Deathtrap Dungeon was a great way to revisit an old paperback classic

Thanks to a recommendation from Contains Moderate Peril’s Roger and a 70% off sale, I picked up 2020’s Deathtrap Dungeon over the holidays. This book was one of my favorites as a kid, and I vividly remember reading through it while on a Boy Scout camping trip one summer. This time, I roped my son in to go through the experience with me, helping to advise and make choices.

So Deathtrap Dungeon was one of those choose-your-own-adventure books that also factored in RPG elements, and it ended up being one of the best pocket dungeon crawls you could ask for back then. What they did here was to recreate the whole book as a narrated FMV, where the player makes decisions at key points, interacts with inventory, and engages with combat.

At the core of this is actor Eddie Marsan, who effectively plays the game master. Sitting in a cracked red leather chair, Marsan narrates all of the action and description without hurry. Sometimes he was a little too slow for my liking, which made me pour over details like his suit and the set dressing around him, but I think he was ideal for this kind of game. He’s got a good voice for narration, the kind that kicks the imagination into overdrive.

My son and I went through an entire game, which took us something like three hours from start to finish. There are numerous save points along the way, so if we encountered a game over or hated a decision we made, we could go back. But since it branches so much, it’s not like you could see everything in one run.

We did enjoy it, I’ll say that. My son squirmed at a lot of the tough choices we made and repeatedly got frustrated that I was more daring in my decisions than he would be. Yet daring even so, we didn’t have enough gems to win the game at the end, which I felt was the weakest point of the whole deal. There’s nothing like getting right to the finish line and having the game say, yeah, you didn’t get all of the items you need, so you should probably start over.

I’m patient to a degree, but not that patient.

So for $3.60, I feel like I got a good run with this title. It was definitely different, and I can’t remember the last time after the 1990s that I even played an FMV game. Gabriel Knight 2, I suppose. They didn’t inspire a great legacy.

2 thoughts on “Deathtrap Dungeon was a great way to revisit an old paperback classic

  1. Roger Edwards (@ModeratePeril) January 11, 2021 / 9:37 am

    I’m glad you and your son enjoyed this game. In an age where we so often have to endure bloated, overhyped games that fail to deliver (yes I’m looking at you Cyberpunk 2077), it is nice to discover a title such as Deathtrap Dungeon that proves the old rule that “less is more”.

  2. Jeromai January 12, 2021 / 12:33 am

    If narration is too slow, there’s an electronic text version of Deathtrap Dungeon by Tin Man Games available also. It’s basically a recreation of gamebook pages on a computer, with it handling all the dice rolling stuff.

    Downside: cheating is disallowed unless one chooses that mode from the beginning. Part of the fun of the old gamebooks was finger bookmarks all over the place until both hands were completely utilized.

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