iPad Book Review: Giant Trouble Reviewed by Guy Dayen
Comic books, or graphic novels, as the younger generations of readers like to refer to them, have been around in one form or another for more than three quarters of a century in America. For most of that time, the only available medium was paper. Using only pencils, pens, brushes and ink, masterpieces of story-telling and graphic designs were created; epic tales have thrilled countless young (and old) enthusiasts, and unforgettable characters sprang off the page to come alive in our mind and in other entertainment media.
The one limitation was that the story was static, locked forever in ink on the page. Comic books could be scribbled in or cut up and put in scrapbook (although I shudder at the thought...), silly putty could be used to transfer images (kind of...), and tracing paper helped budding artists develop their craft. But still, the paper remained inert.
With the advent of the iPad (and now more and more competitors) there is now a new way to read and interact with comic books. The major publishers, like DC Comics, Dark Horse and Marvel, to name only a few, have all jumped on board the mobile platform train and put out apps to deliver comics directly to the reader, and to allow a bit more interplay between reader and story.
Skyreader Media has also joined the fray, in conjunction with Rubicon Publishers, and has created a new graphic novel for the iPad: ?Giant Trouble?. Although I found it short at around twenty pages, I think younger readers (somewhere in the 6 to 9 years old range) will find the story quite enjoyable.
Giant Trouble is the story of Finn McCoul, an Irish giant who decides to build a bridge to Scotland. In doing so, he comes to the attention of Cucullin, who decides to challenge Finn to battle. Finn?s problem is that Cucullin is much bigger and much more fierce than he is. Finn returns home to seek the help of Oona, his wife, to deal with this pesky problem. Without revealing too much of the story, it is safe to say that in the giant world, while the females may not be as big as the males, they certainly are much more clever! The most enjoyable aspect of the story is seeing what trickery Oona uses to come to the aid of her husband and handle Cucullin. While there is some menace in the character of Cucullin, the story is played lightly so it won?t frighten the youngest readers.
The graphics are bright and colorful, and they will appeal to the younger set. The art style is very flat and angular, as is common in many contemporary comics aimed at the younger set. There isn?t much interaction, though. Readers can touch the page to trigger sounds, but the movement is minimal. It reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons and animes, where one or two things move on screen, while the rest of the scene is static.
The animation is pretty basic. Understand that it is not meant, or advertised to be, like an interactive game. ?Giant Trouble? is meant to be like a comic book, so kids looking for a lot of bells and whistles will be disappointed.
You can choose to read the book on your own or have it read to you. The voice acting is done very competently, and the characters are fun to listen to, especially Oona. While the actors do affect accents, they will not deter kids from understanding the story. I mention this because every time I go to a play at our local community theater, some adult (usually in their fifties or older) will invariably comment on how hard it is to comprehend the actors when the play calls for some accent or other. I always get a kick out of that one, and I mention it just in case there are any accent-phobic readers out there.
Music and sound effects are nicely done as well, and complement the story very well.
?Giant Trouble? is well suited for younger readers, and is a good introduction to more ?grown-up? story lines. It can serve as a springboard for parents to discuss the fact that there are alternatives to fighting, and that it?s always OK to ask for help when facing a problem. Solving the conflict through wits rather than brawn is a refreshing change from the usual comic book and cartoon show diet.
Parents will appreciate the message while children will have fun at the antics of Cucullin as he discovers what a formidable opponent Finn McCoul would be, courtesy of Oona?s little tricks.
At three dollars, ?Giant Trouble? is a good value. Long gone are the days where a kid could go to the corner store and pick up a comic book for twelve or fifteen cents. Most books are now two or three dollars, so Giant?s price seems about right.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5): 4
Graphics: 4 Bright, colorful graphics that will appeal to the younger set. Interactivity is rather basic. Sound: 4 The voice acting is well done, and music and sound effects are pleasant, but sparse. Controls: 5 The pages respond well, and navigating through the book is a breeze. Readability: 4 The story is entertaining, and children will enjoy the humor and Cucullin?s discomfiture as he discover the ?formidable? opponent Finn McCoul would be. The story is a bit short, but it?s a good length for younger readers, and it?s interesting enough to justify repeated readings.