Marc Saltzman: App Dad


'Totally Amp'd': An Interactive, Mobile Sitcom for iPad

Toronto-based TV series debuts on Apple devices

If you're a parent of kids or tweens, you might want to check out a new app called Totally Amp'd, as it's the first original mobile video series designed for kids ages 8 to 14.

Consider it a sitcom for the digital age, with 10 short "appisodes" reminiscent of a Disney Channel or Nickleodeon show. Plus, there's also a collection of related activities tied to music creation, movie editing and fashion design.

While ideal for the 9.7-inch iPad, the app also works with iPhone and iPod touch.

The six- to nine-minute videos follow five seemingly mismatched teenagers, who form a pop group and enter a music competition. The winner of this prestigious contest will open up for the fictional superstar Charlie "The Feve" Fever (think Justin Bieber). There's also a side story about the music label's receptionist-turned-manager Zoe -- played by Ashley Leggat from Disney Channel's Life with Derek TV series -- who'd like to show up her condescending boss, Archie.

While it's a live-action show, many of the backdrops are hand-drawn. This takes some getting used to, but I suppose it's much cheaper to produce the series with virtual sets than building ones.

The first appisode, Rejects Reborn, is free to watch, but the other eight videos can be unlocked for a one-time fee of $4.99.

Once each Totally Amp'd video is viewed, all the interactive content for that appisode is unlocked. This includes the ability to "direct" a music video by selecting which of the three camera angles to use, dressing up the stars of the show in the design studio and mixing songs heard in the show you just watched (such as Round and Round and It's Not a Dream from the first appisode). You can also sing into the iPad's microphone, record your performance with the rest of the band and play it back later. There's also a "bonus content" tab you can tap, which takes you to the Totally Amp'd YouTube channel for walk-throughs, Q&As and other behind-the-scenes content.

Speaking of music, the instrumental theme song for Totally Amp'd sounds an awful lot like Miley Cyrus' Party in the USA. Hmm.

Another issue with this app is its huge size at 925 MB. This is because the Toronto-based developer wanted all appisodes and activities to be on the iPad already, therefore you'll have access to everything immediately after coughing up the cash.

XMG Studio's Totally Amp'd is an interesting and entertaining experiment in the mobile delivery of short sitcom episodes, mixed with related activities. While the content won't appeal to all ages (the characters and songs were perfect for my 9-year-old twins), it's clever to go after a specific age group rather than try to paint with a broad stroke.

Quite simply, if you've got kids who enjoy Disney Channel shows, and the hefty download isn't an issue, you've got nothing to lose by downloading the free Totally Amp'd app and tuning into the first appisode and activities.