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Required Pre-Reading for The Raven Movie: iPoe E-Book Explored

"The Raven", written in 1845, is by far Edgar Allen Poe's biggest hit. And we're on a knife's edge as we await the release of the new John Cusack/James McTeigue movie by the same name, set to be released April 27. But, the movie isn't about that wonderful poem, it's about is other disturbing pieces of fiction; a "Seven" for the 1900s, if you will, as a mysterious bad guy recreates Poe's fictional murders. To prepare for this literary adventure, we think the $3.99 iPoe iPad app (unconnected to the film) should be required reading.

This interactive, multimedia-packed e-book walks you through three of Poe's short stories; "The Oval Portrait", "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Masque of the Red Death." There is also a short biography of Poe's life and a collection of the illustrator's sketches.

iPoe, by Play Creatividad, is navigated solely by three buttons at the bottom of the screen. The middle button pops up a home screen, with settings for language (available in English, French or Spanish) and social sharing. The buttons on either bottom edge are the only way to page forward and back. In an age where we're accustomed to tapping or swiping to turn the page, we were repeatedly frustrated by this. We also wanted to turn the iPad into landscape mode to get a better veiw, but iPoe only works in portrait mode.

Expertly illustrated by David Garcia Fores, the animated sketches in each story reminded us of a digital comic, but it's the hidden interactive gems that we found truly captivating. The animation was sometimes automatic, showing a menacing red figure drift across the screen in one instance. In other places you have to tap the screen to make eyes move, heads bob or backgrounds change color. Once we realized most pages have some sort of engaging element on them, it made more sense as to why you couldn't swipe to turn the page.

In each story some object blocks the text on the page, requiring you to interact with a locket or dismembered body to move it out of the way. And in two instances, the designer created a spotlight effect where you must move your finger around the page to illuminate an illustration and/or text. While we wished there were some key or icon to tell us when we were reading a page with a secret easter egg on it, we particularly loved the surreptitious placement of Princess Leia in a gold bikini.

Each story is set to its own, somewhat boring original soundtrack by Teo Grimalt, which is dominated by monotone synthesizer hums, high-pitched piano notes and gusts of eery wind. For this master of mystery we'd have preferred music more on the scale of the soundtrack to "Jaws" as opposed to the ghostly melodic and sometimes sad sounds from this app. There was only one page in all the app that made us jump, toward the end of "The Masque of Red Death."

The biography of Poe was entertaining and interesting to read, but we wished for a bit more detail. While we believe the movie version of Poe's life to be completely fictional, we would like to be able to put more context to the events of his career. We also wish there were a music-off setting so we could enjoy the app without these distractions. All that said, this was an excellent interactive experience, well worth the $3.99, and served to satiate our Edgar Allen Poe needs while we wait for the movie.

Now, if only there were an Android version.