iPhone Life magazine

Review: The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain by Big Blue Bubble

I recently reviewed An Assassin In Orlandes, and at the beginning of the review I gave my condensed version of the history of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” game.  I probably should have saved that for this review, since the Fighting Fantasy games were really the forerunners of the modern movement of combining interactive reading and role playing in books.  Much like the Gamebook Adventures from Tin Man Games, Big Blue Bubble has done an excellent job in recreating this genre for the electronic world.  The stories aren’t quite as interesting as the first Gamebook Adventures, but the reading segments are smaller which allows for more frequent fighting, so it really becomes a matter of what you are more interested in pursuing: prose or parlay.

The Entrance To Firetop MountainYou have three stats in the Fighting Fantasy games: skill, stamina and luck.  Each starts off with a base number and at the beginning of the game you roll to make that number bigger.  Throughout play these numbers will go up and down, but they can never go above their initial level unless there are special circumstances as related by the story.  Stamina is a measure of your life, and when it reaches 0 you will die.  There will be various methods for healing your stamina that will present themselves during your journey.  Skill is used for combat, which will be discussed later.  Luck is used for a variety of things.  When you need to use luck you’ll roll two dice, and if the total is less than or equal to your luck value, you will be successful.  Whether your roll was successful or not, you lose a point of luck every time you use luck.  Certain events can raise this value back up, though.

The story behind The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain has you infiltrating the Warlock’s lair in an attempt to find his ultimate treasure.  As you can imagine, whenever you delve deep into the heart of the bad guy’s lair there will always be lots of combat.  Such is the case with Firetop Mountain.  Of course, you often have the opportunity to avoid battle, but what’s the fun in that?  Combat in the Fighting Fantasy series is actually pretty straightforward.  First you roll two dice for your opponent and add the dice total to the opponent’s skill.  You then do the same for yourself.  Whoever has the bigger number wins, and the other combatant loses 2 points from their stamina.  Combat is over when either you or the opponent is slain, or you escape, provided the option is given.  If you opt to escape you automatically suffer a hit.  You can roll against luck at any time during battle.  If you’ve been hit, a successful roll decreases damage by one, while a failed roll increases damage.  If you hit your opponent the effect is just the opposite – a successful roll increases damage while a failed roll decreases damage.

The game is really easy to navigate.  Each section is presented as a long scrolling page, and towards the bottom of the page will be several possible actions you can take.  Any actions that aren’t immediately available will be grayed out.  To choose an action you simply tap it.  When it comes time to roll dice you can either tap the screen or shake your device to roll the diHe Needs More Nutritionce.  There are parts of the dice rolling process you can speed up, but like the virtual and automatic page flipping, it would be nice if there were a way to circumvent it all (like a setting in the options screen).  Also, while it’s easy enough to find your way around the game, I do like the layout employed in the Gamebook Adventures a bit better, where a section is literally divided into several “pages” and all the choices are simply listed at the end.  While you’re in reading mode you can tap any part of the screen that’s not some sort of action button to bring up the menu.  This allows you to access your inventory, the options screen, and the rules if you need a quick refresher.

Firetop Mountain looks really nice.  The effect of flipping through the “pages” of a book is cool, though it would be nice to be able to turn this feature off, because it does get old after a while.  Each section begins with an illustration that is well drawn in slick shades of brown.  What’s really cool is that you can click on the illustration and it will zoom in to full screen and become full color.  This is a nice effect, and the full color versions of the illustrations are quite enjoyable.  The interface as a whole is well done and looks very professional.  The sound effects are mostly what you’d expect.  Page flipping and dice rolling sounds authentic, but then those kinds of sounds aren’t that difficult to mimic.  The realty is that you don’t need a lot of sound effects for this type of game.  On the other hand, some background music would be nice.  There’s some killer music up until you get into the game, and then it just stops.  This seems like the perfect scenario for background tunes.

I’m glad they took the time to bring one of my fond childhood memories to the iPhone, and I’m pleased that they took the time to do it well.  The Fighting Fantasy books provide a nice diversion from normal turn based or hack-n-slash RPG fare, and at least I can say that I spent some time reading!  There’s definitely a smaller niche market for these games than there even would be for a normal RPG, but for those willing to give it a try you will be abundantly rewarded.  Just make sure you actually take the time to read everything and don’t just skip to the choices on each section.  Doing so would rob you of the joy to be had in the Fighting Fantasy universe.

Overall Score: 8/10
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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.