Space is a cold, dark, and deadly place. Dogs will try and eat you. Insane men with spikes will try and stove your face in because you walked around a corner at the wrong time. And you will die. A lot. But it's okay because you can just flick back a few pages.
Heavy Metal Thunder is a cruel and unforgiving gamebook. It bashes you against the debris of space over and over, and is happy to leave you at the mercy of all manner of terrors.
It's a pretty big departure from the usual tone we've come to expect from iOS gamebooks, and that's no bad thing. It's not quite hard sci-fi, but there's a bleakness here that you rarely find in a Fighting Fantasy adaptation.
The whole thing is presented brilliantly. The skill check and fighting interface in particular makes tapping the screen to stop some dice feel surprisingly futuristic.
Laser to the chest
The game starts with you adrift in the vastness of space. Your suit is running out of oxygen, you've lost your memory, and there are corpses floating all around you. And things get worse from there.
I don't want to spoil too much of the story, because that's the main reason you're going to be playing the game. But it's well written, really gripping in places, and builds an authentic and believable futuristic universe around you.
A nice touch is the way you're shown how much of the various chapters you've experienced. Making your choices means you're going to miss some things, so keeping an eye on how much of the game has passed you by gives you a reason to play through again.
There's a thread of violence that runs through the game that's pretty nasty. At one point something enrages you, and you're given the option to smash a man's face in with your fists. You can throw debris at wild dogs, and perform other really unpleasant acts to drive the story onwards.
Spike to the knee
You're about as far from a heroic figure as you can get, and that makes for a rich and engaging adventure. The choices you take don't just build up your character's personality though - there's an RPG upgrade system as well.
You can put points in a number of skills that will help you as you progress. But you'll always have to leave some of your powers a little underdeveloped. Maybe you're incredibly strong but useless with computers. Or perhaps you're nimble but not all that charismatic.
There are extra skills you can develop as well that stem from your training as a specialist soldier. Hero Points are essentially re-rolls that you can spend if you fancy trying something again. You gain more of these when your skill checks and scraps are successful.
Choked to death on own blood
If you're looking for a gamebook with a little more bite than usual, then Heavy Metal Thunder is worth paying attention to. It's refreshingly grim, and manages to keep you entertained throughout its hefty running time.
This isn't going to be the gamebook that sways people to the reading-and-rolling-dice cause, but it's good enough that fans of the genre thirsting for something a little darker should definitely give it a look.