The latest in Tin Man Games's series of interactive text adventures is written by Fighting Fantasy author Jonathan Green – and it shows. Its well-written narrative is pacy, exciting, and weaves a compelling yarn, whichever path you take.
For those unfamiliar with the Gamebook Adventures series, the Fighting Fantasy books are the obvious point of reference, being similarly fantasy tales where you get to choose what steps to take in terms of multiple choice events and turn-based combat.
As with Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s famous series, your adventure sees you take on numerous evils enemies in combat. Here the roll of a die (or several) determines the likelihood of victory or defeat. Dicing with death
Handled neatly with an on-screen button launching your virtual die, you’ll also need to roll to determine your character’s Vitality and Fitness levels, while offensive and defensive options are dependent on the weapons and armour you currently have equipped. Essentially, the better the gear the more dice you’ll get to throw in a skirmish.
For those of us who grew up with the Fighting Fantasy books, this is almost like a homecoming. Even a barebones treatment wouldn’t have been enough to detract from the quality of the writing.
So it’s especially pleasing to see just how well-presented the game is. The pages look like ancient manuscript, and are enhanced by detailed, evocative art. Web of intrigue
Atmospheric music further increases your immersion in the story, with regular spot effects including the frequent chittering of insects and – naturally, given the title - arachnids.
There are concessions to beginners. While the default Classic mode only allows three bookmarks (the modern equivalent of putting your finger between pages in case you’ve made a duff choice), Bookworm mode offers ten, while Novice gives you a better chance of rolling high Vitality and Fitness stats.
Occasionally you’ll be asked to run Fitness or Phobia checks that can affect your chances of avoiding combat or giving you the immediate upper hand. Choose your own adventure
At other times you’ll be forced into tough decisions. You could run through the flames of a burning ship, resulting in a small loss of Vitality and a permanent reduction in fitness by one, or risk a fight that could put you in an even more perilous situation.
It’s true that there’s a significant element of luck involved, though if it looks like the dice are about to fall badly you can give your iOS device a shake to try and influence the outcome – and besides, that’s true to the ethos of these books.
That said, if you roll poorly to begin with there’s a noticeable early difficulty spike which – in the game’s own words - “ends your adventure before it has even begun”. For some players, regular viewing of this random triggered Game Over page (that's what you get with dice games) will likely be too much to bear. But that’s perhaps the one poorly judged moment in an adventure that will keep fans of the genre spellbound.
Page-turner It’s a great modern equivalent to the books many of us loved as youngsters, with the same kind of attention to detail and thrilling fantastical touches that made these adventures so enjoyable.
So Temple of the Spider God might be more book than game, but you knew that. If a Gamebook Adventure is what you're after, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than this.