‘It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ app a treat

First impressions

We grew up with mishap-prone Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang in Peanuts. Who wouldn’t want Snoopy as a pet? Or Linus as a best friend? And then there was that cow Peppermint Patty (although we have to admit that she and her faithful friend, Marcie, bore more than a passing resemblance to us and our friend Lynne) – she was so pushy and bossy (ahem).

So when we saw that there was an “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” app, we knew that buying it would be a foregone conclusion. The moment the music started we were thrust back to our childhood. Every Halloween without fail this classic cartoon is on television, just like A Charlie Brown Christmas in the festive season.

The app isn’t the cartoon, but it is an animated book version and there are some fun little extras. We sat back and got ready to enjoy a huge heapin’ spoonful of nostalgia.

How it works

Once you download and open it you’ll see a record player on the first screen. This will probably throw anyone under the age of 30. “What’s a record player?!”

Here you can choose to turn the narration on or off and you can adjust the volume of the music. Once you touch the book cover it will open to a comic strip page, and then beyond that you get to the next step where you can create an account, make your own Peanuts avatar, carve a pumpkin or simply move directly to the story.

You have to create an account to make the avatar and although the design of the character itself costs nothing, there are only limited free clothing and costume choices. All the rest cost candy or gold coins, which you have to purchase. This is the way a lot of apps operate. The initial buy is free or cheap, cheap, cheap, but to truly unlock all the options you have to pony up the cash. It’s not a fortune, but it gets under some people’s skin. At least it’s up to you – you don’t have to pay to play.

Once there is a Peanuts version of yourself in the system, maybe you’ll go to try and carve a pumpkin. It’s a pretty basic game, but will be fun for children. Besides, adding a glowing light to anything makes it look good.

After you’ve exhausted the extras (or maybe you’re not so interested in trying any of them) you can move on to the story. It is narrated by the man who was the original voice of Charlie Brown, and there is the familiar dialogue with the children’s recognisable voices throughout the story.

Something kids will love (and so will you, although you may not admit it) is that you can touch some of the elements of the page like the characters or the leaves to change or move them.

It’s fun to find out which ones are interactive as you go along.

Read the book until its end, and then maybe you’ll want to do it all over again.

When we played

We decided to create an account and an avatar, purely for research purposes of course. We didn’t have any say in the body shape, but we went with a Linus-shaped face rather than the round Charlie-brown sort and chose a happy expression with our mouth open wide, topping off our avatar’s head with a shock of curly red hair. After all, we had to be as accurate as possible.

We chose a free outfit rather than paying for anything, although some of those costumes were tempting, and then we went on to carve a pumpkin. We drew a basic design and then added big, imposing black eyebrows. Then we chose a candle glow to finish off our magnificent creation.

When we went back to the story we saw that our avatar and pumpkin had joined the Peanuts gang on the left hand page. As delighted as we were, we’re sure kids will be thrilled at this little bonus.

Once the story began we listened to it and dutifully swept the screen as directed to move through the pages. We also tapped the falling leaves like fury in the beginning, and marvelled at them changing shape and size. We realised long ago that we’re basically a big kid.

As the book progressed we tested everything on the screen to see if we could change or move it. We decided at the end that we might have to go through the tale a second time so we could actually pay attention to it.

It was a wonderful way to interactively enjoy the story, and the next time we shared it with a friend’s child who was absolutely glued to the screen.

Final thoughts

Charlie Brown stories are timeless and this app beautifully brings together the experience of watching the cartoon with the feeling of reading a book. It’s a great combination, particularly for the younger generation. Having to pay out for the avatar outfits is a bit of a pain, but then you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Apps are becoming more like Ryanair every day.

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It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

Cost: $4.99

Seller: Loud Crow Interactive Inc.

Devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android

Rating: E for Everyone

Four stars

Charlie Brown stories are timeless and this app beautifully brings together the experience of watching the cartoon with the feeling of reading a book.

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