Bring comics to life with NARR8

NARR8 is a new motion comics app for iPad. It’s free to download and currently doesn’t carry any additional charges for acquiring new content. It’s available now from the App Store.

NARR8 serves as a platform through which users can browse, discover, read and share interactive motion comics content. A variety of different series are available at the time of writing, with more set to be released over time. At present, all content available within the app is available for free, though there is presumably scope for paid premium content to be added in the future.

None of the actual content is automatically downloaded into the NARR8 app when it is first installed, but users are able to browse through the available series, stream short preview videos and view ratings from the community. Once the user chooses to start reading a particular series, they are automatically subscribed to it and may then download episodes as they please. Each episode is a separate download and may not be deleted individually from within the app, but unsubscribing from the series deletes all its related content from the device.

Once a comic is opened, navigation is simple. Tapping an arrow in the lower-right corner of the screen advances to the next dialog bubble or frame, tapping in the top right corner opens the table of contents, tapping in the top left returns to the main NARR8 platform screen. Each frame includes animation, speech bubbles, music and sound effects. The visual quality obviously depends on the capabilities of the artists behind the comics in question, but there is no blurriness evident in images, even when animations zoom in on background details, and animations are smooth. Sound is of good quality, too, and transitions between frames are smooth. It doesn’t, however, appear to save progress through an individual episode — quitting out to the main platform and then returning to the episode simply starts it again rather than picking up where the reader left off. A “resume” button would have been a welcome addition.

While reading the user has the option to pop up a “social and friends” panel, which allows users to share the episode they are reading on Facebook and/or Twitter. If the user has connected their Facebook and/or Twitter accounts to NARR8, the app automatically shares what they are reading and provides the option to invite friends to check out the content. This functionality could use a bit of improvement — the “invite friends” facility automatically ticks the first people in the user’s friends list, making selective sharing somewhat cumbersome, as there is no “uncheck all” option.

There doesn’t seem to be very much control over what is shared or how, either — or even when in some cases. While reading one episode of a motion comic, the app shared the fact that I was reading it three times to Facebook — once in the Activity Feed of my profile, and twice more on my Timeline. The two Timeline posts attributed two positive comments to me when in fact I had no option to comment on what I was reading at all. This somewhat defeats the objective of the app’s social sharing functionality — users should be given the option to comment on and/or review the content they are reading, because there’s no guarantee that they will “really like it” or find it “awesome,” as the default comments suggest. To fix this issue, rather than the meaningless Facebook and Twitter checkboxes that are present now, some more conventional “share” buttons would make more sense, with each bringing up a popup inviting the user to share their own thoughts rather than using automatically-generated text.