Version Played: Android – Price: Free (Bloodbones included, other books available as in-app purchases)
When I covered the Steam version of Fighting Fantasy Gamebook Appointment With F.E.A.R., I mentioned how much the series meant to me. With very little money in the mid- to late-80s, Fighting Fantasy books provided me with interactive, imaginative and exciting fun at a much more regularly than video games could at the time.
To this day, I’m very familiar with the vast majority of the titles and cover designs of many of those classic books (though my knowledge starts to get a little shaky around 40 or so books in). So Fighting Fantasy Classics is a mobile title that’s right up my street, featuring a more recent book at no cost – the piratical adventure Bloodbones, which was the 61st Fighting Fantasy title (and for a long time, considered ‘lost’ as it was written during the original run of the book series, but not published until 2006). Other books in the series are available at extra cost, which is usually £3.99 (but I’ve seen sales where the books drop to 69p). Other books available include the very first Fighting Fantasy gamebook – The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – along with some of the other more well known, earlier titles in the series, such as Deathtrap Dungeon, The Citadel of Chaos, The Forest of Doom, Island of the Lizard King, City of Thieves, Caverns of the Snow Witch, Trial of Champions and House of Hell.
It’s a decent enough selection, but the focus on the earliest books in the series – with some notable exceptions, including Starship Traveller – meaning that the very old school design can often be quite unforgiving and lead to unforeseen instant death in some cases; both traits that were ironed out somewhat in later volumes, in many cases at least.
Not only that, but there’s a strong focus on titles in the Fantasy Genre too, with horror-centric, late 20th century set House of Hell being the only non-fantasy title currently included.
It’s hard to fault the actual representation of the books themselves thougn, which have been lovingly recreated with the original illustrations and a well implemented set of difficulty levels that can make things a little less punishing – or even allow you to cheat by flicking back to previous paragraphs, as some people (no names mentioned) used to do with the original books way back in the 80s.
There’s nice ambient sound effects as you read – fire crackling or the hubbub of voices – and the clacking of rolled dice during combat encounters is very pleasing. It’s a much more faithful representation of the books and their mechanics than the Appointment with F.E.A.R. game was.
One complaint I have is that the books are pretty expensive at their individual, full price. For £3.99, it’s just as easy to buy a second hand copy of the actual book, though of course it’s less convenient to carry around a set of books rather than just your mobile device. That and rolling dice on the move isn’t always feasible, I suppose. In any case, I’d have purchased the entire set of books if they’d been priced more reasonably.
Having played through The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – the original book being one I’m extremely familiar with – I can report that it’s pretty much identical to the hard copy, right down to the annoying maze section that you’ll get to in the second half of the story. A map function is available, but it’s not particularly useful. Having the app calculate your combat rolls and take care of stat tracking is very welcome, however. Bookmarks and restarts at checkpoints in the story are further excellent additions to make the experience a little more friendly to modern players.
So this is probably one for the fans; not an updated tribute like Appointment With F.E.A.R., but rather an attempt to move the gamebook experience (with illustrations and turning pages) to mobile, rather than updating and gamifying it further. It may be of note to players who enjoy visual novels, but the design of these volumes does show its age at times. The nostalgia is, however, very strong with this app – and it’s been great to work my way through both more familiar titles, as well as the unfamiliar narrative adventure of Bloodbones.
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