War Horse Interactive Edition Review
The best selling novel comes to iPad having already conquered stage and screen
The War Horse story is one that has found it’s way onto most mediums since the original book was released back in 1982. Since then there has been a stage show, a film, and radio broadcasts – all dedicated to the First World War story seen from the equine perspective. Now it has reached iOS in the form of this app, which may appear to simply be a slightly enhanced digital version of the original book, but it soon becomes clear to the user that it is far deeper than that.
The centre point of the app is of course the original text, and you can read through the full version easily by scrolling vertically through the chapters, each one peppered with illustrations to enhance the story. Each of these is fully zoomable so you can take the time to appreciate them when you take a break from reading. Beyond simply reading the story, this area of the app is also a fully-formed audiobook, read by the author Michael Morpurgo, with each sentence illuminating on-screen as he reads – the audio and visual completely in-sync and moving together the unveil the story.
It’s not a unique or new feature by any stretch, but having the author read the story does add a certain gravitas to it. There is a menu at the top of the screen in this section that allows you to jump to any chapter, as well as alter the text size and brightness level to suit you – should you be reading in bed for example and want to decrease the strain on your eyes.
The book though forms only a small part of the app, with more input from author Morpurgo to be found in the Performance section. Here, there is a live stage performance of the show by Morpurgo accompanied by music from British folk musicians Barry Coope and John Tams. It’s around 80 minutes in length so forms a substantial extra chunk of the app, and deserves to be appreciated alongside the book. This section of the app is actually compatible with AirPlay, so you can send it to your TV to appreciate it on a bigger screen if you wish to do so.
While the performance is most definitely a feature designed to bring extra entertainment value to the app, the remaining sections are geared more towards the educational side of things, and in impressive fashion it must be said. The Timeline is a well-detailed breakdown of the events that led up to the First World War, as well as the key events during the conflict. These are told through not only the text panels but also supporting images and paintings to emphasise the brutality of the conflict. The key events are cleverly entwined with the experiences of horses that served during the war – tying this section in neatly with the War Horse story.
To further add to this already emotive and impressive section are multimedia attachments like audio clips replicating crucial speeches from the time, maps of the key battles, and even video clips to illustrate different parts of the war. There is content here that wouldn’t feel out of place in an official British Museum app, and indeed at times it is easy to forget you are interacting with the extra sections of an app that is presented as an interactive novel. This tag however doesn’t really come close to fully describing what you can get from downloading War Horse and going beyond simply reading the text. The Insights area of War Horse contains more than an hour of video from various historians as well as Morpurgo to tell the story of the war as well as the book. The tile interface is an engaging way to introduce this section, with each expert having several sections of video and image content to present to the reader.
This latest incarnation of War Horse is so much more than just an interactive novel, with some stunning historical and educational content that means the app is worth your time and money. Whether it’s for pure entertainment or to discover something new about the Great War, War Horse is a great app.
Offers more than expected, and is helped by the fact it’s based on a great story.
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