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New Zealand-created app lets kids choose what happens in classic fairy tales

A New Zealand-made interactive reading app that allows children (and children at heart) to take control of classic kids’ stories has launched on the App Store and Google Play.

Believed to be the first reading app of its kind, Twisted Tales – by startup Sonnar Interactive – allows readers to make choices for the characters in classic fairy tales. It launches with its own spin on two well-known Brothers Grimm fairy tales: Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel.

With more than 10 possible endings, multiple voice actors, stunning artwork, sound effects and music; the app has been a hit among children during its testing phase.

“I’ve been blown away by the feedback from children and their parents,” says Sonnar Interactive founder Jarek Beksa, who was nominated Young New Zealand Innovator of 2017 at the Innovation Awards. “Children love the app because it brings to life their favourite characters and puts them in charge of choosing the storyline. They’re totally engrossed in the story thanks to the illustrations and sound work. Their parents love the app because it’s making reading cool for kids again. The app educates and entertains their children all at the same time for hours of fun learning.”

Beksa is a PhD candidate at AUT and serial app developing entrepreneur, who has already earned recognition after making smartphone and tablet games for blind people. “We want to give people a new auditory experience,” says Beksa. “Instead of listening to a narrative unfold, each Twisted Tale is layered with rich soundscapes to launch the reader’s imagination in an alternate world. These experiences will evolve through the user’s personal choices, making them part of these classic stories in a way they have never been able to before.”

If a reader makes the wrong decision, their character can meet an unfortunate fate, but if they make it home safely, they can unlock secret characters and relive the whole story through the eyes of the big bad wolf or the evil witch.

“Our mission is to bring back good old choose-your-own-adventure books," Beksa says. "We believe Twisted Tales can make children - and their parents - develop an even bigger love for story time.”

Dr Jannie van Hees, from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, says Twisted Tales is an “admirable concept.” She says the app teaches children reading, writing, and listening skills as well as risk management and decision-making.

More interactive stories are planned, too: Beauty and the Beast, Alice in Wonderland, and The Jungle Book are due to be released in 2018.

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