"The Famous Five” is a book series centered on mystery and intrigue that is now welcoming an app game produced by the award-winning Kuato Studios. The app is educational and fosters puzzle solving skills and develops language abilities, as children virtually join the characters of Dick, Anne, Julian, George and their beloved dog Timmy in solving mysteries. Considered the British version of the “Hardy Boys” and “Nancy Drew” the series has a special section for dyslexic readers which include features such as color overlays that aid readability.

Recently Kris Turvey, the Creative Director at Kuato Studios, discussed this series and the process of bringing it to life in app form.

Books, apps, and being creative

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you find your passion for the creative industry and how did you get into app games?

Kris Turvey (KT): I’ve always been interested in creative pursuits, particularly art and music. After working in creative arts education for young people for some years, I joined Kuato Studios at its inception in 2012. The studio was set up with the aim of creating innovative ways to combine games and learning, and that was something that really appealed to me.

MM: When did you discover “The Famous Five” and what most intrigued you about the series?

KT: Like most English children, I grew up with Enid Blyton and The Famous Five. The characters and stories are an integral part of my childhood, so it was an amazing opportunity to work on this project.

MM: What characters and plot points most interest you and why?

KT: The books are full of memorable characters, from grumpy old Uncle Quentin through to more colorful ones like Lou the Acrobat and, of course, everyone’s favorite detective dog, Timmy! Out of the children themselves, special mention must go, of course, to George, whose refusal to conform to gender stereotypes has been inspiring young girls for generations.

MM: What was it like to develop “The Famous Five” app and how close is it to the books?

KT: The whole team here at Kuato really enjoyed adapting the Famous Five. I think everyone felt a great sense of responsibility at being entrusted with such an iconic set of characters and we were determined to do our best to bring them to life.

We were lucky to work with a wonderful publishing team at Hachette, who were closely involved and gave great advice throughout.

Features, design, and future evolution

MM: What can players expect from the app and what features do you most enjoy?

KT: The game generates a different mystery adventure on each play session for the player to solve. Playing as any of the Famous Five (including Timmy, the dog) you explore lots of key locations from the books, from the rocky coves and windswept ruins of Kirrin Island to the bright lights and bustle of Tapper’s Travelling Fair. As you explore, you can find all kinds of clues, question suspicious characters and take part in lots of puzzle-solving minigames as you track down the culprit!

Like all the games in our TalesMaker series, while the player is enjoying the game, our patented “TalesMaker Engine” is busy storing all their actions and decisions behind the scenes and taking screenshots of memorable events, which are then compiled into a unique storybook of each adventure. We had permission to use Enid’s own words for these, so each story you create is like a whole new Famous Five Book!

MM: Can you tell us about your inspirations behind the design and the trickiest parts of it?

KT: One of the biggest challenges was trying to create a game that would allow for open, free-form play and still generate a unique, compelling story on every play session. As part of our TalesMaker engine, we developed a system to both track the player’s actions and weighed them for narrative interest in order to make the most compelling stories possible.

MM: What’s coming up next for this series and how do you hope it evolves?

KT: We’re already hard at work on the next game in the TalesMaker series and were delighted to have been entrusted with another iconic brand – Thunderbirds! At Kuato Studios our motto is ‘Better Stories, ’ and we’re continuing to drive forward and innovate with new ways to inspire children to engage in storytelling and reading in new ways. We’re always looking at ways to improve the accessibility of our games, so we’ve introduced options for changing fonts for dyslexic players, and applying color overlays to help with reading.