Gamebook Adventures: A review
This is one of the games I discovered in the “Indie Alley” at PAX. Because I have bought and played it (and because I have much to say about it) I’ve decided to give it its own post.
I grew up in the golden age of Choose Your Own Adventure books. I have very fond memories of scouring the book fair at school trying to find ones I hadn’t read yet. I can guarantee that anyone else who enjoyed a good CYOA knows the very important strategy of keeping your finger in the page where a vital choice was made so you could go back if you went astray. I loved these books.
Gamebook Adventures (for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch) brings back all the fun of a CYOA, and adds a huge new component to it. In these adventures (I’ve downloaded and played through the first one), you have your usual choices to make: Do you follow the northeast path or the northwest path? Do you search the coffin or leave it alone? However, some of the choices in the book aren’t yours to make. Many are based on if you have a vital piece of information from some earlier conversation or an object from somewhere.
When you start the game, you roll for stats. Depending on your level of difficulty, you roll slightly differently. The easier the difficulty, the higher your stats are guaranteed to be. One is your vitality stat. This is used as hit points. The other is your fitness stat. This one is used where an agility or dexterity stat might be used in other rpgs. Offensive and defensive stats are determined by the gear you are carrying. I realize this all sounds pretty complicated for a choose your own adventure book, but it’s all very simply handled by two dice rolls at the beginning of the game.
As you progress through the story, you might choose to jump out and help someone being attacked on the street. In a standard CYOA, this would have a set result. In this game, you’ll be entered into combat. All combat is resolved through dice rolls. It’s all handled for you, all you have to do is tap or shake the device to roll. When combat has concluded, the result will differ depending on whether you won or lost. The same goes for non combat physical challenges. If you opt to climb up a cliff wall, you’ll have to roll a fitness check. If you succeed, you can continue up the wall. If not, well…
There are three different difficulty settings: Classic, bookworm, and novice. Classic has the ability to use three bookmarks, bookworm and novice have 10. These allow you to drop a save point before a critical decision or combat in case things go awry. I started on classic, knowing that I’m pretty good at puzzles and the like. I thought this wouldn’t be too hard.
I got six hours into the game without getting to “the end” (Though I did find plenty of other endings along the way.). Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t frustrating to fail. If the dice went against me, that was tough to take, but making wrong decisions didn’t bother me much. I finally had to restart on novice to get through to the end. The story is engaging and, overall, well written (there were few parts that were a little iffy). I think it’s definitely geared more towards adults and older children. There’s a bit of blood and violence, at least in the one I played.
I had also assumed that there would be very little in the way of replayablility. However, now that I’ve reached the end, there were plenty of options I didn’t or wasn’t able to take. I’m really looking forward to going back and finding all these other hidden avenues. I’m also interested to see if I can finish the game on classic or find a different path to victory. They’ve also built in achievements, so that adds even more incentive to go back and try it again.
Gamebook Adventures are available on iOS devices. There are 5 episodes available and are universal apps. Each comes with a $4.99 price tag, which I’d say is a pretty good bang for your buck. I tried it out on both the phone and the iPad. It’s decidedly more enjoyable on the iPad as it’s just bigger. Dice rolls feel a bit cramped on the phone’s screen. If you only have a smaller device, though, it’s still worth picking up. They are working on a version for the Kindle as well, though I’m not exactly sure how it’ll work out. I’m definitely going to be picking up with other episodes.