iPad Interactive Book Review: Roxie's Doors Reviewed by Guy Dayen
OCG Studios returns to the world of Roxie, following up the popular Roxie's a-MAZE-ing Vacation with their iPad adaptation of the seek-and-find book Roxie's Doors. OCG has created a lift the flap search book which is sure to please children and their parents alike. The original book, read by author Roxie Munroe in this adaptation, won CHILD Magazine's Best Book of the Month award, and was a Horn Book Summer Reading Choice selection, as well as a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year selection. It was also chosen as a Scholastic Parent and Child Best New Book.
The idea of Roxie?s Doors is to create a virtual lift the flap book, in which children open doors to reveal different scenes. Inside those scenes, various objects must be found. To keep things more interesting, kids have to open cabinet doors, drawers, hatches, seat-backs, overhead bins and the like in order to find the objects. This makes for a much more interactive experience, and will encourage return trips to this book.
Each door in the book will reveal a different scene. The first page explains it well by saying: ?Lift the flaps and step through doors into wonderful worlds that you can explore. Open the door to a fantasy - imagination is your key!? Children can explore a firehouse, a train car, a barn, a doctor?s office, a boat, a fridge, a car repair shop, a theatre and a spaceship. There is enough variety to appeal to boys as well as girls, and to a good range of ages.
Once inside the scene, children hunt for various items. When one is found, a white circle appears and the name of the items changes color. The touch area is large enough so that little items are easy to click on when found. This is crucial, because children (and adults, too) could get frustrated if they kept tapping an object to no avail due to a too-small touch target. The designers did a good job here, although the drinking fountain in the train was a bit hard to activate.
On each page, a short rhyming text tells the child what to look for, usually nine items unique to each scene and two repeated items, a hat and an apple. I suspect this repetition of items is meant to appeal to the youngest children, and provide a sense of continuity from scene to scene, but it might get tiresome for older children. The scenes are so dense, so full of things to look at, that I would have liked a more varied list of things to find.
I believe a great opportunity was wasted here. A book, by definition, is static, confined as it is to the printed page. The iPad allows for so much more. I would have loved for the author to create different lists of items for each page, so that there would be new things to find when the child returns to the book. It would keep things fresh, and make use of the many many things pictured on each page. There could still be repetition, but each page could have two or three variations, instead of just the one. It wouldn?t increase the size of the app by much, but it would add much more interest, and much more value to this wonderful book. In my opinion, there always needs to be a careful reconsideration of the source material when adapting books to the iPad platform, and I think it is especially crucial for children?s literature, considering the richness of imagination that genre represents. This is the first version of this book; I hope it will be developed further in later variations.
The graphic design of Roxie?s Doors is bright and colorful. It has a beautiful hand-drawn look that will appeal to the little ones, while being detailed enough to present a challenge for older children. The action of ?opening? the door to reveal each scene makes this feel like a real book, and the concept of ?lifting the flap? to reveal what lies in cabinets, drawers or seat-backs is very well executed. No chance of ripping paper here and running the risk of ruining the gameplay.
A very nice touch is the fact that the left door becomes transparent, which allows you to read the text easily, and see the list of items to be found. Items that have been discovered change color, going from red to green, so the child knows what items are left to find. My big quibble with the graphic set-up is that the text and the door frame gobble up a lot of the iPad?s screen real estate, so that the scenes themselves are quite small; most of them take up less than half of the iPad?s big screen. I would have loved to be able to ?step through the door? virtually, as the opening page promises. Doing this would allow the scenes to be bigger, and consequently, it would make objects much easier to see. Some of the things to be found are quite small indeed, and present quite a challenge. I?d love to see this addressed in the next update of this beautiful book. The main attraction here are the different environments - they shouldn?t take a back seat to the text box, which is quite large in relation to the drawings.
The sound effects are well done, and varied enough hold the interest of a child over repeated readings of the book. Thankfully, they are not overly loud, and will not grate on the adult ears if this book becomes a favorite and is played with again and again. Be sure to encourage children to explore each scene, to see which objects will trigger sounds. It?s part of the fun in going through each page.
The narration is quite pleasant. There is the option of having the text read by the author, Roxie Munroe,, or by a male narrator, voiced by Dirk Kennedy. Both narrators read at a pace suitable for younger children, and are very expressive. Parents can also turn off the narration and read the book themselves. This is done by pulling down the red arrow that hangs at the top of the book; it?s a cute way to bring up the book?s options and navigation panel.
There is no music in the app. It?s not strictly necessary, I guess, but music adds so much to the atmosphere of an interactive book, and would have added more personality to each of the different environments. I think adding a musical soundtrack would really enhance the experience.
Roxie?s Doors is a wonderful book, and I?m sure it will hold a great deal of appeal for many children. It?s a great effort, but it also has a lot of room for growth and improvement. I enjoyed Roxie?s a-MAZE-ing Adventure last year, and I like Roxie?s Doors too. The graphic work is simply beautiful. At three dollars, it?s a great value, and there is no risk of ripped flaps and pages. Children will enjoy it and will be sure to go back time and again.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5): 4
Graphics: 4 Beautiful hand-drawn graphics make this book a visual feast, but the individual scenes are relatively small considering the size of the iPad?s screen. Sound: 4 The narrators are quite pleasant to listen too, and the sound effects are fun. Music would have been a nice touch. Controls: 5 The doors, flaps, and navigational controls all performed flawlessly. Children will have an easy time interacting with the book. Interactions: 4.5 The touch targets are well-done; very rarely was it difficult to tap an item and make it register correctly.