Back when I was young and my brain wasn’t quite fully developed, I used to fancy myself as a superhero in training. Oftentimes, that meant getting a towel and tying it around my neck as a cape, then climbing up the lower roof of my grandfather’s house so I could take off and fly. Then again, “flying” in my case often meant — correction, always meant — landing on the ground because gravity refused to cooperate with my plans. The good news is that my still developing brain actually had a semblance of intelligence because I always held an open umbrella during my jumps just to be on the safe side. That and my secret hope that maybe, just maybe, I can float around like Mary Poppins if I wished it hard enough.
Fast forward to today and all I can say is that I’m happy to be alive. Seriously, sometimes I wonder how I survived such an adventurous childhood without managing to kill myself. Now that my more developed brain has turned me into a scaredy cat with an aversion to death, my superhero hijinks have moved from reality to augmented reality via stuff like the Marvel Reads: Spider-Man AR Book HD app for Apple’s iPad.
At its heart, the Spider-Man AR Book is a digital storybook app that’s based on the Spider-Man movie reboot. It basically chronicles the hero’s initial transformation from Peter Parker to masked hero in storybook form. What really sets this app apart from your typical digital storybook, however, is the addition of augmented reality or AR features within the story segments. In one activity for example, the app displays your face on the iPad’s screen and you have to prevent a bunch of spiders from creepily crawling all over you. The app also allows you to take a snapshot in order to save your goofy spider-infested face for posterity. There’s also another activity that allows you to virtually wear a 3D version of Spider-Man’s mask. At first, it actually doesn’t look quite impressive. That is, until you realize that moving the iPad while having the virtual mask on your face actually changes the perspective to automatically match the angle of your head. Once you’re done goofing around, you can take a picture of your virtual masked self, too. Another activity, “Jar of Spiders” is designed more like a traditional game and allows you to drop the eight-legged buggers into a container.
Admittedly, not all the activities are quite as interesting. These include the segment where you create your own Oscorp badge or even the virtual glasses — a toned down version of the virtual Spider-Man mask. The story itself is also brief and does not cover the entire movie. Instead, it limits its tale to Spider-Man’s origin, which could leave some young one’s hanging in a not-so-good way.
Despite its shortcomings, the addition of the extra activities gives the Spider-Man AR Book a bit more meat than your typical digital storybook. As such, it should sustain interest in little ones long after the story itself has lost its shine. At the very least, it should hopefully distract kids from resorting to inadvisable shenanigans. Jumping from a low roof with a towel cape and an open umbrella comes to mind...
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MARVEL READS: SPIDER-MAN AR BOOK HD
- Platform: iPad with iOS 5.0 and up
- Cost: $4.99
- Final rating: 4.5 stars out of 5