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A Christmas Carol

PadWorx Media brings another fine production to the iPad, a worthy follow-up to the recently released version of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Fangs and wolves in the night have a certain amount of sex appeal, but what about a short novel Charles Dickens wrote in the mid-1800s about a stingy old man? It's honestly this kind of treatment that will convert more modern readers to appreciate classic literature, and the iPad is especially well equipped as a medium for the revival. The timeliness of A Christmas Carol is obvious considering the launch of this app just before the holidays. What makes it timeless is the quality of the writing and the message, which has only become more relevant to modern audiences. Being lured by greed and the disregard for others more in need than us is a pretty good summary of Western civilization up to this point, isn't it?

The legend of Scrooge is a perfect blend of heartwarming sentiment and blood-curdling, campfire ghost tale. It has been reproduced, has been the inspiration for a lot of popular media, and popularized the label "scrooge" or "humbug" for a person that just can't find his way into the holiday spirit. The images used in this interactive novel help create a sense of the action taking place, and draw the reader deeper into the action. We felt that PadWorx sometimes overworked the interactive elements in Dracula, to the point that the medium was getting the way of the message. The balance between gaming and reading has been largely perfected in A Christmas Carol. Interactivity is done on a large scale here, with many a full-page tableau that responds when touched. The concept of full-page art on opposite pages, to illustrate a literary work, is commonplace. When the pages move and change, you start to experience the magic of the device. We didn't love the page-turn mechanic, a small point at the bottom right or left of the page. The simple page-turn motion is established and should really be a convention at this point.

The best use of technology in A Christmas Carol were animations that depicted events in the book, or scenes that unfolded when touched or to follow the narrative. The weakest elements were spots where text was obscured or somehow unfolded in response to touch. Because the indicators for these interactive elements are designed to jump off the page, they tend to draw one's eye and finger. This is fine if timed to a text transition, but many of the breaks weren't, and caused the text to jump ahead before we had a chance to fully read that segment. This happened rarely, but illustrates the unique design decisions behind a work of this type. We love the idea of interactive reading, as long as the interactive elements are smartly placed, well timed to enhance reading, and don't distract or force us to stray from the shortest distance between the front and back cover without a very good reason. A Christmas Carol seems to value these same priorities, and modern readers will slip through quickly without getting hung up on archaic terms and language. A note early on tells us the work is abridged, which may be a turnoff for purists, but it was apparently done in a very sublte way that sacrifices nothing about the essence of Dickens. Sure, you can download the original text to your iPad or read it for free on the Web, but PadWorx brings a special quality to this work that will hopefully engage a new generation of readers, primed to appreciate the message in this new format.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Related Links:

Novel Dracula: The Official Stoker Family Edition Sound My New iPad

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated