Genre: Interactive narrative, strategy, role playing
Release Date: 2016
Developer / Publisher: Inkle
Sorcery! was first published in 1983 by Penguin and is part of the Fighting Fantasy single player role playing game books. Created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the 59 volumes of Fighting Fantasy have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. Sorcery!, the Warlock of Firetop Moutains and Deathtrap Dungeon are among the better known titles. Back in the days where home computers ran on audio cassettes and the first Apple PCs were the size of unaffordable typewriters, paper and pencil games provided convenient dungeon crawling excitement, “complete with combat system, monster encounters and score sheet”. Sorcery! is a four title “classic fighting fantasy gamebook in which you become the hero”. Parts 1 and 2 consist of The Shamutanti Hills and Kharé: Cityport of Traps. You are the Analander, a lone hero, and you will travel to reclaim the Crown of Kings, a powerful magical artefact, stolen by the evil Archmage of Mampang.
Playability: Convenient rewind
Sorcery! is a surprisingly fast paced game and a page turner. Steve Jackson’s writing style has aged well and has remained vivacious over the years. CGI cutscenes are today’s norm, but Sorcery’s lapidary prose and clean cut storyline is a worthy contender. There’s no lengthy loading of disk space hungry files and you’re confronted with choices, decisions and their immediate consequences. Then again, if you’re a slow reader or if you need to take the dog out, you can easily put the game (or the book) aside for a few minutes or a few days. Sorcery!?! has a rewind feature should you face an untimely and horribly justified quick death. Rewinding is also convenient for exploring the different branches of the plot. Would you like to know what would have happened had you helped the old lady or eaten the bubbly purple potion?
Annoyance: Simplistic battles against impossible monsters
What death will you die? Die a quick death in a multitude of ways at every road junction or corridor encounter in Sorcery! Should you jump into the well? Of course you should! Should you prod the sleeping ogre? Of course you should! There be loot and treasures in the dark waters below and magical swords under the monster’s bum. Without the aforementioned rewind feature, Sorcery would only be suitable for wary adventuring. Instead the game goads you into recklessness too easily. Computer assisted battles are a step up from the original pencil and paper gameplay, but remain somewhat simplistic and arbitrary. You merely decide to defend or attack, and if you do attack on how much strength you want to put into it.
Beauty: Beautiful hand drawn artwork
Sorcery!!! relies on the original illustrations of John Blanche. Goblins, giants, manticores and other fantastic beasts come alive in his unmistakable black and white hand drawings. Full screen versions of the artwork would have hit gamers more fully in the face but the images are big enough to enjoy the minutia of each scene. Warhammer figurine painters and aficionados will be familiar with John Blanche’s gothic bizarre, chiselling intensity and painful accuracy.
The Old Video Gamer’s Prattle: Adaptation worthy of a venerable book 7/10
Inkle’s adaptation of Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! is faithful to the original book’s fun and lively gameplay. Sorcery… is truly a game in which you are the hero and in which you choose, write and read your own story. It may not have the bells and whistles of modern video games but Sorcery!?! relies on strong narration and superb artwork to vividly feed one’s imagination. If you’re too lazy to pick up the original books or are itching for a rematch against the Archmage, Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! by Inkle provides expedient opportunity to get (re)acquainted with this fighting fantasy classic.