As noted in my last post, Games, Games, Games: Puzzler Edition, I would be doing additional posts about games. This week, as you may have guessed from the title, will be about Gamebooks/Storybooks.
A Gamebook is a lot like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books that were popular in the 80’s. In the original Choose Your Own Adventure books (still available today, say in places like Amazon), choices you made at the end of the page directed you to a different page in the book, allowing for branching plot lines and for choices you, as the reader made to affect the outcome of the story. This is not to be confused with Chick Tracts, which were also popular in the 80’s (although in my groups of friends, typically an object of derision: I didn’t want to be Elfstar, either, because it was a stupid name. I’d prefer Debbie any day).
In a gamebook, this idea is carried a little further than in the choose your own adventures. Some gamebooks allow you to randomly generate and select among the options generated for how good you are at certain things (typically 1-3 traits) and those numbers are used in contests you run into through the course of the gamebook, The choices you make on each page plus the resulting contests between your traits and a number selected by the designers of the game book determine the story outcome and can introduce new plots as well as explore existing ones.
Designers also often include graphics to punch up the gamebooks; the more professional the art, usually the more cost to the gamebook.
My current favorite is Wizard from Tarnath Tor by Tin Man Games. Not a ton of downloads on this bad boy, but its been a lot of fun (and I’ve died a lot). It’s not a free game–in fact, it’s the 6th in their set of gamebooks, and I don’t think any of them are free (I am also a rebel as I’m totally reviewing things out of order).
You start by selecting the difficulty level you’d like to play at; classic is hardcore, very few “save” spots (they call them bookmarks), bookworm is probably “average” in terms of difficulty, and novice is definitely “easy” mode. Next, you roll for Vitality and Fitness in this game book, which then derive two additional statistics, Defence and Offence (spelled that way). Once that’s settled, the story begins (and doesn’t start well for you…I mean, how many good plots start with the hero getting everything he already wanted? That’s boring). You meet a newly made wizard who pays you to take him to Tarnath Tor.
Along the way you pick up items and cash. The items can affect your statistics to change the outcome of conflicts; inevitably, you will never have enough of all items to manage all outcomes and while cash helps you acquire things that will help, you never have enough of that, either. Figuring out how to use your resources and make good choices is a lot of the fun in this game, and despite the fact I’ve keeled over on bookworm setting several times, I keep coming back for more.
The game does have a cheat mode, music, sound affects, etc. So if you’re really stuck and need music you can select it…or, if you’re dying constantly you can select that, too. I’m not sure its worth the current price in the Google Play store of $5.99 (I like my entertainment under $3 usually), but its still a lot of fun with a lot of good artwork.
Wizard’s Choice (I do play other games besides Wizard based ones, and you’ll hear about them in the future, I swear) by Sam Landstrom is the low, low price of free for the first chapter (the first taste is free. Unlike Wizards of Tornath Tor, Wizard’s Choice does not do a trait randomization (you start with values in Health and Mana as set up by the app itself). Unlike the other gamebook reviewed, you don’t have to select combat, if it happens because of a choice you’ve made the operations involved with that are done automatically. Subsequent chapters are $1.99 each (though I haven’t tried them yet).
Per the story itself, “You are a young wizard seeking treasure and glory” and that’s basically the plot; try to survive it and achieve those goals. There’s a fart joke on the first page, and the writing is not as good as other gamebooks I’ve tried, but the artwork is simply amazing black and white sketches (most of the time, there is the occasional bit of color added). For the price of “Free” I recommend you try it; if the stilted writing and occasional lame joke doesn’t bother you, definitely try later chapters. For the moment, I’m going to keep trying to live through Wizard from Tarnath Tor.
Let me know any gamebooks you like or would like me to try in the comments!