App developers for "The Amazing Spider-Man" certainly know how to spin a web of anticipation. Just ahead of the superhero flick's blockbuster summer premiere, Disney Publishing has released "The Amazing Spider-Man Augmented Reality HD Book App" for the iPad, directly inspired by the events in the film. With animated art, photos and activities, the app lends further credence to the trend of interactive material on mobile devices coming out in conjunction with the main event. But given the app's rather large size -- it takes up 287 MB of storage space, just under the size of Apple's productivity app Pages (353 MB) -- is it still worth the download, and the $4.99 you'll drop to own a copy?
The app works best when you plug in a pair of headphones to immerse yourself fully in the interactive content. It opens with a disembodied voice dictating the title of the app, demonstrating a voiceover feature that's consistent throughout the story.
You can tap on the upper right corner to make your own ID badge from Oscorp Industries. The app activates your front-facing camera to snap your photo and you can save it to your camera roll or email it out to show it off to friends.
Then it's time for the actual Spider-Man story. The narrative voice is still present, and suspenseful music concurrently plays in the background for more effective storytelling. As with most other interactive book apps, you get to the next screen by swiping on the screen as if you were turning a real page.
At the bottom of some screens, you'll find a large button inviting you to play a certain game, related to the events in that particular page. For instance, one page featured young Peter Parker discovering a spider suspended inside a large bell jar on his dad's desk, and at the bottom of the screen, the app invited us to "Play the Jar of Spiders mini-game!"
Mini-games had straightforward and easy gameplay, and it's clear that these were created with a younger audience in mind. All the games also leveraged the camera in some way. The Jar of Spiders mini-game had us tapping on spiders crawling up the sides of the wall to crush them, and instructed us slice through the threads of web that spiders from the ceiling hung from. The goal was to take advantage of the momentum from the arachnids' swinging to drop them into a big jar at the bottom of the screen. The front-facing camera was also activated throughout the mini-game and projected the image recorded onto the background of the game.
Other mini-games had us position our face using on-screen markers, and launched a number of gimmicks: putting glasses on our face a la Peter Parker, covering our head with half a Spider-Man mask or a full Spider-Man mask, or making digitized spiders crawl on our face -- the aim was to jab at them and crush each one before the web completely concealed our face.
We tapped on the permanent spider icon in the bottom left corner to access the special features of the interactive book app at any point in the story. We could change the language (although the book only supports English for now), tweak sound options (set Sound Effects, Background Music and Narration to on or off), jump to a specific page within the story, toggle auto-turning of pages and Young Reader mode on or off, and see the credits. The menu appears in a strip across the bottom edge of the screen.
Ultimately, this game is a nice lead-up to the upcoming flick, and includes a host of entertaining features that should keep fans (and their Spidey sense) tingling with excitement. It's worth noting that the app clearly targets a younger demographic -- kids, basically -- as evidenced by the voiceover narration, simple gameplay, and large, readable fonts. If you're a parent trying to get younglings amped for the movie you're about to see, The Amazing Spider-Man AR Book could make for a good bedtime story. After you've played the games and read the story, and once the movie's long past its premiere though, you're probably going to end up deleting this.
Then again, you might argue that a long shelf-life isn't really the point of this app. Interested in ensnaring this app for your collection? You can head over to the iTunes Store for the download ($4.99).