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Comprehensive Reviews

Random Selections: The Fighting Gamebook Sequels Edition

Rating 4.33 out of 5
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Ah, there’s something to be said about the sequel.  It usually means that the developers had pride in their previous work and that it was well received by the public.  Unless, of course, it’s based off of a popular intellectual property and the licensees are trying to milk it for all it’s worth, but that’s for a different article.  Anyway, for this edition of Random Selections I’m going to talk about two sequels, both for what could be generically classified as “fighting adventure gamebooks”.  I’ve already reviewed the first installment of each of these series, so for the sake of not repeating myself too much I’ll point you towards the original reviews and just fill in the blanks as necessary.

Fighting Fantasy: Deathtrap Dungeon

The original book in this series was The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain.  As I refresh myself on the review that I wrote, I realize there seems to be a theme forming in these books.  “Infiltrate a lair and recover the prize” seems to be the task of the day.  This time around the lair is Deathtrap Dungeon, a labyrinth that many have entered and none have emerged from alive.  You intend to be the first person to emerge from the depths, making you the ultimate victor.  The question remains: is it really possible to win?  You’ll have to play for yourself to know for sure.

What’s Right

The story seems a lot more in depth this time.  Of course, it could be that I just don’t remember book one that well, but either way I like the writing.  I also love the illustrations.  The way they zoom into full screen (changing to full color in the process, no less) is really slick.  Plus, they’re just very nicely drawn.  I also like the combat system.  It’s really cut and dried – each combatant rolls two dice, and whoever has the higher total between the dice and their strength wins the battle.  I realize luck can play a factor in combat, but it’s still pretty straightforward.  The simulated page turning, complete with authentic rustling noises, is a nice touch, if a bit superfluous.  The sheer amount of combat is exciting.  After all, that’s a big part of what separates a Fighting Fantasy book from a standard Choose Your Own Adventure style read.  Finally, I really appreciate the fact that you can always start from the last non-death choice you made.  Of course, that could potentially mean being stuck in a combat situation every time you continue a game, but it’s better than starting completely over every time.

What’s Wrong

The interface is a bit clunky.  While it’s not difficult to navigate, I don’t care for the one big scrolling page.  Since it’s meant to simulate a book, divide the reading up into several smaller pages.  The buttons that you click to advance the story are sometimes hard to click.  Maybe instead of integrating the available actions into the last paragraph of a “page” they could just list the options afterwards and make the related buttons a bit bigger.  While I enjoy the virtual page flipping sometimes, it would be nice to have the option to turn “fluff” like that and the virtual die rolls off.  Finally, there’s some great music that plays during the menus.  Give me that same music (or something in the same vein) while I’m actually playing the game.  I know I can use my own music, but I’m pretty sure Hannah Montana and The Muppets don’t really go well with Deathtrap Dungeon.

Conclusion

Deathtrap Dungeon is another winner for Big Blue Bubble.  I actually enjoyed it a bit more than Firetop Mountain, which certainly is not a criticism since I really liked that one as well.  I hope they keep turning these out for some time to come, and even more so I hope they consider making new ones instead of just releasing the old stories.  Whatever the case, I’ll be there for the journey for as long as they keep churning them out.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link

Gamebook Adventures 2: The Siege Of The Necromancer

Whereas An Assassin In Orlandes was more of a murder mystery set in a fantasy world, Siege Of The Necromancer is a true fantasy tale.  While you were out mining to make money for your family, an evil sorcerer moved in to a castle overlooking your town, among other places, and wreaked havoc across the land.  Now it’s up to you to “storm the castle” and take vengeance for your fallen community.  Sure the premise is a bit cliché, but who cares?  This is every bit as good as Assassin if not better, and just as the first made me eager for book two, now I can’t wait for the third installment.

What’s Right

The story is excellent.  Not only is everything well written, but the way it’s broken down makes you want to take the next passage, or open the door sitting in front of you, even if you know the consequences are going to be bad.  You do it all just because you’re curious.  I also like the interface in the sense that sections are broken down into “pages”, so instead of having to scroll to read an entire section you just click from one page to the next (or swipe if you so choose).  Something I just recently realized was that once the dice are in motion you have at least one opportunity before they stop to shake the dice and get them to keep rolling.  That’s kind of nice, especially if you’re one of those people who likes to “tip” pinball machines or that sort of “influencing” type stuff.  Just like with Assassin, the illustrations in Necromancer are first rate.  The music does a great job of setting a chilling atmosphere, though it can get repetitive fairly quickly if just sit and listen without actually playing the game.

What’s Wrong

I don’t like the combat mechanics as well as those employed by the Fighting Fantasy games.  This is mainly because it only takes one die out of a bunch to block an attack, and when the attack is successful the actual numbers on the defense dice are meaningless.  Personally, I’d almost like to see both of these series employ a system more along the lines of Rimelands.  I also don’t like the fact that on occasion (granted it’s rare) the dice can get stuck on top of each other.  I’ve had to kill the game a couple of times because of this, and as a result gave up battles that were going rather favorably for me.  Finally, I’m not real keen on the save system.  Give me the option to have real saves that I can go back to at any time.  No one says I have to use them, but for people like me who don’t have the time to replay the whole game over and over, the whole “wipe the save when you die” paradigm is really annoying.

Conclusion

If I didn’t have a huge pile of games to review, I could easily see myself getting lost in these adventures for days.  I love the fact that even when you complete the story without dying there are still more paths to take and ways to play the game.  I’ve played through the beginning of the adventure several times, due to what I’m sure were erroneous deaths, and I’m still haven’t lost interest in the world of the Necromancer.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link

I don’t know if these companies will be able to keep up the momentum with either of these series, but I’m in it for the long haul.  As of the publishing of this review there are already two more Fighting Fantasy games available, and the next Gamebook Adventure should be due somewhere around the thirteenth of September.  As always I’ll be around to bring you my thoughts on the updates and whether the stories are worth the trouble to flip and fight through.

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