An attractively creepy-cute app gets bogged down in too many distracting extra features to tell a great story.
The world of Amelia—a sunken-eyed girl who hangs around with a kitten, a tortoise and a living, breathing teddy bear—is more than a bit overcrowded. On half the pages of her gorgeously gothic app, taps reveal a variety of critters below the surface. On alternating pages that resemble a traditional storybook, repulsive animals such as giant spiders or slimy caterpillars cross the screen as readers try to pay attention to the story. At first, it’s cool; the beautifully animated sequences are frequently funny. But the frenzied interactivity masks what could have been a perfectly entertaining narrative about friends banding together to save the stolen soul of the tortoise, Little Pencil, from a wicked-looking baddie named, deliciously, Whine. The moody, painterly artwork is stunning, and so is the production work all around. But it ends up an over-spiced stew. The bulk of the animated characters are just marginalia, and a star-collecting game is superfluous. These features sell the story short. The lack of storytelling confidence becomes clear in its pat, disappointing conclusion, which negates much of the experience.
This app gets so much right that it's a shame it ends up offering too much of a good thing. (iPad storybook app. 4-10)