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Review: Maginary – unique, inventive storytelling app

Move over books, there’s a new storytelling medium in town

Price: Free
Version: 1.5
Size: 172.7 MB
Developer: Semyon Polyakovskiy
Platform: iPhone / iPad


The iPhone has a lot of features ripe for gimmicks. From fairly recent augmented reality features, to just plain old computer graphics. The device has opened up both game developers and storytellers to elevate their work. And Maginary is one of the strongest examples of this we’ve seen.

The app starts fairly subtly with the odd floating word

The reason why we think Maginary works so well is simple – it is simple. We’re not talking about the story this novel/game is telling, whose meta-narrative may well have your brain doing somersaults, but its design is understated and runs perfectly alongside the pace in which you use the app.

Its design is measured and a joy to see unfold

The narrative sees you leave behind the passive role of the reader, slowly taking the role of the protagonist. While it initially sets itself up like a regular book, it’s steadily unveiled that the characters are influenced by your input. This could be as simple as finding the right direction to move in, to clearing a batch of fog to allow them to proceed.

It is supported by a few simple, but engaging puzzles and decisions

The book doesn’t ram these things down your throat for the sake of it, and is patient with users as it steadily guides you to use various elements on your device to push the narrative forward. This could be as simple as using the built-in compass, to something as embarrassing as having to blow into your phone’s microphone as you try and complete this review while surrounded by bewildered colleagues.

It has a tendency to tickle the weird scale

The design is sublime. It switches often between a familiar white background, to black as the time shifts. There is a timer to your story that can move quicker depending on your actions. Elsewhere, words melt or glow, or hide themselves as you move through the book. The developer says that both audio and other effects will be adjusted dynamically based on your reading speed. We don’t know how it does this, but it certainly managed to create the right atmosphere for us.

There are a whole bunch of cool little animated effects

Obviously, we’re avoiding talking too much about the plot because we really do recommend you pick this app up and explore the first 2 chapters, which are offered for free. The characters respond to your actions and you are placed solely at the center of the narrative which is quite the experience. There’s the odd puzzle too, and it all provides just that little more to keep the modern reader engaged.

Maginary is a wonderful title that stretches the limits of the iPhone’s feature set without ever coming close to breaking it. While similar titles like Lifeline may take the whole novel-but-an-app concept to its limit, Maginary still feels like an actual book. Certainly, comparatively, and at $4.99 for the full version, we’d say that’s a good investment.

If you like reading, but often find yourself getting distracted when you pick up a novel, try reading Maginary. It’s an all-encompassing experience.