Unusual interactive features and visual effects give this undersea jaunt a glossy digital sheen.
Prefaced by two screens of instructions, the tale takes young Scott and his Japanese friend Aiko through ocean waters teeming with life to a sunken pirate ship, then into and out of the clutches of a goofy-looking giant octopus with googly eyes. Not only are the printed text and audio narration available in English, Spanish, French or Japanese (with the addition of an uncommon audio-only option), but both also come in two versions. There's a short, simply phrased one recommended for toddler audiences and a more advanced option for preschoolers and older children. Rising bubbles aside, there isn’t much conventional animation, but the sub’s capture is signaled by successive whole scenes that shimmy back and forth, and the two explorers are once seen from a wavery subsurface view. The illustrations are done in a plasticky anime style, but sea life is rendered with reasonable accuracy; several scenes are revealed by scrolling down or sideways. Other features range from a disappointingly static “spot these items” game to amusing touch-activated sound effects on most pages. There is also a virtual camera that allows readers to take snapshots of any part of any scene to create an “album”—in which any shots of sea animals come with informational captions.
Despite minor flubs in the English translation (“The crab is a crustacea [sic] with 10 legs”), this is a voyage worth taking. (iPad storybook app. 4-7)