As much as we may try to hide it we all approach things with preconceptions, sometimes we’re proved right and sometimes wrong. Here, these Playstation 3 Minis simply match those preconceptions.
There is no denying it, the Fighting Fantasy books were a pretty large part of my childhood reading - however good the story may have been most novels lacked the interaction I craved (bar the occasional page turn); I recall starting to read many books but failing to finish them (a character trait that disappeared with the onset of puberty). Thankfully, in the blue hues of the school library I found the Fighting Fantasy series - and developed a light addition to them. Ian Livingstone and Steve Jacksons provided a series of adventure books which were incredibly appealing; involving and interactive - and arguably a precursor to modern gaming.
Reworked for a digital age, both these games have simple inanimate title screen leading straight into a static menu - not cut scenes or animations here, neither are particular well presented and seem rather low res. The menu itself has a handful of basic options are available - load game, new game, audio settings and tutorial. Its from here you’ll start - and continue - your quests.
Both stories are as compelling as they were back in the late 1980s, casting you as the adventuring hero and rooted in the traditional fantasy of Elves and beasts. Gameplay itself is simple; read a short paragraph and choose an action or path to follow to progress the story. This does means gameplay is little more than a couple of button presses to select an option, roll a virtual die or simply turn to new narrative.
The written text is as good as I remember, atmospheric, drawing you into beautifully imagined worlds; the story in Warlock chronicles your journey to defeat the title character, whilst the second title has the far more interesting idea of having you being hunted by ghastly creatures as you carry the Talisman. Navigating the virtual book is streamlined thanks to modern technology (no more flicking through pages to find the next part in your story) with an animated page turn, and, thankfully stats, items and equipment are handled by the console - carrying a dice and scrap of paper is no longer necessary!
Visuals are purely functional; they lack detail and, on PS3 at least, are unacceptably blocky (the games are clearly designed for smaller displays). Aside from occasional animations, the game screens are as static as the original pages. Both do have nice ambient audio along with some basic sound effects.
It was always going to be easy to criticise the format choice of these titles, and that’s especially true of the PS3 - having a whopping plasma to read a book is definitely overkill; I can’t help but feel these are more suited to portable devices, especially e-readers for obvious reasons. At the start of this review, I immediately drew attention to my expectations - I, quite fairly, approached these titles expecting a mildly interactive book - and that’s exactly what these are. If that’s your cup of tea or your a fan of the series, these may be worth a punt - albeit, a fairly expensive one. However, when put up against the type of games other developers are putting into the market - many cheaper than the price tag of each of these - I can’t help but feel they’re overpriced for what they are.