Tangled was one of the first Disney movies made after the buyout of Pixar and I think it’s safe to say it was one of the best to come from the house of mouse in a long time, thanks in part I’m sure to the influence of John Lasseter. There aren’t many films that can make me blub – the opening montage of Up is a real tear jerker, but Finding Nemo was first movie ever that made me well up from the sheer beauty of what was on the screen and the sky lantern scene in Tangled has been the closest I’ve come to that again. So, when I saw that this new Tangled Storybook Deluxe app included a game based on that scene, I was intrigued to see how they’d translate it.
It’s quite a hefty app, weighing in just over 250Mb (and that’s without retina display quality images too) so you’ll want to use your wi-fi to download it, but as soon as you start it up you can see where all those bits have gone. The full screen, sumptuous images are there from the beginning at the menu screen where you given three choices of how to use the app – Follow Along, Read and Explore or Play. They’re fairly self explanatory – the first just reads the story out to you, the second allows you to go at your own pace and experience all the extras, and the last option just gives you all activities.
The illustration style is quite pleasing on the eye, mostly because it doesn’t follow the same 3D rendered route of the movie, but instead goes for a more hand drawn and painted effect. It reminds me of Daniel Lieske’s stunning Wormworld Saga in places.
The whole app is very well put together. Rather than opting for a simple next button tap to turn the page, or even an ever-so-tired-curled page metaphor, the developers have implemented a very slick parallax scrolling effect.
A nicely rendered text panel sits to left, containing the story with the standard highlighting words, and to the right is one of the nice illustrations. When you swipe right-to-left, the text panel slides away and more of the image is revealed – sometimes with a little rotation or change in perspective – and the narration keeps playing.
Every now and then the illustration dissolves into a short clip from the film. Sometimes they become little interactive sections with animations, things to tap or even elements that move when tilt your iPad or iPhone. Another right-to-left swipe moves you on to the next ‘page’ with some more parallax effects and the audio fades through nicely to the next part, never giving a horrible cut.
The narration is delivered in a pleasant female tone, not too overtly accented, and is full of clips of the actors from the movie delivering some of their lines. If you don’t like the narration and are in the Read and Explore mode, the developers have included the option to record your own, much like the popular Me Books app. It took us a while to work out how to revert back to the default narration here as there were no obvious reset buttons on the pages. Turns out you have to return to the home screen and flick a switch to remove all the custom recordings. This is a great idea, as you can re-record the whole story and then you can still read your (and I’m guessing here) daughter a bedtime story even if you’re out of town. There’s also background music taken directly from movie’s soundtrack and plenty of sound effects too, which all help to make the app a very engaging experience.
If you’re going through the Read and Explore option, many of the pages have an extra icon at the bottom which take you to the ‘Play’ sections – which is where the app falls down a bit. There are three options – Coloring, Jigsaws and the Lantern game. The coloring section features six outline pictures of some of the main characters. It’s very simple, with 16 colors and two line thicknesses to choose from, and it remembers what you’ve already colored when you come back to it. This a nice touch, but also frustrating as we couldn’t seem to get the ‘Shake to erase’ option to work and ended up having to just color it all white to reset the picture. It also has a handy save to library and share by email function built in.
The jigsaws are the least satisfying part of the app. Again, there are six of them, all using the same lovely artwork from the story. The pieces animate nicely and have the required sound effects, but the problem with it is the fact that there’s only one difficulty setting – and that is VERY EASY. Each jigsaw is split into just nine pieces, and a knocked back version of the final image is shown to right of the pieces. This makes it possible to complete the puzzle in about 10 seconds, which is fine for younger kids, but my six-year-old has been doing 100-piece jigsaws for a while now so found no challenge in these ones. Also, I’d like to see a little reward for completing the puzzle, something more than just a little sound effect.
The Floating Lantern game is much more fun. After you chose your level (yay!), it starts up with a little animation of Rapunzel and Flynn releasing a lantern into the night sky to join all the others and then the game begins. It’s a simple variation on the things-of-the-same-color-disappear genre, with colored lanterns floating up from the bottom of the screen, and you pop them by dragging your finger between ones of the same color. The more you pop in one go, the more you score. Build up your ‘power bar’ enough and you get the ‘super lantern’ which pops all the ones close to it. If the screen fills up, the game is over, but in reality this is actually quite hard to do as you can just quickly swipe over the screen and randomly pop loads of the lanterns. It’s no Tetris or Drop 7, but it’s fun for the little one to play for a while.
Overall, the Tangled Storybook Deluxe is one of the better story apps out there, but you do have to pay for that quality – $6.99/£4.99 is at the higher end of the scale, but it’s worth it.
Disclaimer: GeekDad was provided with a preview code for this app