Some of you may remember the Fighting Fantasy adventure books, where you read along and moved to different pages depending on the actions you chose.
Well the guys at Inkle have decided that formula needs modernising, and I've managed to grab a copy of the new iOS version of Sorcery! Lets see what it's like...
If you were alive in the 1970s/1980s and enjoyed fun, then chances are you played at least one of Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy game books. These were the literature equivalent of a videogame, where you played the part of the protagonist as he infiltrated an enormous castle or goblin-infested caverns, battling with all manner of hideous creatures en-route. Picture the scene: you creep into a dark, dripping cave when a pair of unblinking red eyes lifts out of the shadows. If you wet your breeches and run away, turn to page 88. If you twirl your sword over your head and charge in recklessly, turn to page 54. That sort of thing.
Well, technology has advanced since those golden days, and now you can fit an entire one of them books on a mobile phone, complete with beautiful illustrations, atmospheric sound effects and proper full-on interaction. The result is Sorcery!, a highly enjoyable text-based romp that has you tracking down a mystical crown in a fantasy-style realm. At first the whole reason for you tracking down this royal headgear is a bit unclear, but as the game progresses, the main character reflects on why he’s risking his life for the shiny treasure. We’d have preferred a bit more information to begin with, to raise the stakes and get us more involved, but to be fair the plots of the Fighting Fantasy books were always a bit of light fluff anyway. It’s all about the hideous danger and gory battles...
Fightin’ and spellin’
A brief tutorial section in your home town sets up all of the skills you’ll need for your journey. To begin with you’re taught how to fight, a simple yet involving mini-game which has you reducing your foe’s stamina to zero before your own. The fight is played out via text, with clues given as to what your enemy will do next. You can choose to either defend, which minimises the impact of even strong attacks, or you can have a go to try and knock off some of their stamina. The strength of your blow can be altered via a sliding scale, and if you attack at the same time as your enemy, the one with the most forceful blow will win out. Of course, the more force you put into it, the more stamina you lose, so you have to carefully balance your tactics and make use of your instincts to emerge victorious.
You’re also given a spell book, containing all kinds of life-saving gribbly-toasting powers. You can blast ‘em with fireballs, call up forcefields, make yourself massive, create duplicates of yourself to help out in battles, and tons more – there are over 40 spells in all, but thankfully you can refer to your book at any time to see which ones are available.
It’s a big, bad world
After gathering your cash and rations for the journey, it’s time to set off into the big, bad world. The land is presented as a beautiful map which you can zoom in and out of, and you move to a new location by dragging a path from your character to your destination (explorable locations are marked with a flag).
Your journey is again relayed via short chunks of text, which are well written and atmospheric – helped by the excellent sound effects and occasional bout of dramatic music. For instance, when you’re travelling through a darkened and eerily quiet countryside, the only sounds you’ll hear are the caws of nearby crows and the occasional chirruping insect. Venture into a town, however, and your ears will be filled with the bustle of people going about their business. Descend into a dank cavern and you’ll be surrounded by the echo of dripping water.
You’ll regularly have to make a choice which affects how the adventure plays out. Often this is a simple ‘do you go left or right’, but you’ll also have to decide whether to sneak by bandits or take them on, venture into a mysterious mine, break down locked doors and so on. Many situations can be approached in more than one way. For instance, if you happen across a blind ogre, do you try to convince him you’re a friend, charge in with your sword drawn, or avoid him entirely? Take the riskier approach and you’re more likely to be hurt or killed, but the rewards can be great.
Thankfully you can restart at a nearby checkpoint if you’re killed, and even rewind the adventure to an earlier point to try something different. It’s the equivalent of keeping your thumb stuck at the previous page while you check you made the right call, like we all used to with the books. Of course, the ability to jump back to absolutely any point means you’re free to take as many risks as you like, with no real consequences, which lessens the tension of battles and critical decisions somewhat.
Despite that qualm, Sorcery! is a thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining refresh of the classic Fighting Fantasy books of yesteryear, brought up to date for a whole new generation to enjoy. From its simple yet gripping combat to the excellent presentation, there’s plenty here to keep fantasy fans young and old hooked.
Do you guys remember reading/playing the original books? Do you think the port to touch devices works? Tell us below!