Enter The Gwaii – 3D Comic Book, (universal) by Mobad Games. The Gwaii aims to bridge the gap between educational book-apps that promote reading and the immersive fun of comic books. And, they sprinkle in a dash of 3D to make sure it appeals.
I first met Mobad games when they released a similarly 3D children’s interactive book called The Penelope Rose, which captivated me with its delicacy. But they’ve upped the 3D, the action and the target audience in this new title.
The Gwaii is serialized – the first 30 pages come included in the initial price and two subsequent chapters are available for in-app purchase, making the total cost for this 80-page adventure around six dollars.
The tale is set in a mythological Northern Canada inhabited by “Strange Creatures” of the wild more than man or regular beast. Tamu, a young Sashquash has seen his mother kidnapped by hunters and sets out on a quest to bring her home. This quest element is so crucial to a good story – it’s a formula that worked for Odysseus and Batman and it plays out tremendously well here.
On his journey, Tanu will befriend an orphaned wildcat; do battle with everything from other mythical creatures to an evil raven -who bears a striking similarity in speech and motive to to Golem of Lords of the Rings – to man himself; and discover his inner strength.
The story is captivating, with real emotional depth and genuine suspense – more than enough to keep kids turning pages. And the art is absolutely beautiful – vibrant, cartoonish, but never silly. The backgrounds are rich and alive with detail and the ambient forest soundtrack is a pleasure on the ears and a welcome change from the noise most kid-apps and games make.
I can’t say The Gwaii is a cinematic 3D experience, but both the words and the images do seem to pop up from the page. Holding the iPad at different angles adds to the illusion of depth.
As for the interface, it’s seamless. The contents page allows for visual navigation by chapter or page.
There is the option to read the text alone or have it narrated by voice-actors who do a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life. In either mode, tapping on a word will cause it to be spoken aloud, so there’s no frustration for struggling readers
Beyond that navigation is all arrow driven – they toggle the main menu and contents, turn the page, and replay scenes within a page. That’s it: two modes, three chapters, responsive taps, and just enough interactivity and special effects to keep young minds enthralled
This app has a clear “love Mother Earth” subtext, but there’s no dogma. The story casts humans as evildoers, but as heroes too. The real message is one of belonging, family in all it’s myriad forms and loyalty.
I confess the total price tag caused me to balk – but only for a minute. As soon as my son was sounding out words without my urging and begging for more, ponying up for subsequent chapters of The Gwaii was a no-brainer. And, frankly, I wanted to know how it ended too.
(Contest details below)
But we won’t just have a single winner! Two lucky readers will win a code to unlock the first chapter of The Gwai, but two grand prize winners will also receive all three chapters unlocked for you by Mobad. Good Luck!
†Prices accurate at time of posting but are subject to change without prior warning on the App Store.