The-Warlock-of-Firetop-Mountain---PSP-Mini-/-PS3-Review The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - PSP Mini / PS3 Review

   15/12/2011 at 10:58       Phil May       7 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Fighting Fantasy, Laughing Jackal, PSP Minis, PS3

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's "Fighting Fantasy" books had a magical allure when I was a kid. Adventure games on home micros were text based (with a couple of exceptions), and portable gaming meant toting a Grandstand Invaders 1000 or a Game and Watch around in your school satchel. The Fighting Fantasy books were awesome, because in conjunction with an overactive imagination, you could lose yourself in a mythical world while other kids kicked a tennis ball around the playground, or bullied each other for lunch money. 

These books are enjoying something of a revival - albeit in electronic form, and thanks to the Playstation Portable it's now possible once again to carry a copy of "The Warlock of Firetop Mountain" around in your trendy Courier's Record Bag, dipping back into a fantasy world while enduring farting commuters, talkative old grannies or any other ignominy of the morning commute. 

Developers Laughing Jackal obviously have a great deal of love for the original Fighting Fantasy books, they're steadily working their way through converting the lot (and I had no idea that there were nearly sixty of these books, crikey!)

After the rather odd choice of releasing the 11th book in the series, "Talisman of Death", Laughing Jackal have now released arguably the most popular book in the series, the very first Fighting Fantasy book - The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. 

This is the sort of title that feels instantly familiar to any adventurer, whether you've played / read the original book. It's a straightforward dungeon crawl that draws a picture in your mind of labyrinthine corridors, secret doors, traps and lots of nasty creatures who don't take too kindly to adventurers poking their noses into their domains. 

TWOFM plays pretty much like Talisman of Death but feels instantly more approachable and easier to get on with. Presented in book fashion just like the originals, instead of flipping pages to branch your adventuring choices, you click on links on each page to determine your next course of action. As ever though, the choice is yours and the beauty of the original book was how compelling it felt to 'play it straight' and not cheat (though I remember quite a lot of my cohorts at school claiming all sorts of pyrric victories by cheating their way through several tomes, the ratbags). 

With this PSP mini version, you don't get the choice to cheat. Actions are unlocked and links are followed faithfully so you're left with no choice but to be legit (which is how it should be, darn it!). 

The elements of the original book that required dice throws or chance are nicely presented. Combat rounds (in particular) are played like a sort of 'memory game' - successful hits on an opponent are registered if the correct tiles are chosen from a combat grid. The tougher the opponent, the shorter the time you get to peruse the grid before tiles are covered and you must choose where to hit. 

Similarly, skills and inventory-based decisions are made semi-automatically, which takes a lot of the faff out of doing things on paper. I clearly recall my copy of "The Warlock of Firetop Mountain" ending up as a mess, with a broken spine, covered in pencil scrawl, and probably ragged to pieces from being carried around the school playground. Here you get the chance to enjoy neat little illustrations and game screens that compliment the all-important text. 

Though to some it might all feel a bit cliched and twee, you have to put these games into context. When they were originally published, these books hit the market like a megaton and turned Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone into celebrities overnight, selling millions of copies worldwide. 

The PSP mini version of TWOFM is a neat little piece of nostalgia for gamers my age, and a cool way of enjoying a fairly meaty adventure for those of you who don't mind using your imagination to draw up the fantasy landscapes therein. Neatly executed, perhaps not as neat as the Kindle versions but certainly good value considering how long you can lose to these.

Definitely looking forward to seeing more in the series. 


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