Before there were interactive ebooks, there was interactive fiction—books that put you (yes, you, the nerdy 12 year old in the Far Side t-shirt) into the story by breaking the narrative into decision points where you made a choice, turned to the specified page to see what happened, and quickly turned back if you made the wrong choice. Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! series blended interactive fiction with roleplaying by introducing randomized combat and magic. The first of the four books—The Shamutanti Hills—is available now for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
What is it?
Sorcery! adapts the books (first published in 1983!) for the mobile crowd. You play a nameless hero who journeys from his homeland in search of a powerful and magical Crown. Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to explore mysterious dungeons, fight monsters, and haggle with innkeepers. All that’s missing is the Mountain Dew and Cheetohs!
The game faithfully recreates the choose-your-own-adventure reading experience, as you scroll through a short description of the area you’re in, and are then presented with several choices. Taking the most direct path might be the safest, but this is, after all, an adventure, and making riskier choices will off pay off with treasure that will help you on your way.
Or, you could just fall into a pit and die.
How does it work?
A lot of work has gone into making Sorcery! a true iOS app and not just a port of a 30 year old book. While the story is presented as scrollable text with the original (and disturbing) art, you travel by dragging your character to the location. Combat is a simple but effective system; when you fight a creature, you drag your character to the left, expending power. If you use more power than they do, they take damage, but if they trump you, you lose Stamina. You can rebuild your attack power by defending, but you’ll lose a stamina point, and once those are gone, you’re dead.
And should you die (or just make a choice you regret), the game makes it simple for you to backtrack. Every decision you make is marked on the map by a red icon. Tap it, and you’ll go back to wherever you want in the game (losing all your progress, naturally).
If you choose to use magic (and you don’t have to), you start with a list of 48 spells, some of which can be used right away, and some of which require items you might find travelling the road. Only certain spells can be cast at certain times during the game, though.
Is it addictive?
The price is higher than usual for an iOS game, especially one based on an existing property. However, Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! is an engrossing game that’s more than a nostalgic romp. By being a true adventurer, exploring, and thinking challenges through, you’ll gain more items to help you on your quest (though on a couple of occasions a choice will put you in a seemingly no-win situation—be brave, but not stupid. A lot of the fun is in backtracking and trying different choices to see what will happen. Looking at the company blog, they mention several treasures I’ve never encountered, as well as solutions to seemingly impossible situations. Now I’ll have to play through again!