Game Reviews

Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106

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Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106

Gamebooks have had something of a resurgence on smartphones and tablets, allowing choose-your-own-adventurers to head off into the wilderness without having to remember to pack a pencil, a rubber, and a handful of dice.

One of the chief proponents of this digital rebirth has been Tin Man Games. The studio has been filling the App Store with adventures of its own making, as well as securing the rights to create the digital versions of the recent Fighting Fantasy reboot penned by Ian Livingstone.

So it's no surprise to see the Tin Man logo at the start of Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106, but what might come as a surprise to some is how well Dredd's violent brand of totalitarian justice translates to the format.

Doing it by the book

The game tells the story of a particularly busy shift in the titular sector, where Dredd's been sent because of a shortage - due mainly to untimely crime-related deaths - of senior judges.

If you're new to the concept of the gamebook, they're essentially interactive novels. You read through pages of flavour text, and at the end of it are presented with a series of choices: go here, look more closely at that, shoot that perp in the face - that sort of thing.

Fights, shoot-outs, and feats of particular athletic skill are handled by dice rolls. The parameters are different for different actions, but it all boils down to rolling a few digital d6 and letting the game work out whether you pass or fail.

You've got attributes to toughen, health packs that let you regain some precious hit points, and - depending on the difficulty setting you're playing at - a number of bookmarks.

These are essentially check points, and let you flip back a few decisions if you end up with your brains splattered over a Mega City One sidewalk.

T.J Booker

Gamebooks are creatures of two distinct parts. On the one hand you have the story, which in this case is nothing particularly special, but does enough to push you from choice to choice.

On the other hand there's the dice-rolling violence and leaps through plate glass windows.

It's in the dice-rolling that Tin Man's creation really shines. Every character has an Attack rating and a Defence rating, and these correspond to the number of dice they get to roll - on the easiest setting, Dredd's has four attack dice and two defence dice.

The lawman swings his truncheon and the game rolls four dice for you. The total is the amount of damage you're going to do. The dirty criminal then gets a chance to dodge, rolling a number of dice equal to his defence rating. The criminal isn't trying to beat your score, but rather to roll higher than your highest single roll. If he succeeds, he dives out of the way.

Book off, creep

It might not sound like a particularly intuitive way of working out hits and misses, but there's an inherent tension in watching the last spins of a die as it teeters between a two and a four.

While the story might not be up to the acerbic best of the Judge's escapades in 2000 AD, it still makes for an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. Funny, rewarding, and pleasantly violent, Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106 replaces the rattle of gunfire with the rattle of dice, and it just works.

Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106

If you've never played a gamebook, Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106 is an entertaining, brilliantly designed introduction to the world of dice and bookmarks