iPhone: Fantasy Gamebooks and the Quest for Nostalgia

Since way back last August, I’ve been looking forward to a couple new apps for the iPhone — one being the iPhone version of a Fighting Fantasy gamebook, and one being a completely new gamebook series.  If you’re not familiar with them, Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and their ilk were Choose Your Own Adventure books cross-bred with a simplistic Dungeons & Dragons RPG system.  You read through the story, made choices that sent you to different pages, and occasionally had to fight or roll against one of your skills.

I thought back then, as I do now, that the iPhone/iTouch is suited well to this style of book-game.  The application takes care of jotting down the stats and rolling the dice for you, while also keeping you from cheating (as we were all wont to do).  Both of these titles were delayed until just recently, and I’ve had the opportunity to get them both and give them a whirl.

Of the two, Fighting Fantasy’s Warlock of Firetop Mountain was the lesser.  Not only in price (it’s a few bucks cheaper), but that the story is extremely simplistic — it’s a basic dungeon crawl with very little narrative thread, reducing your journey to a series of room encounters.  I also got highly annoyed with how slow the combat was, because the game would show every roll and tally it up with a lackluster pace.

Happily, Tin Man Games’ An Assassin in Orlandes is better (though kind of pricey for an iPhone app).  It’s the first in a series of iPhone books that deals with this fantasy world, and is richly illustrated throughout.  I was happy to see that there was a “quick roll” option for combat, which I used extensively.  I’ve played through a full story (which ended with a dog chewing out my throat after a failed battle) and generally liked it.  They have achievements (of course) and a fairly basic loot/inventory system — although I haven’t figured out how to equip any of the gear I pick up.

A neat feature they added was to give you three bookmarks per game.  You could place the bookmarks at any point to return in case of disaster or a failed choice, but you only get three of them, period.  That’s a nice compromise between cheating and frustrating players with quick deaths, I think.

However, fun with these titles is pretty limited.  They’re books, and even with multiple branching paths, sooner or later you’ll read the whole story and have done it all.  So there’s a limited quantity of entertainment here, which is unavoidable as it is unfortunate.  I kind of want to keep the “campaign” going, as it were…

4 thoughts on “iPhone: Fantasy Gamebooks and the Quest for Nostalgia

  1. Fuzzy February 11, 2010 / 10:52 am

    Kind of like how an MMO keeps the “campaign” going? 😉

  2. Carson63000 February 11, 2010 / 4:35 pm

    Did you ever play the three-book Fighting Fantasy series “Steve Jackson’s ‘Sorcery'”? Now that was a killer.

    Actually, your mention of what a simplistic dungeon crawl “Warlock of Firetop Mountain” was reminded me of just how much the FF books progressed over the years they were being published. I thought some of the later ones were incredibly imaginative in the genres they tried out and the storylines.

    Did you play “Creature of Havoc”? Now that was innovative.

  3. Daxius February 24, 2010 / 12:29 pm

    Necrocomment go!

    I’ve been working off and on of a semi translation of the Lone Wolf series. I have managed to track down the entire book set and slow but surely have begun converting to a digital world. Course I may have to change alot if the IP holder doesn’t like it, but maybe you’d be interested in beta testing? Shoot me an email.

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