Game Review: Fighting Fantasy – Warlock Of Firetop Mountain (PSP Mini)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since the first book was released in the legendary Fighting Fantasy series. At the time these books were revolutionary – while there were other interactive novels on the market at the time (the American Choose Your Own Adventure series), these were the first to offer the reader full role-playing game character sheets to accompany the story and truly bridged the gap between a novel and a role-playing game and combined the two successfully. It’s no wonder that 30 years later they are still selling well and the series creators, Steven Jackson and Ian Livingstone are now collaborating on a brand new book…

I was a big fan of these when I was a kid and tried to collect as many as I could and loved playing them passionately. They were incredibly absorbing and while the illustrations were never the best compared with other fantasy artwork at the time, the stories themselves were captivating and it was easy to be lost in the books for hours on end. The first book was a global smash hit, being reprinted countless times and despite slowing down over the next decade or so, it still spawned a series that lasted for well over 60 titles and some of the rarer books are now fetching considerable prices on the collectors market.

The first of these, Warlock of Firetop Mountain was converted to the PSP as part of the Mini series a while ago by Laughing Jackal and rather than creating a new game inspired by the books (as was the original Deathtrap Dungeom game on the PlayStation that was a 3D RPG), they have taken the route of producing a digital version of the book instead. While this may seem a strange approach – older readers may remember the disasterous Adrian Mole “game” for 8-bit computers that was little more than an on-screen book – this works surprisingly well.

Anyway, in Warlock Of Firetop Mountain, you find yourself deep inside a dungeon and you are searching to find a treasure hidden away by a Warlock. Sounds easy enough… if it wasn’t for the multitude of traps and creatures inhabiting the dungeon who are all intent on ensuring that you won’t leave the dungeon alive…

To start off you create your character as you would in any of the Fighting Fantasy books assigning all the various statistics to your character, some randomly generated and others that you can customise. Once you’re happy with everything, you can move onto the adventure itself. It sticks to the format of the books quite tightly, with the text of the book appearing on screen and at the end of each “page” you have one or more choices to make which influences the direction the story will take. The screen is split in two and on the right is the game’s text and on the left hand side some pages will feature illustrations taken from the books and on the pages that aren’t, your character sheet / inventory sheet is displayed.

Every so often, you will encounter creatures that you will need to fight. Combat can either be dice based, comparing your skill statistics against your opponent’s strength or by way of a memory game where you need to choose an attack or defensive tile from a board. The tiles will be displayed, shuffled in front of you quickly and then hidden. with the balance of tiles between you and your opponent being based on your respective skill levels. Both work well enough but the choice depends on how true to the original books you prefer to play the game.

Unlike the original books, no dice are needed as all of the dice rolls are handled by on-screen animated random dice rolls. Much easier than carrying a set around with you but still works just as well. It means that the game sticks true to the books keeps to the feel of the original. While the graphics are nothing spectacular, they work well enough although it has to be said that the artwork has dated somewhat. As I said earlier, it was never the best fantasy artwork even at the time that the original books were released so the game can’t really be faulted for that. One nice touch is the page turning as you move from one page of the book to another, and there is some relatively inoffensive fantasy-inspired background music playing throughout. Nothing remarkable but it breaks up the monotony of playing the game in total silence.

One thing I did like about the game was the save game function. Up to three save game slots can be created and the game auto-saves after every page so there’s never any need to worry about saving your progress during play. In terms of the game itself, it really does depend on whether you liked the original books. If, like me, you were or still are a fan of the originals then it’s a great way to play them on the move without having to worry about carrying (or finding space to roll) dice or being concerned about ruining the books with pencil marks as you play. If you’re a veteran of the RPG genre then you may find these a bit too simplistic or wonder what all the fuss was about but if you’re looking for something a little different and a cheap Mini to pick up for your Vita then you may want to give it a try.

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

Vita Player Rating - 07

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