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NARR8: When Gaming Meets Graphic Novels

Movies, books, comics and video games are all available on mobile devices, but it's rare to see entertainment content, other than casual games, developed specifically for the mobile platform.

An app called NARR8 is a noteworthy exception. This free app for iOS and Android (with a smart-TV version coming in a few weeks) serves as both a library and publishing platform for "motion comics," or comic-book-style experiences with simplistic animation.

Motion comics have been around for a few years now, and apps like Madefire have helped introduce them to the mobile platform.

NARR8, a Moscow-based startup founded in 2011, brings a slew of original content to this small but growing field. The company incorporates gaming, cartoon animation, images and text to craft unique stories.

MORE: 10 Best Comic Book Readers for Mobile

NARR8's stories are organized into series, each of which comprises episodes. The first two episodes of each series are free; all subsequent episodes cost 99 "Narrs," the in-app currency you can earn by participating in the forums. Or, you can simply buy Narrs, which correspond to 1 cent each, meaning each nonfree comic costs 99 cents.

The 19 original series currently on NARR8's platform run the gamut, from science fiction and horror to children's stories and educational materials.

Many of the comics are designed to appeal to casual gamers, with minigames featuring basic mechanics, like tapping the screen to shoot enemies. One series, "Jam," is an homage to retro video games. This over-the-top story about a spunky young man who must rescue his buxom kidnapped girlfriend features references to classic video games and even lets users play modified versions of classic early video games like "Space Invaders" and "Pong."

These games are part of the larger story and usually have to be completed to get to the next page. However, nongamers will be happy to see that NARR8 has an autoplay feature that makes the comics roll out like a simple movie, without the need for player interaction.

The app's educational materials include "Eureka!" whose episodes spotlight feats of human innovation, such as language, the wheel and government; and "Biographics," whose episodes each star an influential mover and shaker, such as Nikola Tesla or Martin Luther King Jr.

One of NARR8's standout series is "The Secret City," an urban science-fiction series based on the works of Russian novelist Vadim Panov.

The success of "The Secret City" has encouraged NARR8 to pursue more content partnerships, said Darya Trushkina, NARR8's vice president of business development. Currently, the company is in talks with several Korean content creators to add anime-style stories to the app's collection.

In addition to its original and possibly upcoming licensed content, NARR8 has a "storybuilder" mode that lets users create and upload their own interactive novels and motion comics.

User-created series start off free in the app's library, but once a series gets 1,000 downloads, creators can choose to start charging for their comics and earn money.

"[NARR8] is blurring a lot of lines," Trushkina told Tom's Guide. In fact, the company's products should be thought of as not just interactive comics, but interactive content, she added.

Email jscharr@techmedianetwork.com or follow her @JillScharr and Google+.  Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.