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Shadow House app review

shadow-house-titleSet in Larkspur House, a home for abandoned and wayward children, Shadow House (Scholastic, August 2016; iOS and Android) is the app component of Dan Poblocki’s new multi-platform middle-grade horror series of the same name. The app allows users to interact with the series’ fictional world by choosing their own pathways through twelve different “Incidents.”

Each Incident follows one of Larkspur House’s young inhabitants, together revealing a chilling vision of the Larkspur experience. The house is haunted, or maliciously sentient, or both, and an evil Director physically and emotionally abuses the wards. The children in the house are frightened and, in some cases, frightening — a sub-group of residents (called the Specials) have very strange and upsetting pasts. The user becomes a part of each Incident, advancing the creepy events by choosing which paths the characters should take.

sdss

“What are you doing with the kids?” EAT…THEM.

There is no linear progression between the Incidents, making the story line somewhat jumbled. But having so very many blanks to fill in allows the imagination to run free and makes Larkspur all the more terrifying. This non-linear progression is reflected in the movement from page to page as well: arrows under the text indicate to the user which direction to swipe to choose the next move. Text alternates with unsettling black-and-white images (both photos and illustrations) and brief animated vignettes, all displayed on an old-timey wallpaper background.

shadow-house-illustration

Sound effects — the wind howling through the trees, a metronome ticking, shrieks — ramp up the scare level.

Despite a couple of glitches (the sound is not consistent from Incident to Incident; the options at the very end can result in a loop), Shadow House is a creeptastic choice for a middle-grade Halloween adventure.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 8.0 or later) and Android devices (requires Android 4.4 and up); free. Recommended for intermediate and middle-school users.

Siân Gaetano About Siân Gaetano

Siân Gaetano is assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc. Follow her on Twitter @KidLitChick.

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