Game Reviews

Fighting Fantasy: Starship Traveller

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Fighting Fantasy: Starship Traveller

This is really two reviews in one, though they're quite inseparable.

On the one hand you need to know about the calibre of the story that's at the heart of this digital choose-your-own-adventure gamebook, and on the other it's important to discuss the quality of its smartphone adaptation.

Let's start with the former, since there's a possibility that the story's genre might not be your bag, no matter how well written it is. Should that be the case, it doesn't really matter how well it's been digitised.

Starship Traveller

Back in 1984, adventure gamebooks were all the rage. You'd read a paragraph, make a decision, and turn to the relevant page to see how that choice played out (keeping your finger in the last page, just in case).

This was the year that the first sci-fi story was to appear as part of Ian Livingston and Steve Jackson's immensely popular Fighting Fantasy franchise, called Starship Traveller.

It also introduced gun and spaceship combat using the paper and dice rules that made the series such a brilliant halfway house between gaming and reading, so it holds an important place in the canon.

The plot casts you as the captain of the intrepid Starship Traveller, which has been sucked through a black hole into a hostile region of space. By visiting different planets and teaching strange, new aliens about this human emotion called "love" (not really), you pieced together a route home for you and your crew.

All very Star Trek, it proved to be a massive hit that's fondly remembered to this day (by this writer, and it's better than I remembered, I might add), and comes highly recommended to anyone who loves a good space opera yarn.

Smartphone Traveller

And now it's back in digital form from gamebook champion Tin Man Games. These guys proved their gamebook mettle some time ago, so if you've played through any of the studio's other adaptations or original stories you already know that this is going to be a great conversion.

Brand new illustrations have been provided by artist Simon Lissaman, but what's especially striking is the choice of interface style. As this is one of the few sci-fi game books out there, Tin Man Games evidently made the wise decision to riff on its Star Trek inspiration a little further, and crafted a beautifully futuristic visage for Starship Traveller's pages.

It also harnesses the adaptability of the digital format by allowing you to customise your crew with new names and statistics, and even change the name of your ship.

Dice rolls for combat, skill and luck are delivered via some nice 3D overlays, keeping the game in close proximity to its print and paper heritage without interrupting the flow of the story one bit.

Special mention has to be given to the music, too, which beautifully harnesses the audio tropes of popular sci-fi.

Tones plink and plonk in the background during the tense moments, impressively mimicking Star Trek: The Original Series (the game's opening credits also do a riotously fantastic job of this), while combat is accompanied by the orchestral extravagance of Next Gen.

There's no denying that Fighting Fantasy: Starship Traveller is aimed squarely at the science fiction geeks out there (hi, everyone, see you at the next online party), but it's every bit as enjoyable for all adventure and gamebook fans, new and old.

Fighting Fantasy: Starship Traveller

The original gamebook has been beautifully revived, and now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its sci-fi peers across all entertainment media