On the heels of this weekend’s massive box office success for Marvel’s The Avengers, Barnes & Noble announced on Monday the release of a new app for their Nook devices, titled Marvel’s The Avengers’ Iron Man Mark VII. That’s a lot of title, and ultimately the retailer just calls it the Iron Man Mark VII app on their Facebook page, which is what we’ll do, too.
Featuring comic book-style art by Steve Kurth from a story by Fred Van Lente, the app walks users through Tony Stark’s continuity of the Marvel movie universe, using Iron Man’s armor as a framing device. The first model, of course, is the bulky hand-crafted armor that Stark made in that cave in Afghanistan, whereas the Mark VII is the version seen at the end of The Avengers. We don’t actually see any of the in-story events from The Avengers, but the story leaves off in such a way that it’s pretty obvious why the app couldn’t have been released two weeks ago without risking tipping Marvel’s hand.
Bearing in mind that this is basically an interactive storybook, and not a video game-style app, will help you make a better evaluation of the work and also follow this review better.
Like many of the children’s-book apps for Nook (my son reads Peanuts and Dr. Seuss apps that function similarly), the story of the app itself is static but if you swipe your finger over objects and characters, there will be limited animation and sounds to bring the story “to life.” There are times (such as when the suit’s “vertical delivery” system malfunctions and sends pieces of Iron Man costume flying everywhere, or when he’s facing off against terrorists and there’s lots of gunfire on the page) that this is really cool and fun to play with, but other times–like when Iron Man’s standing on a platform in front of a row of dancing girls–it seems silly and redundant to have each of the dozen and a half girls respond the same way to touch. Better to have some of them be background, maybe, than to lead users to believe there might be something different about one and waste their time wandering through them all.
Still, this is something that’s common to this sort of app. There’s a similar Charlie Brown Christmas app, where every single character on the skate pond can be touched and made to move about an eighth of an inch. Part of the fun, though, is poking around each image and trying to suss out which objects on the page might do something to advance the story.
The weakest link, probably, is that the narrator of the story tries his best to do a Robert Downey, Jr. impression and–while he nails the attitude–doesn’t really sound anything like Downey. The app would have been better served if they could have either gotten Downey (he’s busy, yes, but this would be maybe an hour of recording time tops) or went another way completely.
The story as told by Van Lente shines, though, and makes this free app (also available on iOS and Android devices) a bargain at twice the price. Kurth’s art is strongest when Tony is in the armor and is hampered somewhat when he’s going for the “cinematic look” of some characters’ faces (particularly Pepper), but overall it’s a great app, that pushes the edges of what “read to me” children’s book apps generally offer and should be entertaining for anyone who’s a fan of the Iron Man franchise. Expect an update around the release of Iron Man 3, becuase it just seems too obvious not to do.