Game Reviews

Fighting Fantasy: Bloodbones

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Fighting Fantasy: Bloodbones

Tin Man Games's series of Fighting Fantasy adaptations have always fared well here at Pocket Gamer.

And chances are, if you've a fondness for the franchise, or have formed a more recent love of the material, then Fighting Fantasy: Bloodbones will be another fine addition to your collection.

But, with the rose-tinted glasses removed, does Bloodbones triumphantly sail towards greatness, or does it deserve to be keelhauled?

Shiver me fingers

Starting the game up, you're offered three modes of play. 'Adventurer' being the default, giving you a certain number of hit points, skill points, luck, and gold pieces with which to tackle the adventure, all decided by rolls of virtual dice.

Otherwise 'Hardcore Hero' mode effectively halves your attributes, whilst opting for 'Free Read' essentially gives you the means to never fail in the quest you're about to undertake.

The tale here finds your unnamed character seeking revenge against the dreaded pirate-lord Cinnabar (aka Bloodbones) who, ten years previously, murdered your family while his bloodthirsty crew plundered your village.

Back in the present, you receive word of Cinnabar's return. A series of clues leads you ever-closer to your sworn enemy so you can finish what he started - if you can survive the many encounters with unpleasant pirates, cunning cultists, and disgruntled wildlife, that is.

For anyone unfamiliar with the format, this is a ‘choose your own adventure' gamebook - you read a short section, then choose one of a few actions that your character can take, resulting in a new section to read, with combat based on stats and further rolls of those virtual dice.

Some sections reward you with items, logged automatically on your 'adventure sheet', whereas others might see you fall into a trap, either costing you hit points, skill points, or requiring a roll of the dice to see whether you'll be killed outright.

Equally keen to stop you in your tracks are the story's varied cast, with just about every person and creature you encounter proving hostile. Several of these opponents receive grimly lavish illustrations, providing the visual highlight of this otherwise text-based adventure.

Not-so-jolly roger

Essentially then, Bloodbones is more of what fans would expect. For the rest of us though, the experience on offer is pretty gruelling, and simply impossible to ever become ‘good at', with trial and error-based repetition - or cheating, which the game allows - being the only way to succeed.

Exploration is often punished with instant death, or stamina-sapping obstacles, meaning that save-crawling via the use of in-game ‘bookmarks' becomes quite essential for anyone without prior knowledge of what's coming next.

In effect, the experience makes you feel less like a capable hero and more like a puppet at the author's cruel whim.

Admittedly, this is more of a complaint with the format rather than Bloodbones specifically, but potential newcomers should still be warned.

The story itself is enjoyable despite the steep challenge, with the discovery of Cinnabar's masterplan seeing your revenge eventually giving way to more heroic intentions.

Jonathan Green's writing is strong throughout, despite the prologue's overly exhaustive world-building, and occasional moments where clues or information important to your later success are just a little too obscured.

Meanwhile, the presentation is top notch, with attractive page turn transitions, and excellent audio design that both ratchets up the tension during fight sequences, and provides a spooky atmosphere that, smartly, never distracts from the act of reading.

Fighting Fantasy: Bloodbones

Fighting Fantasy: Bloodbones is macabre and intriguing, but not my idea of fun. Franchise fans will likely lap up the grim adventure though, and should roll a dice, adding that figure to the score below
Giles Armstrong
Giles Armstrong
Having worked in the games industry since 2007, Giles knows a thing or two about how good video games are made, why bad games happen, and that great games matter. A Game & Narrative Designer by day, story-based games are quite literally his bread and butter.