“Not quite as shiny as Tutankhamun’s golden death mask, but it’s still one of the App Store’s finest history apps.”£9.99
Touch Press is the company behind some of the App Store’s finest interactive books, including Tap! favourites Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy and The Elements. So we were expecting a high quality product and this look at the tombs and plateau of the Great Pyramids near Cairo is yet another accomplished product. It’s a virtual tour, yes, but there’s a real sense of discovery here as you travel deep into the heart of the pyramids, stepping back in time to see what the painted walls would have looked like thousands of years ago.
The app lets you fly across the Giza plateau with 360° views of The Great Pyramid, The Sphinx and the rest of the ancient complex. It gives aspiring explorers and armchair travellers an equally fulfilling way to sample one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But it’s once you enter the tombs that the app really comes into its own.
Every inch of the network of passages has been rendered from real photographs; even the tunnels closed to real visitors are included. There’s a small HUD and flashlight indicator to show your direction of travel. Scroll around with one finger and tap to move forward down the passages. You begin to feel like a real explorer, but the somewhat creepy soundtrack is a little off putting. These are peaceful places where the pharaohs ascended to the gods, after all, not scenes from The Mummy!
As you enter each area of the tomb complexes you see highlighted sections on the walls where you can tap to see photographs and read snippets of information. Most of these could have done with a bit of fleshing out, though the excellent 12-chapter book that you get to from the main menu makes up for the brevity of text here. It’s written by top Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, so you’re in good hands. Sadly, it’s not his famous voice that’s lent to the audio introductions when you enter each tomb, instead a native English speaker takes on the task, but we weren’t quite convinced by their commentary.
The tombs are filled with ornate artwork on the walls and our favourite feature of the app is the ‘then and now’ views of those ageing hieroglyphics. Though the tombs are amazingly preserved, the real vibrancy of the original paintings can only be appreciated with this wonderful overlay. Small + signs appear for any of the hieroglyphics that have further written notes, and these are done in a subtle manner, so as not to spoil your enjoyment of the artwork.
Artwork is certainly not confined to the tomb exploration, either. The app also includes 3D models of 40 objects found in the tombs, including royal statues and busts of important figures. In the gallery each object can be spun around, but to open the object full screen you tap once, and you can pinch to zoom and then drag around to see the object from any angle. These 3D rotations have become a hallmark of Touch Press’s apps, and this gallery is perhaps the finest of them yet. Naturally, Tutankhamun’s death mask is included in the object gallery, complete with stunning lighting effects as you rotate it, but it’s a shame that it’s the only golden object from Tutankhamun’s tomb that’s included here.
When you arrive back at the Giza plateau having seen the tombs, viewed the object gallery and read the short book you’ll have gained a good knowledge of the Great Pyramids and feel it was worth the relatively high store price. You’ll also come away without any sand in your shoes or a feeling of claustrophobia; and there’s not a model pyramid seller in sight, hurrah!