Game Review: Fighting Fantasy – Talisman Of Death (PSP Mini)

Dungeons and Dragons, Heroquest and Warhammer… these are the names of some of the most famous fantasy role playing games that I can remember from my childhood (If there are any more, sorry!). However these names also represent some of the hardest and long-winded games to learn, let alone play. I tried to love Dungeons and Dragons, but the manual was thicker than  a VHS. I wanted so much to enjoy Warhammer and its beautifully painted miniatures, the rules just eluded me. But then  along came the Fighting Fantasy novels. These novels offered me a gateway into the realm of adventure, magic and fantasy that I could not get with Dungeons and Dragons, and I did not need a maths degree to understand.

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone are among my list of heroes, they got me reading books again when it was quite easy for me to sit on my bum and play on my Mega Drive, and back then you couldn’t prise me off it with a crowbar! Their range of Fighting Fantasy novels were easy to grasp and you did not need anything more than a pencil, rubber and dice in order to play.

As soon as I heard that Laughing Jackal would be releasing Fighting Fantasy: The Talisman of Death on the PSP Minis platform I made sure I found out as much as I possibly could before making my purchase. I wondered how the mechanics would be handled, would the artwork or narrative be updated for a new audience? Would I still enjoy the experience? I was extremely happy to find out that the overall experience is as close to what I remember all those years ago.

The game itself takes the original book and squeezes it onto your PS Vita, PSP or PlayStation 3, anyone that has played a Fighting Fantasy novel previously will be familiar with the layout presented to you, however if you have not, then prepare for a shock! At this point I should point you over to Simon’s previous review of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, this title plays exactly the same way, with the same mechanics, the difference is only in the story that you embark on. Okay back to my review…

This is no 3rd person adventure, nor is it even a point and click adventure. The game has you reading the story as if you are reading one of the original novels, as you read you will be asked to make decisions about the path you take, these decisions can have consequences further down the road and can help or hinder you on your quest. You will also battle enemies that will need to be defeated before you can continue your story. This story starts with your stats being determined at random by a series of cards, you can redraw cards if you are not happy with what you are given but your skill, stamina and luck are what you need to keep an eye on throughout the story.

The book always talks in the second person so the story starts with YOU waking up in a strange land and subsequently receiving the Talisman of death. You are told to find your way home and to take the talisman with you so that the forces of evil will never find it. From then on the story is what you make it. How you get to the conclusion of the story is up to you, and there is rarely a page that goes by without a decision that needs to be made to progress further.

The screen shows you the page that you are on plus your statistics and any items that you may have accumulated on your journey. Having all of this on one page is very useful and does not clog up the screen as you might expect. Another useful addition is the Zoom button which you can use to scroll the page, this makes the text larger and the page easier to read. You also have access to a log book which shows information and artwork on the many characters that you will encounter, this can be useful for refreshing your memory, but to be honest I did not need it through my adventure. Battles can be decided either by using random dice rolls or by using a memory based mini game, either of these can be selected via the options menu at the start of the game.

Controls are not very complex and it does not take long to get used to what the different buttons do and as the game allows you to take your time, there is no real hurry to learn anything nor are there any tricky button combinations that you need to learn, this would lower the barrier to entry for a lot of people and that can only be a good thing.

I am a big fan of the original books and I love the conversion that has been presented here, but I am worried that this type of adventure may not be for everyone. You may look at the title and think that this is too niche for you, but if you enjoy reading and adventure and if you want a change of pace from all the shooting, racing and fighting games that are out there, you would do well to give this a chance.

If you want to purchase this game turn to PSN Store NOW! If you don’t want to purchase this game then… Your adventure ends here!

Ben Gove

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