Fighting-Fantasy:-Talisman-of-Death-–-PS-Mini-Review Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death – PS Mini Review

   20/12/2011 at 10:35       Flying_Pig       3 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death, PS Mini, PSP, PS3, RPG

Children today don’t realise how lucky they are – with their Nintendo 3DS’, playing Mario Kart over wi-fi in the playground.  Back when I was growing up, in the late 1980’s my friends and I got our portable gaming fix from reading the brilliant Fighting Fantasy books, written by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson.

The concept behind these books is simple – rather than reading it in a linear fashion, the books is divided into several hundred, numbered sections with you, the reader/player, making choices and then being directed to the relevant section to progress the story.  Over-laying this are some a fairly light-weight RPG aspects, required for fighting monsters and ensuring your survival.  In the books, when you met a monster or adversary you would roll a dice and make some simple calculations based on your respective skill and stamina to see whether you were victorious.

There is, of course another way to ‘play’ these books, frowned upon by the purists, but much more practical for reading on the bus.  You simply choose to win all of the fights, rather than go through the rigmarole of rolling a dice.  Even more controversial is marking your previous pages to allow you to go back should you make the wrong choice.  Not that I ever did either of these…

Back to the Future

Anyway, fast-forward 25 years and Laughing Jackal has released two of these Fighting Fantasy books on PSN.  The Talisman of Death is the first one of those released, despite the fact it’s actually the 11th book in the series.  The other one, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, is reviewed here.

The PS Mini of Talisman of Death is a faithful re-creation of the original the Fighting Fantasy book, which is both its brilliance and its Achilles heel.  Essentially a digital book, albeit an interactive one, the game offers no flash graphics or hand-holding, instead retaining the original illustrations and RPG elements, and the essence of what made the books so memorable.  Anyone hoping for The Game of The Book will be disappointed.

One concession to the modern world is that the game now manages the dice-rolling and calculations for you and anyone who has read the books will be instantly at home with the game.  However, there are actually two ways to fight enemies: You can use the traditional dice-roll method to decide whether an attack has hit it’s mark or not or you can change it into a more dynamic system where your screen becomes a grid of hex-tiles.  Each tile has one of three symbols, a helmet symbol for a good attack, a red demon symbol for when the enemy hits you, or a crossed swords symbol which means that your attack has been parried. These symbols are mixed up and flipped over so you can’t see them, with you required to select one.  While your chance is theoretically random, if you’re good enough you can just see where the good symbols are before they flip over, vastly improving your odds of  winning the fight.

Another key difference between the book and the game is that the game autosaves each time you make a choice, so there’s no way of going back if you don’t like the result.  Additionally, the game keeps tabs on what you have in your inventory, and who you’ve spoken to denying you the option to select certain choices if you don’t possess the correct item or haven’t spoken to that specific person.  It ensures you play the game as the books were intended to be played.

Talisman of Death is certainly one of the more challenging Fighting Fantasy books, with you character tasked with destroying the titular object in order to prevent Death and his minions from taking over the world.  You will travel over plains and through forests and onto a city, meeting friend and foe alike.  The ‘right’ choice isn’t always obvious and you will certainly die many times (requiring you to start again) before you finally suss out the best choices to enable you to complete your quest.

While this could actually be quite demoralising, being killed is part of the experience, since the game actually tracks the percentage of sections you have seen, meaning that dying or being caught in traps actually brings you closer to 100% completion.

Double Six

What rating to give this game is really tough.  Someone who has no interest in the original books or reading an interactive novel on their PSP will get nothing new from this game.  Equally fans of the books will love this 21st Century update, and look forward to more Fighting Fantasy books coming to PSN, as Laughing Jackal have promised.

For me, I’ve really enjoyed re-living this aspect of my youth and nostalgic rose-tinted glasses aside, The Talisman of Death pulls off the trick of being faithful to the revered source material, while giving it enough of an update to attract a new audience of would-be adventurers.

Given the difficulty of this game, beginners may prefer to select the easier (and first in the series) The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, but with an asking price less than that of a freshly made sandwich, Talisman of Death offers something refreshingly different from the rest of the PS Mini catalogue and is a worthy addition to anyone’s collection.


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