Games Workshop founder, Lionhead Studios co-founder, writer, game designer and reviewer, English Steve Jackson (not to be confused with the US game designer of the same name!) is a bit of an institution in the world nerd, whether they are fans of traditional board games, or video games. Among Jackson's many works he undoubtedly stands out Sorcery!, a series of librigames released in the mid-80s. Founded in 2011, the mobile development company Inkle began working on a videogame adaptation of this historic series, eventually launching the first chapter of Sorcery in 2013! on iOS. In this 2014 the game also arrived on Android, together with the second chapter, an adaptation of the second book in the series.
TESTED VERSION: Android
Review made on the first two episodes of the series.
As the Analander
The game is set in the fantasy world of Titan. A powerful magical artifact known as the Crown of the Kings it was stolen from the lands of Analand by the Archmage of the Mampang fortress. Thanks to the crown, the archmage plans to gain command over the wilderness of Kakhabad and invade the surrounding kingdoms. As a lone hero known only by the moniker of Analander, the player will be called upon to recover the Crown, avoiding the looming invasion and saving the lands of Analand from a terrible fate. In translating the structure of a game book into a videogame Inkle has developed a interesting compromise. The game screen will show a map from above on which the sprite representing the protagonist will be present. Through the touch controls it will be possible to move our character from one location to another, and our every action will be accompanied by copious descriptions taken directly from the game book. At every crossroads, situation, dialogue or enigma they will be present multiple choices that will allow the player to heavily influence the continuation of the adventure. As well as in the source material, even in the Sorcery video games! multiple scenarios are foreseen with different developments and despite a structure heavily based on narration, the player's choices will have a preponderant influence. Sorcery! however, it cannot be reduced only to reading descriptions and moving a pawn on the map: they will also be present in the game fighting and, starting from the second episode, gambling. A particular game mechanic is dedicated to combat. On the screen we will see our character and the enemy on duty. While the omnipresent text box will describe the situation, our task will be to swipe our protagonist towards the opponent. The more our gesture will be pronounced, the more powerful the attack will be. The goal will therefore be guess from the descriptions when our opponent will be in difficulty (and therefore when to rage) and when instead he will be about to attack us (and therefore remain on the defensive). The combat system is very satisfying thanks to this risk-based mechanics, and manages to give exhilarating moments in a title otherwise excessively based on narration and description. Other mechanics that contribute to varying the gameplay of the title are those related to gambling, which are introduced in the second chapter with some NPCs and the use of magic formulas, to be achieved by combining some magic letters / runes among those available. The end result is remarkable: despite the narrative component, it still plays a preponderant role in Sorcery !, the player is never left to himself in a sea of captions and narratives, and always has the impression of being in control and to be at the forefront of shaping the development of history.
Sorcery! it comes to life
From a technical point of view we are faced with a title without too many needs, which manages to run well even on devices with not excellent performance. The map is made with a very basic 3D, almost two-dimensional from the perspective from above, while the characters are simple two-dimensional sprites, with very few animations, almost as if they were illustrations on a book. The entire graphic sector is aimed at remembering the origins of the franchise, and if it does not strike the player's eye with who knows what graphic prowess, on the other it presents one 80s style fits perfectly, even from an artistic point of view. From the audio point of view, an excellent job has been done, with very specific design choices that have preferred a series of ambient sounds and noises that make the scenes believable and alive. Given the countless lines of text there is no dubbing (it would have been a huge effort for the development team), but maybe that's good: we'll be in 2014 too, but Sorcery! it is and remains a game book, even in this “appizzato” version. The construction of the atmosphere is still great and Sorcery! will no doubt keep the player glued from start to finish. Negative note for adaptation: the title is only available in English, and in such a story-driven game this can be a problem for those unfamiliar with the Albion language.
A book to play
As far as longevity is concerned, we can only be satisfied. The first chapter of Sorcery! it can be finished in an afternoon, but it is only an introduction to the real adventure. Already starting from the second chapter we will find a development of the story a lot less linear and a game map much more extensive. Furthermore, the different opportunities offered by ramifications of history (and from the possibility of returning to a different branching point, in case some mistake had been made) allow the player to play numerous games, never equal to themselves. The relative narrative simplicity of the first episode is faced by a second extremely branched and complex chapter, able to absorb and satisfy even the most demanding player, especially the one who grew up in his childhood on bread and books.
Verdict 8/10 Fascinating to both the novice and the nostalgic. Comment Steve Jackson's Sorcery! it is in many ways an exceptional title. It manages with flying colors in the enterprise of translating the contents and spirit of the original game book into a video game, without being overly verbose or hostile to the players. It is certainly a title aimed at a very specific circle of players, perhaps to those who have read the source material, perhaps to the nostalgics of the 80s, but it is still a faithful adaptation and with winning and interesting design choices. Difficult to recommend it to anyone: the clear preponderance of the narrative aspect over the playful one and the language could be an obstacle for many players, but for a certain niche of users it will undoubtedly prove to be an essential experience. Surely one of the highest points touched by mobile gaming in this 2014. Pros and Cons ✓ Perfect transposition of the original game book
✓ Excellent compromise between gameplay and storytelling
✓ Perfect atmosphere for the nostalgic x Available in English only
x Overly verbose and verbose for some users