Friday, 4 April 2014

Fighting Fantasy Gamesbooks - House of Hell

As a callow youth I was heavily into RPG's (role playing games) like Dungeons and Dragons, Traveller Call of Cthulhu and several others. An interesting side genre to the main RPG scene was the Fighting Fantasy games books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, published by Penguin books from the early 1980's onwards.

I bought (and still own in a box in my loft) the first 30 or so of these game books and whilst idly surfing on the App store last week discovered that a developer, working with the FF books current publisher now has an app version of some of these books.

The one that caught my eye was called 'House of Hell' one of my favourites from the series and a 'horror survival' story a la Silent Hill or Resident Evil.

Here's the Amazon pic of the original cover from the 1980's

The basic premise of the books and now the app is that the player (controlling the story) after reading a passage then chooses their next action and turns to one of several numbered sections so for example :

"You find yourself standing in a darkened room and hear a rustling over to the left by the large window. Do you :

Go and investigate the rustling sound - turn to page 234

Move over to the opposite wall and wait to see what happens - turn to 456

Run out of the room and back the way you can - go to 18

and so on ...

In addition to this multi-action premise the FF games books also had an element of fighting opponents within the story using pre-generated life and health statistics and using dice - just like more traditional multiplayer RPG's. so it was perfectly possible (if you didn't cheat usually like me) to get two thirds of the way through the story, have your character die and need to start again from the beginning. I can't honestly think anyone played properly without 'fixing' the negative dice rolls !

As a child and teenager I found FF and similar books endlessly enthralling and must have bought and read dozens, nay hundreds of the damn things over the years covering fantasy, SF, crime and of course lots of branded licensed versions for DC Heroes and other franchises in addition to Fighting Fantasy itself which become kind of the 'gold standard'.

So coming across this app last week I got quite excited and decided to indulge in a bit of 'nostalgia'.

Having bought the app (£ 3.99 on IOS app store) I opened it up, rolled my character and began to play - bit of a damp squib to be honest - there's clearly a reason why I stopped reading these as an adult - they're not the best written pieces of literature and frankly the limits of the multi-ending book genre become really apparent, really quickly. If I died once I must have been killed 4 or 5 times and felt compelled not to cheat and had to start again and re-read the same sections over and over. To be fair there is a book marking system in the app version that enables you to save progress but you still need to go back and re-read endlessly.

So the unopened packages of FF books in my loft will remain so and I can't see me spending any more time or money on the app's I'm afraid.

Maybe sometimes childhood nostalgia really should stay as just that. Dungeons and Dragons anyone ?

No comments:

Post a Comment