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Square Enix’s ‘Imaginary Range’ Strikes a Fun Balance Between Comics and Casual Gaming

Interactive comics aren’t always awesome. There’s a certain elegant simplicity to soaking up most sequential art and adulterating that experience with new elements doesn’t always seem justified. When the publisher behind the Final Fantasy series comes a’ calling with a free, good faith effort in the arena of blending videogames and manga — two things they’re good at — it’s worth giving their offering a shot. Debuting on iOS devices this week, Square Enix’s new Imaginary Range isn’t quite a comic so much as a string of short games and activities framed by a comic narrative, but it’s hard to find much fault in a any free app that might spur users to dig the broader medium.Imaginary Range offers users a variety of ways to navigate its content. In its standard mode, the story plays out a bit like a panel-by-panel motion comic broken up by short in-story games and choose-your-own-adventure moments. Along the way readers can collect items by tapping special content integrated into the story’s art, which gives them more story options and earns them special tokens to buy additional content within the app.

The games themselves are short, fast-paced and easy. A reader might take 30 seconds to steer missiles into an invading alien monster’s brain or to navigate a look-and-find style environment for items to use in battle. As cute time-killers go, they’re a pretty effective way to keep users in the story.

Aside from some very minor sexuality, the app is fully all-ages. Its shonen/shojo manga tropes probably best situate the Imaginary Range in the comfort zones of tweens or older users who “get” magical girls fighting robots. CLAMP fans and other otaku will probably enjoy it at face value, but those less infatuated with big eyes and speed lines can concentrate on the app’s overall playability.

Whether or not you find yourself immersed in the game’s relatively modest art and story, what’s most interesting about Imaginary Range is its overall model as an aggregator of fun, cheap (and arguably disposable) content. In a lot of ways Imaginary Range functions as a 21st century coloring/activity book — something for the young or young at heart to pick up and plow through on a rainy day or during a car ride. It’s not a serious work or perhaps the most effective way to tell a meaningful comic story, but Imaginary Range’s template could definitely stand to be replicated by publishers looking to expand their experience into casual gaming.

You can check out the iPhone demo from Square Enix in Japan below:

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