For an 80s kid like me, gamebooks were worth way more than their weight in gold… and diamonds. In a world not yet entertained by the Real Housewives shows or helped on by Wii Tennis, a youngster’s life could be quite dreary; a good Choose Your Own Adventure quest helped to bridge the interminable lull between Summertime tag and kickball games.
Joe Dever is a venerable name in the CYOA community, and his Lone Wolf series is a fine example of the reason why the adjustable fantasy nature of this genre of games is so popular. The continued digitization of Lone Wolf is the next episode.
The visual segues set the tone. The artwork in the “book” prologue invokes the look and feel of massive story books of old, with weathered, beautifully stark scenes and an appropriately foreboding narration voice. The backgrounds are pretty sharp. The animations work, and the color is really nice.
The protagonist Lone Wolf is the last of a special group of warrior monks known as Kai that survived decimation by their enemies, the evil Darklords. The game follows the adventure of Lone Wolf, who is on a quest for vengeance. The game action starts with an elaborate system that allows for the selection of attributes, weapons and other helpers. The flow from the story to the action sequences are superb, and almost worth the price of admission. Choosing a path is easy, and for the most part, I found a lot of the flow to be logical within Dever canon.
The actions scenes are fun too, and somewhat surprising. At various points, enemies present themselves, and the book moves to a “live” action battle sequence, with Lone Wolf facing down his otherworldly opponents. in this, it incorporates some turn-based RPG elements. Battles involve attacks, defensive moves and depleting the enemy life bars before the same could done to Lone Wolf
In some places, the game does feel a bit repetitive, especially the fight scenes. Shamefully, the stories had a bigger draw for me. The action scenes feel a bit formulaic, even if calling up a wolf to inflict damage is awesome.
As far as gamebooks go, it’s hard not to put this one at the top of the pile, and also hard not to wish for more. It isn’t the cheapest game out there, but this just might the game to bring one home, or build a whole new one.
Tin Man Games’ Gamebook Adventures series has made its debut on Android, with the first chapter, An Assassin in Orlandes now available.
What is a gamebook? Well, it’s basically a choose-your-own-adventure novel except some choices are defined by dice rolls. There’s combat, where winning or losing leads to two different paths (losing usually results in death), and then there are Fitness checks, which means that the player must roll below their Fitness stat to pass the check. In the middle of text, this often means death. In battle, this means the difference between an improved dice result or a reduced one.
The story of the game has players controlling an adventurer who starts out in a tavern drowning away his sorrows of the woman who left him, while barely able to remember anything in his life. He stumbles outside after a night of imbibing in fine adult beverages, and witnesseses a man being murdered who winds up being the member of a powerful family in Orlandes. As he pursues the killer, he discovers that there’s a deep conspiracy about that he must try to uncover. So, the player’s decisions and actions determine where the story goes, and just who is behind all these happenings in the world of Orlandes.
The issue with An Assassin in Orlandes is that with CYOA stories, and I presume many gamebooks as well â€“ fate can feel random at times. While this is part of the reward, figuring out which decisions lead down the correct paths, it can still be frustrating because it may be one decision many steps back that leads to failure down the road. It can be frustrating, but as the game is designed to be a throwback to these classic gamebooks, that may be part of the appeal for some players.
However, the game does a good job at letting players who are not familiar with gamebooks get into them, especially with the game’s Novice mode. It does take multiple plays to figure out which decisions should be made, in order to find that perfect play through the story. It’s a very different experience, and one that is actually quite cerebral.
Now, some of us would go through a CYOA book and fold a page corner to make sure that we didn’t make a bad decision. This game makes it a gameplay mechanic, as bookmarks. The game gives the player a limited number of bookmarks that can then be used to go back to a certain spot, in case a wrong decision is made or death occurs.
Love those CYOA books as a kid? An Assassin in Orlandes is well worth checking out to get into gamebooks. It’s not for those who want intense action, or can’t handle some reading and dice work, though!