Inkle Studios's adaptation of Steve Jackson's seminal fantasy adventure finally gets its second chapter, some six months after the first.
It's easy to see where the time went - this feels like a larger, more expansive quest, with more branching paths than the first, and more ways to differentiate your own adventure from those of other players.
Yet while the craftsmanship is easy to admire, this isn't quite as gripping a tale as the opening. Kharé's maze of tricks and traps grows a little too punishing, a little too arduous to navigate.Structural dungeoneering
As before, you guide an adventurer through a fantasy world, reading evocatively written text snippets before choosing your next option, whether it's turning left or right while being chased, or deciding between a spell and your sword when it's time to attack.
If you played Sorcery!, you'll have a password which allows you to retrieve your character (and the kit and money they had with them at the end of the first quest). Otherwise you can roll a brand new one.
In truth, unless you got very lucky in the first game you'll probably have little advantage from sticking with your existing hero unless you got particularly attached to them. The one useful item I had on my person ended up broken and worthless within 15 minutes of breaching Kharé's gates.Curses!
Your objective sounds fairly straightforward, but in practice it's anything but. You're asked to locate four spell lines to open the city's North Gate, and yet it's entirely possible to reach the end without possessing any.
Talk to the right people, collect the right items, and head in the right directions and you may be fortunate enough to find them, but while you're sporadically offered subtle hints, picking the right options is a lottery.
And given that this is a city of traps, more often than not you'll make the wrong call. Falling into a long, winding sewer is bad enough once, but when you end up in the same place on three separate occasions, a fun challenge tips over into frustration.The time traveller's strife
You're still able to rewind to any previous paths you took, the game resetting your character and their possessions to their state when you made the choice, and allowing you to choose differently.
In the first game it felt a little like cheating, albeit no different from putting your finger or a bookmark between the pages of a Fighting Fantasy book to make a more informed decision.
Here, it feels almost essential, not least because reaching the gate without the lines prompts a particularly nasty choice that promises to either cost you dearly in future chapters, or force you into an arduous bit of backtracking.
It's laudable that inkle should be brave enough to impose such hardships on its players, but too often Sorcery! 2 feels just a little too heavily weighted against you.The quick and the dead
Yet at times, it works wonderfully. You'll quickly learn that a confident advance is often foolhardy, but overcautiousness can be an equally poor choice. It teaches you that the most noble actions can end up backfiring horribly - truly, few good deeds go unpunished.
It takes a certain malicious glee in placing you in particularly dire circumstances, offering a glimmer of hope and then cruelly snatching it away. As such, escaping from peril, whether by luck or by design - and it's most often the former - offers a rare sense of relief and satisfaction.
Meanwhile, there's a great new addition in the form of Swindlestones, a dice game of guesswork and bluff that proves worryingly compelling - at least until you run out of money to bet with.Go forth and stultify
However, you'll still face too many trips to the Game Over screen. Sure, you can use spells to highlight traps, warn you of imminent danger, or distract enemies long enough to escape without engaging them in combat. But given the stamina cost of spells, at times you literally can't be too careful, lest you leave yourself no energy with which to fight.
It's disappointing, too, to notice a number of spelling and grammatical errors in such a narrative-led game. The script is wonderful, but inkle could use a good proofreader.
Make no mistake, this is still a terrific adventure - one fraught with danger, rich in atmosphere, and pleasingly flexible in terms of how you shape its twisting, twisted narrative. But chapter two of Sorcery! isn't quite as consistently enjoyable as its predecessor, which remains the gold standard for interactive adventure games on iOS.