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Players who enjoyed the famous adventure book on which this video game is based will be hard pressed to recognise it. But is that a good thing or a bad thing ? My thoughts are that it's a good thing because in the book the majority of the game was built in the reader's imagination from the few illustrations and the text descriptions. This video adventure attempts to lift the pages of the book onto your device (I believe this is available on tablets as well as on PC) in glorious 3D and deeply, dark colours.

Like all good adventures you begin by creating your character/hero. Okay there is no creating involved you simply select one of the four available to you. There are several more characters that will become available as you progress and win Souls (gained by killing monsters and generally bad/evil creatures). There is a nice touch at the  beginning where the game actually allows you to view the characters that you will maybe be able to access later, though these are shown as plain grey "plastic/resin" miniatures whereas the original four you select one from are fully coloured and detailed as well as described and given the statistics that will hopefully allow you to carry them through the adventure.

 

The first group of miniatures available for you to select from are as follows: Stamina equates to life points - lose these and the character dies. Skill comes into play when a situation arises where you need to roll the dice and roll better than your in-game opponent, and Luck comes into play when all else fails - you are in a tricky place and you need good luck to get out.
Lunika -  Stamina 17  Skill 09  and  Luck  10
Dekion - Stamina 19  Skill 08  and  Luck  09
Alexandra - Stamina 18   Skill 10  and  Luck  08
Arran - Stamina 20   Skill 09  and  Luck 07
Each single character's statistics tot up to 36; your best options to begin with are to go for someone with high Stamina but less Skill and Luck (Arran or Dekion).

 

In the book you are offered choices of doing various things, searching, continuing, resting or doing, this (goto page N); doing that (goto page N#); or Fight/Run etc (goto page No!!): In the game some of those options are visual - you can see where or which way the path or stairs head, but you still get a banner note to click on.

Your hero is a miniature figurine like the 25mm characters we used to use regularly when playing D&D complete with a circular plastic base. When you request it to move it bounces along as if it is being moved by an invisible hand holding it by it's head and boinging the base in replicant motion to an angry kangaroo.

 

There are plenty of chances to fight and most of the time you have no other option. You open a door, creatures are inside and combat begins, for example. Combat takes place on a squared area and you can move to one of the spaces shown (in blue) adjacent to you or you can choose to fight (attack or special strike) into any square you can reach, mostly adjacent, where you think a creature will move into. If you guess correctly you score a great strike otherwise you just miss. Some creatures move and attack in a predetermined pattern which you can soon and easily work out, but never underestimate even the weakest looking opponent.

 

Mostly the game trots along at a merry pace and works well as a 3D dungeon adventure style game. If you take damage find a bench where you can rest and recouperate - it's free to do and is neccesary especially the deeper into the dungeon and the less benches there are and the more scarier monsters are to be found.

Some things don't quite work visually, such as when you find some clothing or armour that you can put on as a disguise. Using Orc armour for example loses you a point of Stamina but you do get to pass through the gang of Orcs without having to fight and possibly die. However I was saying this doesn't work visually and that's because you still look the same, only the Orcs see you as a brother and let you pass freely.

 

Combat is always visual as I previously noted, but it is also a pain and was covered quicker and more satisfactorily in the Fighting Fantasy books than here. In the game it is the main part of what you do and is thrust upon you even if you would rather avoid it. In the book you often get the opportunity to work out/deduce by the way the paragraphs are written and the options offered whether combat is likely or not. Sometimes though, it cannot be avoided in book or game. In the game I feel it slows down the adventure as it is literally a hit and/or miss guessing game.

 

The action and fighting is augmented by descriptive text and some awesome illustrations, many of which are brought to life (in their 3D counterparts) should you manage to disturb them.

Like all games of this sort there is often missing the one option you want to do, the one you would choose if you had free choice rather than restricted or limited options. Once you accept this and basically do what is expected of you then it can come down to a dice roll or a mistake on your part or even downright bad luck whether your character succeeds or fails. For example I opened a door and had no choice but to fight the big guy and his two minions who were inside, I obviously wanted to close the door and hope they hadn't seen me. I managed to defeat them but not before they took me down to just 2 Stamina. This would have been no problem if I could have rested up but there was no resting bench and my next steps took me straight into the arms of three more foes. I despatched two with alacrity but one hit from the third did for me and my character's adventure was over. Well actually that's not strictly true as resurrection is possible or I could begin again with a different character. So even when you think your game has ended there are still options available to you.

 

WARLOCK of FIRETOP MOUNTAIN is a more dynamic video game than the SORCERY books as electronic stories were but for me it still doesn't beat the actual adventure of imagination. Bright, colourful and violent, clearly an adventure to be savoured, particularly by new players who have only heard of the book; for them it will be enjoyable, playable and good fun.  

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015