iClassics Productions has released a new digital fiction app just in time for Halloween. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, adapted from Washington Irving’s 19th century story, retells the classic tale of the headless horseman while giving it an interactive twist that heightens the story’s theatricality.
Like in iClassics’ other work, the app is a playful digital anachronism, a hybrid text that straddles two vastly different eras without standing squarely in either one (this is a good thing).
As with a printed book, most of the interaction involves turning the pages. With either a tap or swipe at the corner of the screen, the user can advance to the next section of the story.
Unlike print, the story’s digital format allows for added interactivity. Occasionally the text is obscured by various items – a map, a shovel, a book – that the reader is encouraged to drag around the screen. This prevents the entire page from being read at once, slowing down speed-readers and allowing for a bit of playfulness. The reader is also encouraged to drag a light around to illuminate a darkened page, or draw on a chalkboard with their finger.
The story itself is a faithful adaptation of Irving’s original, with all its anachronisms intact (for example, the use of racial terms or sexual stereotypes that would be insensitive today).
The historical gap between the story and this digital version is made clear through typography. Several different typefaces of varying size are used to simulate the look of a 18th or 19th century printed page. This mixture of different fonts may be looked down upon by today’s designers, but it was commonplace around Irving’s time and adds to the period feel of the piece.
Unlike the typography, the illustrations are hardly historically accurate. Some of the characters are caricatured to the point of absurdity: Ichabod’s eyes are set below his nose, for example. Other characters are rendered in a more conventional style. Katrina, Ichabod’s love interest, looks like she was lifted from a Mark Ryden painting with her glassy eyes and blank stare.
The entire story is set to music which changes seamlessly between pages, with one song blending into the next. Each scene’s mood is nicely matched by the score: it’s pastoral and calm during Ichabod’s character study, lively during the party, and builds up to a climactic crescendo at the same pace as the story.
At the peak of the story’s action, the reader’s phone is engaged to help accentuate the narrative. The force-feedback shakes and rumbles and the flash goes off at climactic moments, like theatrical stage effects in the palm of your hand. Luckily, these flourishes aren’t overused: they’re unique and special enough to be dramatic without being gimmicky.
iClassics’s retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a refreshing digital take on an old story. While it doesn’t alter the text itself, it tells a 19th century tale on a 21st century platform using affordances from both eras. The result is a fun way to celebrate the Halloween season and a solid addition to the iClassics library.