the reader.
Amelia and the Terror of the Night is a great story because it left me wanting more. Even though the last page makes the origins of the story clear, I wanted to dig deeper into the mythology. Why was The Whine collecting souls? Did he need them to undo some curse that made him the dark villain of the forest? What sad mishap caused Kitty Patter to lose his hind legs and have to get wheels? One so-called thin story has enough interesting questions to fill a semester's worth of creative writing assignments for a 10 year old.
OhNoo has created a masterpiece. The only book app that approaches this level of technical sophistication is Pedlar Lady, which I reviewed earlier this year. It's presently sitting on the front of the App Store Book page not as a flavor of the week New and Noteworthy app but as an Essential app for new iPad owners. So, trust me. Amelia is in a class by itself and can be enjoyed by the entire family. It's a bit dark and creepy but really no more scary than Disney's Haunted Mansion. Since there's no line at the App Store, you have no excuse not to download Amelia now.
Highly Recommended. Watch the video clip!
Jill Goodman likes all things vampire, witch, zombie and has read all of Stephen King's books. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.