App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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Maginary is a text-based adventure that is overflowing with clever ideas and interesting narrative detail. It looks great, it’s puzzles are engaging and novel, and the game has a really great style to it. Simply put, Maginary is the most fun I’ve had with a text adventure in a very, very long time.
Playing Maginary is a bit like reading a book, or at least most of it is. The game lays out what is happening using text on pages that resemble an e-book app of some sort, and all you have to do most of the time is flip the pages and keep reading to see what happens next.
Maginary follows the story of a man named Michael, who finds himself trapped in a surreal and strange land. On his adventure, he needs to rely on the help of an otherworldly being to get things done and advance the plot. This may sound straightforward enough, but the twist is that Maginary makes you, the reader, the otherworldly being that’s helping Michael, and the ways you interact with the game push Michael deeper and deeper into this strange land.
Influence the story
Michael’s quest involves taking a magical medallion to a place called “the epicenter.” This medallion—in addition to being a convenient MacGuffin—is your direct line to Michael in the world of Maginary and the setup that transforms the experience from a simple story into a work of interactive fiction.
You see, the medallion in Maginary can only be controlled by your phone, and you’ll need to find increasingly interesting ways to use your device to help Michael out. For example, when you first start Maginary, you may simply need to reassure Michael you are there by shaking your phone to make the medallion vibrate. From there though, you go on to do all sorts of increasingly complex phone functions to do things like guide Michael through an endless desert and dissipate an electrical storm.
Maginary is tremendously successful at making you care about Michael and his story because almost everything about the game is incredibly well thought out. Its puzzles, the writing, heck, even its visual style (yes, this text-based game manages to be super stylish) are all so clever and creative that you want to see what happens next. Seeing the tricks that Maginary pulls is all part of the fun, and it's fascinating how all of it ends up tying back to the relationship between you and Michael.
To pull all of this off, Maginary does end up going down a narrative path that is a little meta and not wholly original, but that hardly matters when its execution is this good. I’m hesitant to be much more explicit than that because Maginary really is a game you want to go into relatively blind. Luckily, you can try Maginary out for free up until chapter 2 to figure out if you’re into it or not before being asked to pay $4.99 to access the rest of the game.
The bottom line
Maginary injects a lot of new ideas into the text adventure format, and it executes on all of them extremely well. It’s bold, creative, funny at times, and even a little moving. Every time I turned the page while playing, I was eager to see what was waiting for me there, and was almost always surprised and delighted by what Maginary had to offer.