Wednesday 6 March 2013

Discworld: The Ankh-Morpork Map - Review

The Discworld, a flat, circular world, held by four elephants standing on the back of a giant turtle, which came out of Terry Pratchett's incredibly fertile imagination, and spawned dozens of novels with unforgettable characters, exciting stories, and a unique blend of humour, is brought to life digitally on an iPad. More specifically, it's the city we come back to most often in those novels that you can now explore freely without fear of getting lost, mugged, killed, or getting food poisoning: Ankh-Morpork, a huge sprawling medieval metropolis, home of the most colourful characters you'll most likely ever meet.

If this is all new to you, then this app may not have been designed with you in mind, because it is nothing less, as its name implies, than the entire map of this imaginary city. Actually it's two maps, a traditional one, featuring a Street View as you would expect from any regular map, but you'd have to admit that that's actually quite boring. Thankfully, there's a much more interesting one known as the Living Map which is the one that's selected by default.

Ankh-Mopork awaits
It resembles historical city drawings you might have seen from the 16th century, hand drawn with a vague 3D effect, populated with tiny figures. Except that there's a notable difference: being digital, you can zoom in and pan across the city, and as you do so, not only will you hear the hustle and bustle of the noisy city streets getting louder, but you'll see the city's residents walking around, and going about their business. 

It's quite mesmerising and incredibly beautiful to see and experience. Everything's designed to be touched and you can gain information about famous landmarks, and even people - if you're lucky enough to bump into important characters walking along those busy streets. Most panels just give you a few words about that particular place, but others are filled with page after page of detailed history, laced with Terry Pratchett's distinctive humour, making them a joy to read.

The traditional Street Map
To help you find everything you need to be on the lookout for, the app is linked to Game Centre so you can keep track of the achievements you've unlocked, and what you've yet to discover. Not a game per se, but this feature does help with the desire to keep on exploring.

Those maps are really a reference book and a companion to the Discworld novels and if you're a fan of the series, and you own an iPad (try as they might, Ankh-Morpork couldn't be squeezed into something the size of an iPhone), then there's very little reason not to buy this app. But what of anyone else?

At $13.99 it's not exactly a casual buy for a map of an imaginary city, no matter how unique and original it might be, but if you do fork out for it, you could find enough information there to keep you coming back for more if you have an interest in off-beat fantastical matters.

Find your way with the Street Index
The first thing you must do is find the Merchant Guild's Tourist Office (hint: it's on the right hand side of one of the bridges), as this will offer you a wealth of information about the city and its residents - a great place to start.

After that, take a look at the guided tours. There are three to choose from and Hortensia d'Antiqua, member of the Guild of Historians, will walk with you through the streets imparting her immense knowledge of famous landmarks along the way (try skipping a few locations to see how she reacts).

Wondering around aimlessly can be fun it and of itself, but if you're looking for something specific, it can get frustrating. That's where the Street Index and City Directory come into play and will take you exactly where you want to go (the Street Index even has a brief description or historical anecdote about some of those roads).

The City Directory will help you find what you're looking for 
The Ankh-Morpork Map is a beautiful creation. I was slightly disappointed that you can only zoom and pan across it, and not rotate the map to view the surroundings from a different vantage point, but it's obvious that nice though this would've been, it most likely would've also been a computational nightmare especially considering all those little people the app needs to keep track of. But why not make this possible with the regular Street Map?

As it is, you have on your iPad the whole of Ankh-Morpork with all its secrets laid bare, ready for you to explore. What are you waiting for?

Brimming with information
Bump into famous characters
Take a guided tour of the city
Keep track of your findings
The Unseen University and the Patrician's Palace


Version Reviewed: 1.0.2

Price: $13.99 (£9.99)

Size: 730MB

Rated: 12+ for the following: Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, Drug Use or References to these

Compatibility: Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPad.

Direct Link:  App Store

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