Helga Deen

Helga Deen

Graphic novel based on the true story of a Holocaust victim

Interactive eBooks are becoming more powerful experiences, and Helga Deen is perhaps one of the most moving to be turned into an interactive story for the iPad.  The graphic novel is based on the diary of a Dutch girl named Helga Deen, only discovered in 2004, and in much the same way as Anne Frank’s journal, details the events of the Holocaust, and the last days of her young life.  To do this justice, the developers have used an incredible blend of artwork, animation and sounds to create an engaging and intense reading app that grabs you and pulls you into the dark world of the concentration camp where Helga was imprisoned.

In terms of the app’s interface, Helga Deen is unique, as each panel on a page remains in darkness until you tap it, weaving the sound effects together and subtly changing the volume of each to keep the story seamless. This interactivity means that the reader sets the pace, allowing you to fully take in every aspect of every image before moving on. It also helps to create a strange level of suspense within the reader, even though you already know how the story is going to end, and it’s a feature the developers should be commended for.

The layout makes you want to keep turning the page, and even though there is, in actuality, not a huge amount of text to read, you feel as if you’re getting an in-depth story because of the considered pacing, and of course the images you see.  The art is a mixture of beautifully detailed hand-drawn images and animated highlights to bring the image to life; for example, rain and shimmering puddles, or the mist visible in the light of a window. The smallest details are drawn out, and it helps to make the whole piece seem almost real on the screen in front of you.

Flashes of lightning and the slight flicker of the camp’s lights help to create an atmosphere that draws you in and keeps you glued to your iPad screen. Of course, all of these visual features are aided by sounds that echo throughout the story. It is suggested that you use headphones with this app, as they help contain the rumbles of thunder and splash of rain, providing the perfect accompaniment to everything you see on the screen. The page turning mechanics are very responsive, and you can alter the volume by swiping up and down.

You can also tap on text balloons to zoom in on them and increase the text size. Additionally, a double tap of the screen allows you to scroll through thumbnails of each page.  It may be a tragic and horrific story, but Helga Deen is an app that deserves to be seen, not just because of the importance of the tale it portrays, but also because of the way in which its been told, and how it interacts and engages with the reader from the first page to the last.

Rated 5 out of 5

An emotive story that’s been beautifully crafted into app form.

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