Breaking News
Tuesday, 27 December 2011

One of my gifts this holiday/birthday season was an iPad, and one of my first apps purchased for that iPad was Oz, created by Boluga.

The text is an abridgment of L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the aesthetic is derived from W. W. Denslow’s illustrations. Not as they originally appeared, though, since the “pages” have also been digitally aged and dusted with grime for a “classic” look. In addition, key phrases are enlarged and laid diagonally on many screens, especially those with no art. As I noted before, Denslow’s thick-line cartooning adapts well to this format.

Kirkus found that shortening the text removed a lot of Baum’s charm. Knowing the story already, I didn’t pay much attention to that, but I agree that a lot of Baum’s strength as a storyteller—his ability to create a verisimilitudinous fairyland through respect for individual characters and quotidian detail—appears in passages unnecessary for the plot and therefore likely to be the first to go.

Some of the screens have interactive elements, but I found them inconsistent. From one page to the next, the art can:
  • do nothing but look pretty. It’s possible to spot these by the lack of a circular icon in the upper right corner. 
  • come with animation, music, or other sounds, but (aside from rerunning the screen by hitting that icon) there’s nothing for readers to do. This is how the Wicked Witches die, for example.
  • let readers play with visual elements, though to no clear purpose. I don’t know why one is supposed to knock down the Soldier with the Green Whiskers’s gun. One can fill the poppy field with poppies drifting snowglobe-style from the sky, which is kind of pretty, but it doesn’t seem to grow from the story. 
  • allow readers to be part of the story by, say, taking the Scarecrow off his pole or putting the heart in the Tin Woodman. These screens are, of course, the most fun. But Kirkus complains that such games and puzzles require too much fine-motor control for the app’s intended audience. I must admit I still haven’t got the Guardian of the Gates’s key into the lock—I’d actually decided it didn’t belong there.
Not being able to distinguish one type of interaction from another was also a little frustrating. For example, after Mr. Joker, the clown in the China Country, shatters into dozens of pieces, I kept trying to reassemble him. But I think he’s a lost cause.

Perhaps a version 2.0 will fix those frustrations. But honestly, for 99¢, Oz was a fine way to learn some of the tricks of my iPad while revisiting some familiar faces and places. I was more than satisfied.

Incidentally, I noticed only one sign of the MGM movie’s influence on this version: when the Tin Woodman’s heart goes into his chest, it starts to tick. All the other details are from the book.


Post a Comment