Fighting Fantasy: Talisman Of Death

Originally written in 1984 by Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith – as opposed to series creators Steve Jackson or Ian Livingstone - Talisman Of Death is an odd first choice of books to convert to a digital experience for the PSN.

Developer Laughing Jackal might instead have gone with The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain or one of the more beloved titles as their inaugural foray, assuring themselves of a better chance at commercial success.

Instead, it's done that through a deep understanding of what makes the books great, the studio's Choose Your Own Adventure positively glowing with quality.

Players of a certain age and penchant for fantasy will fondly remember these Dungeons & Dragons lite pseudo-novels that had readers interact with the fiction by simultaneously asking them to be an active participant in how a story unfolded.

The same is true of this Minis title. You're asked to navigate a mysterious world known as Orb, making decisions on paths to take, the kind of conversations they'll have, and pitting them in dice roll (or card flipping mini-game) battles.

D6 delights

You'll start out by randomly creating a character, with randomly allocated Luck, Skill, and Stamina points. Luck is used to turn the tide of a battle by modifying the amount of damage dealt or determining how a scenelet will continue, such as whether or not you manage to creep past a slumbering beast.

Skill is how proficient with a weapon you are, the higher the skill, the more chance of hitting an enemy. Stamina is analogous to health points - take too many hits from the more aggressive inhabitants of Orb and your quest is over, taking you back to page one.

You can use items you pick up on your journey outside of encounters to replenish those points lost through combat or other perils, the automatic nature of which makes much of the pen-and-papering of the dead tree format irrelevant.

This lends the title some fluidity and accessibility. When combined with the ability to save anywhere and some very swift load times, it makes for a dip-in, dip-out experience rarely seen on dedicated handheld games devices.

Talisman Of Death is no slouch in the literary department either, the plot ticking along at a steady pace while taking the time to provide eloquent descriptions of the strange world of Orb and the creatures that roam it.

The game comes with a log book full of character sketches and additional information to fill in the gaps.

This book also catalogues every one of the 400 pages you might leaf through as and when you find them, adding to a running percentage total. You won't turn to every page with a single playthrough, so going back after finishing and taking the story in a different direction is a must for completists.

Roll to save

If you've skipped to the score below you'll already know it's not without its issues, though these stem from the game on which this game is based and the technology that houses it.

The PSP makes light work of the robust visuals, and while there's plenty of well-composed score it isn't dynamic, leaving some relaxed scenes with an inappropriate amount of orchestral looming dread.

There simply isn't enough space allowance for Minis to include the quantity of audio that would be needed to accomplish this task, but it's still distracting on occasion.

Talisman Of Death also falls into a few of those fuzzy decision traps Mass Effect suffered from, in that there are pages you'll turn to after making a decision you feel is sensible only to have your character or the characters around you react in ways you couldn't possibly predict.

Being a digital release, there's also no way to jam fingers between several different pages to give yourself a second choice should things turn ugly. A lack of a self-made bookmark feature is a moot point, as it's always been cheating to do so, but an option to turn this on would mitigate the harsh penalties of death.

If you enjoyed the classic versions, then there's no question that you should go get this without reservation. If you've never played this style of RPG, it's also worth investigating as long as you bear in mind that the basic structure has gone unchanged for nearly thirty years and is accordingly punishing.

Fighting Fantasy: Talisman Of Death

A faithful conversion from page to screen in almost every way. While the journey is troubled at times by a brutally unforgiving role playing philosophy, it's still one you'll want to take time and time again
Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.