Steve Jackson's SORCERY book 4: The CROWN of KINGS Inkle Studios
The PC games are available in iTunes for £6.99 (Books 1 & 2) and £6.99 for Book 3. Book 4 isn't launched until 22nd September but it will most likely be the same price.
This is the last in the series of books and also in the series of partially animated electronic versions of the Fighting Fantasy style games.
You can continue with your saved game from the third book or you can play this is a stand-alone adventure, starting a new character - choice of Male or Female - there are no options to name or equip him or her, you just choose and the game begins.
You immediately learn that the CROWN of KINGS has been stolen by the Archmage and taken to his fortress in Mampang high in the mountains of High Xamen. Even worse than the Crown being stolen and it being located in what was once a College of Magic that is now a Fortress of Evil is that you alone are the only person who can recover it.
You should be prepared for a long, arduous and dangerous journey fraught with excitement, magic and adversaries in many shapes and forms, from Birdmen to Sorcerers to snarly little critters whose names I have long forgotten.
Your hero moves on a map from where he/she stands to where the next flag is located, often giving you choice of which flag to reach. There are caves and chasms, dodgy bridges, possible allies, sword fighting and spell casting, all the fun you could possibly need in a fantasy adventure, and all at the click or two of a mouse button.
Combat takes place on a separate screen where you face your attacker(s). Generally you do not get a chance to cast spells once the fight is in progress, you have a spellbook but you can only use it when the game allows. Spell casting is handled neatly by way of letters flitting around in a circle - you choose the three that make up the spell, FOF, for example sets a Forcefield around you - you actually get a chance to cast this as you are falling - but to begin with you know only very few spells and you only get the letters that you know, there is no chance to guess spells, you have to learn them or be told them.
Unlike the other recent FF style game, Warlock of Firetop Mountain, SORCERY 4 has more reading than WoFTM, more action than WoFTM and more decision making - you often get 2, 3 or even 4 possible options in SORCERY 4 against the none, 1 or possibly 2 in WoFTM. Your character sits on a typical miniature figurine round base and slides across the map when you click the cursor on it and then you select a route for it to follow. Once you reach a flag there are liable to be other movement options for you to take, and if one of these is go to a cave you are not immediately in that cave, you get more options about how to approach it, whether to enter it, shout inside, throw a coin in, make a noise or maybe just enter without thinking. WoFTM doesn't give you those choices and thus in that way SORCERY 4 is more of a challenge.
The two game styles are entirely different though. SORCERY 4 is like playing the book and is complete with artwork found in the written volumes and very little animation; combat for instance is conducted by sliding your hero towards the opponent or clicking the DEFEND button. If you defend you may take damage but it is usually less than if you attack and get caught in a counter. The text above the combat pictures changes after each bout and should be read as it often gives you good advice as to what to do. Of course you do not have to take the advice, and very occasionally you are better off not doing so, but in the main if the text advises that you defend then it is almost certainly a good idea to defend - unless you are extremely unlucky you will take one hit maximum - hits come off your stamina; lose your stamina and your game ends.
In my opinion these games may revive interest in the game books but probably only in players that already own the books. The games are also most probably only going to be of interest to players who have or have read the books; they're a little too inactive and staid for players brought up on action based fantasy games, of which there are plenty to select from. Playing these book-games is a little like listening to audio books but with more interaction. Sometimes it is good to revisit old times through new versions of old games and I am enjoying working my way through the three games. I haven't really remembered too much about the stories from the original books and so as I play each one it is like encountering them for the first time. However, if I hadn't remembered anything about them I doubt I would have thought about playing them, just shows that appearances can make a difference.
I would recommend them to people who are fans of Fighting Fantasy game books but if they are not your forte there are plenty of other free games available via such media as Facebook that are more visually attractive, have more action and are a lot faster. SORCERY 4 requires you to think, to act, to dare and to do. Find the right components and your spellbook promises better results in tricky situations, blunder around in gung-ho fashion and your game will be short lived, like your character.
The WoFTM animation is good but players may prefer to have the extra information given in the SORCERY series so it's lucky for players who like these books that they are of the same genre thus making it possible to enjoy the best of both worlds.