If a ginger cat dressed as an English bobby going by the name of Cheshire, Jr. gave you a mystery to solve, could you say no? If the one thing the white rabbit feared above all was Alice’s embrace, would you help him evade it? If the answer to the first question is no, the answer to the second question is yes, and the answer to the question “do you enjoy playing games on your phone or tablet?” is also yes, please read on.
Mirrors of Albion from Game Insight, LLC
Mirrors of Albion looks pretty intriguing. For starters, it’s free. For the main course, it’s a hidden object quest game inspired by both Through the Looking-Glass and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Christine Chan in her review on AppAdvice.com has a lot of praise for the drawings and visuals and she makes the premise sound interesting too:
“Cheshire Jr. will help you in the beginning by showing you the ropes. Basically, you will navigate around the city map, and various buildings will become accessible to you as you level up and make progress through the story. The game will feature various quests and objectives, which you can access by tapping on the Quest button when there’s an exclamation mark on it.”
“Free” always comes with a hitch and it seems that your playing experience can be enhanced–or, at least, accelerated–though in-app purchases. The game can be downloaded for free from the App Store, through iTunes and Google Play, or directly through your iPhone, iPad or Android device.
A Wonderland Story from Alchemy Games
A Wonderland Story, developed by Alchemy Games, is a sliding block platform game in which you help the white rabbit to escape from “Alice’s hugs” (the horror!) to allow him to arrive on time for his date with the Queen. Harry Slater in his review on PocketGamer.co.uk explains:
Rather than controlling the rabbit, you’re in control of the terrain. Each level is made up of a series of columns of blocks and gaps, which you can slide up and down. Your bunny walks to the right automatically, and you need to clear a path for him. Stay trapped for too long and Alice will catch up. And you don’t want that to happen.
Harry concludes that, though the games suffers a little from a surfeit of good ideas, the end result is still enjoyable. A Wonderland Story can be downloaded from the Apple Store for $0.99 and is available for the iPhone or iPod, or in HD for the iPad. There’s no mention of versions for Android phones.
The British Library has a new project: high-definition images of their most precious manuscripts available for download by one and all. These eBook Treasures are viewed in a virtual “3D” environment where you can zoom in, turn pages, search content and generally do everything but smell the paper or spill your coffee on it.
This month, the featured eBook is the original handwritten manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. Using the application you can see each page in full-screen high-definition, read a transcription or listen to a narration by Miriam Margolyes (Professor Sprout, O.B.E.). The download is free but only for the next two weeks. Go to eBook Treasures to get it for yourself.
eBook Treasure: Alice's Adventures Under Ground
The application has been developed with Armadillo Systems (not to be confused with Atomic Antelope, the developers of the revolutionary digital pop-up book of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for the iPad). Over the next two years, 75 of the library’s most interesting or important manuscripts will be made available for download. Other titles available now include Leonardo Da Vinci’s Codex Arundel, William Blake’s Notebooks, and Geradus Mercator’s Atlas of Europe. Coming soon, the Tyndale Bible. This is the digital bibliophile’s promised land.
What’s the catch? It’s a big one. At the moment the whole kaboodle is only available for Apple devices, the iPad and iPod Touch. It’s a remarkably undemocratic move for a project designed to increase access to the treasures of a national institution, but hopefully they will find a way to expand this to the majority world of non-Mac users some day soon.
Here’s a promotional video showing the capabilities of the software. For some reason the sound isn’t working. I guess technology isn’t perfect yet.
"Lewis Carroll Collection," by Macrender, screen shot
Publish This, LLC, has a new app for the Android Market (Android is the operating system Google developed for non-iPhone smartphones) with the zingy title “Lewis Carroll Collection Books” ($0.99.) It claims to have the text for AAIW, TTLG, Phantasmagoria and Other Poems, The Hunting of the Snark, and A Tangled Tale. I should have been warned by this app having the impossibly low rating of 1 Star (out of 5) – it appears to simply not work, and crashes every time I try to open a book. Never fear, though, Android users, if you need nothing more than to re-read one of Lewis Carroll’s books on your 4″ screen. There appears to be at least a dozen apps that offer the text of AAIW or TTLG, ranging from free to $4.99 (“Lewis Carroll Collection” by Macrender, which, judging from the screen shot to the right, has very little bling.)
I downloaded another free app called “Alice’s Adventures” by Popbook, which seems to simply be the text of AAIW in 76 screens without any way to jump ahead to a chapter. There’s not even any space between paragraphs. Marvin Huang has a free app called “Alice in Wonderland,” which at least has chapters and the ability to create bookmarks. Ditto for the $0.99 Double M Apps “Alice in Wonderland Ebook.” None of these have any illustrations. (Thank heavens they left in the conversations.) It fascinates me that some young readers’ first experience of Carroll’s masterpiece will be in this format. If anyone has any opinions about any of the other apps, or can compare them to the iPhone Carroll offerings, please comment on this post! Meanwhile, it seems the market is wide open for some creative talents to take on classic children’s books with fancy smartphoney illustrations.
Rovio's popular smartphone game "Angry Birds"
The Atomic Antelope digital pop-up version for the iPad we’ve reported on before has touch screen interactive illustrations, but those are based on the Tenniel. All we ask from our Android Alice in Wonderland apps is that, when the Rabbit sends in a little Bill, we can slingshot him like an angry bird.
There’s an article by Alice Rawsthorn in the Nov. 28th New York Times to complain about how “boring” the design for most of the new apps for the iPad have been: “On an Innovative Device, Apps Lacking Imagination.”
However! Atomic Antelope’s beautiful and creative Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland popup e-book is singled out as one of her “honorable exceptions,” along with a few magazine apps like The New Yorker and Wired.
As for books, children’s titles are leading the way with apps that include animated illustrations, often activated by the reader. My favorites are the fabulously surreal ones in “Alice for the iPad,” Atomic Antelope’s interactive version of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and Oceanhouse Media’s “Dr. Seuss” apps. Kids can “play” the Dr. Seuss stories like movies — saving you from reading the same one again and again. Each word is highlighted when it is spoken on the soundtrack.
There has been less experimentation for grown-ups. Though the British publishing house Fourth Estate has produced an intriguing app based on the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy’s book “The Num8er My5teries.” Rather than replicate the book, it complements it by enabling the reader to participate in animated mathematical puzzles featuring a cartoon version of Mr. Sautoy.
Miniville, makers of “tiny apps for tiny hands,” have re-released their Alice in Wonderland interactive storybook application for iPhone/iPod/iPad. This completely revamped version features new artwork, new audio, and new ways for children to interact with the abbreviated and adapted story.
You can download a free version that includes some advertising, or an ad-free premium version for $0.99. Even better, John Jumper, the app’s developer, has kindly offered five free copies of the premium edition to Lewis Carroll Society members. We will send the promotional code to the first five people who email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those of you who are just curious to see another example of this one possible future of children’s books, John Jumper has created a demo video on YouTube.
Alice needs your help! The the type of help, however, varies from game to game. Help her fall down the rabbit hole! Help her avoid death by playing cards! Help her wait tables in a poorly-managed Wonderland cafe! These are some of the many choices available in recent games for your Mac, PC, or iPhone.
First up is the inevitable Disney/Tim Burton spin-off game, available for iPhone/iPod Touch, Wii™ and DS™ systems. “Alice in Wonderland – An Adventure Beyond the Mirror” is a 2D platform puzzle in which players are invited to “explore a world filled with whimsical settings, optical illusions, challenging puzzles, and formidable adversaries.” According to reviewers it is ok:
“Alice in Wonderland makes a very good candidate for the videogame treatment. After all, she discovered how to shrink and grow large a century before Mario ate his first mushroom, and the Lewis Carroll stories are filled with memorable allies and enemies. … a puzzle game, with some clunky and imperfect platforming between puzzles…We were surprised that Alice in Wonderland contains some genuinely clever puzzles and Hollywood production values.” Andrew Podolsky, Slide To Play
"Alice's Teacup Madness"
Whether Alice is searching for points or hard cash, Wonderland seems to have discovered wage society. Take “Alice’s Teacup Madness,” available for Mac and PC; in this game Alice has to earn her way out of Wonderland by serving tea and pastries to difficult customers. Suddenly the question of who stole the tarts becomes one of petty larceny and it’s Alice’s job on the line.
Despite the excitement, reviews have been a little lukewarm:
“A lackluster presentation … not worth recommending except to the most die-hard of time management game fans… While the comic strips at the beginning of each location are cute, the characters who actually visit your cafe during a level remain one-dimensional and do not differ notably in tipping habits, patience levels or other behaviour.” David Becker, Gamzebo
"Alice Free Fall"
“Alice Free Fall” is an iPhone/iPod download in which players guide a tumbling Alice to collect points in the form of roses and avoid death in the form of collision with playing cards. It has recently been updated and improved and the developers are promising new levels, new magical items and better visuals. If you have dismissed it in the past it might be worth another look.
And finally, we can’t omit the iPhone app “Alice’s Adventures: Rabbit Hole of Death.” As far as I can tell it takes the same basic premise as “Alice Free Fall” – “help Alice fall down a hole,” but this time Alice has been to see those nice plastic surgeons and invested in some fishnet stockings. One reviewer described it as your basic “move the limbs to fit through body-shaped holes” game. Basically, players must contort nubile Alice, as she falls through space, in order to prevent her colliding with pots of marmalade etc. Charles Dodgson please look away now.
"Alice's Adventures: Rabbit Hole of Death"
I am sure there are many more out there. Additions and reviews below please!