A magic-themed collection is, at its tricky heart, just a collection of four iPad technology demos.
On a welcome screen featuring a cute, big-eyed spider, four cards are presented: a camera, a set of colorful balls, a microphone and a swirling crystal ball. Each leads to its own minigame using iPad technology in the guise of, say, a very old hand-crank camera or a microphone from radio days, presented along with jaunty period music. Readers who choose the camera can take selfies, which are then arbitrarily assigned effects like stretching, swirls or a monocle and mustache. The same goes for the mic, which is just an elaborate way of presenting audio filters for a recorded voice. Instructions for each section are presented as labored, grainy, black-and-white projector slides. It seems like a lot of musty fuss that will be lost on young readers, if that’s the intended audience rather than steampunk aficionados or 90-year-olds purchasing their first iPads. A period narrative that tied all four of the app’s admittedly well-designed toys—call it Boardwalk App-pire—may have made the experience something compelling. But as released, it’s the kind of curiosity that will be played with a few times then quickly forgotten.
Some neat ideas and good execution don’t add up to a magical experience, and the fun—poof!—disappears before you know it. (Requires iOS 6 and above.) (iPad informational app. 5-10 or 80 & up)