A fierce young warrior with a magic sword takes on a volcano-dwelling bad guy in this hybrid film/digital comic book.
Melodrama rules: “I am on a quest to destroy the darkness forever!!! Me and my mighty sword that is!!!” Backed by spookily atmospheric music that inexplicably shifts to a jaunty melody at the climax, the tale pits Niko—a small, dark-skinned figure in the cartoon art with a savage scowl and an aggressive mohawk—against a “monstrosaurus” and various other multieyed, evocatively named monsters on the way to a final face-off against a glowing, tentacled horror. Depending on the setting, panels of diverse size and shape appear one at a time either automatically or with cued taps on each black screen (page turns remain manual even in “autoplay”). Once launched, they generally proceed to display several seconds’ worth of magical transformations, violent explosions or other expertly designed animations. Though there are occasional inexact matches between the audio and visible narratives, and switching to silent mode also shuts off all the sound effects, a cast of voice actors chews the scenery with appropriate gusto.
The writing doesn’t quite measure up to the slick production and design, but it’s a grand adventure for a diminutive hero nonetheless. (iPad storybook app. 9-11)