By Steve Jackson Games
For some, the term gaming means more than just video games. When I refer to myself as a gamer, tabletop RPGs always come first in my mind. They’re a core part of my life, ever since I saw my dad games mastering for his high school classes around our dining room table as a kid. And while RPGs were fun, it was always a chore to put one together. Schedules have to line up right. People have to commit to a game night. Sometimes you don’t have a group that meets your needs. And that was fine, because the publishers had solo adventures that were just for you. One such was Steve Jackson’s ‘Sorcery!’
Recently, Jackson (a well storied Gamer and Tabletop Game Developer) decided to go back to his prior solitaire adventures. But, given the era we live in, why deal with all of the mess of publishing in dead tree format? Why not just put something on your smartphone that will do all of that work for you and make it more dynamic and visually engaging? So arrived Steve Jackson’s ‘Sorcery!’ as available in app form for your Mac or Google device.
The game very much harkens back to the solo game books of yore, but with more of a multimedia twist. The mechanics are the same though. Navigate between the options presented to you by the game in dramatic narrative style, then deal with the results of your actions. You’re armed with the power of spells, your swordplay, and wits in order to retrieve a magical crown that will bring you to glory. Spells are handled by being able to spell out the codes that unlock magic, and combat with swords is a resource management system of saving up attack power, then spending it wisely in a way to overcome each individual foe. Additionally, you find yourself looting the dead to pay for your bread, with the game tracking track time of day and ration levels as you travel the map toward your goals.
The biggest things of note here for me hit even before you start playing the game. It’s the product of two RPG gaming industry names that any tabletop player in their late twenties on up should know: Steve Jackson and John Blanche. Jackson is already a well known and well branded quantity having held up Steve Jackson Games for over thirty years and bringing people titles like Ogre, GURPS, and Munchkin. Then add to it the art of John Blanche, a personal hero of mine when it comes to art, particularly from his tenure as the art director for Games Workshop. These guys are titans of the industry – so having their name on it immediately puts long time gamers in capable, nostalgic hands.
Blanche’s talents lend a good part of the richness of the game. The ability to add not only more art, but dynamic, interactive art (John Blanche art!), helps to sell the world and the story just that much more, even with immersive descriptions from Jackson’s original text elements. Solo games like Sorcery! are very much about immersion and the new technologies make it a little more easier for the next generation to take a seat around the table.
The game also retains one of Sorcery!’s original features – the ability to continue into the next book with everything you had. With the older version it was a simple mater of book keeping, but in the updated digital version you’ll have your very own code to distinguish what choices to took in the last chapter. This effect will stack and bring you into the later chapters, giving you advantages that ought to vary each time you play through.
Additionally, if you’re a fan of the exaggeration of fantasy games of the time you’ll find all of the old-school tropes here. Your hero never takes the middle road – put up or shut up. Either beat the crap out of your foe with a haughty air of overconfidence, or pass by with chilling indifference. Find a wizard up in the tree? Help him out or taunt him.
The only real thing that I can think of as being ‘bad’ is that at its most basic, the game is not only a revival of solo books, it’s also a revival of a long-dead video game format: the text adventure. This is going to turn even a lot of casual video gamers right off. The market for this game is likely going to be narrow as gamers on smartphone platforms may opt for games that are free which also involve vexed birds. At five dollars, the target audience will no doubt bite (what aging thirty-something doesn’t still secretly love Choose Your Own Adventure?), but it may struggle to gain a place among titles like Plants vs. Zombies or Words With Friends. Then again, at less than the cost of a standard e-book, who knows? Maybe it’s time for titles like Sorcery! to make a comeback. time will tell.
I can’t say I’d recommend it for the hardcore video gamer. It’s a casual game, meant for the folks who remember this style of play – and maybe even to get some youngbloods in on the solo RPG train. It’s a noble intent if nothing else, and I’d recommend it for the Unplugged crowd here at HPP. Give it a whirl, it costs about the same as a self published e-book and is available at the App Store and Google Play for about $5.
Available on: iOS (Reviewed), Android; Publisher: Inkle; Developer: Inkle; Players: 1; ESRB: MSRP: $4.99: