DEATHTRAP DUNGEON: THE INTERACTIVE VIDEO ADVENTURE / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: BRANCHING NARRATIVE / PLATFORM: ANDROID, iOS, PC (REVIEWED) / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Videogame adaptations of those 1980's "choose your own adventure" books have rarely turned out well. Over the years, several developers have tried to recreate the thrill of these forgotten relics of a bygone age, but very few have succeeded in capturing the curious inquisitiveness and magical wonderment that actually reading a book, making decisions, turning the pages and allowing your imagination to run wild can provide. Games Workshop co-founder and prolific fantasy gamebook author Ian Livingstone is responsible for some of the finest role-playing titles of the 80s, with his Fighting Fantasy series sitting at the top of the list in terms of critical reception and longevity. Newcomers Branching Narrative recently released their debut game - an adpatation of 1984's Deathtrap Dungeon, the most popular and well-known entry in the Fighting Fantasy series - but can it live up to expectations set by its source material?
Part story, part game, Deathtrap Dungeon: The Interactive Video Adventure stars British actor Eddie Marsan (V For Vendetta, The World's End and Deadpool 2, among other genre favourites) who narrates the story and offers hints to the player. Marsan reads passages from the book with an understated but friendly tone from the safety of an old leather armchair. When the time comes for decisions to be made, it's a simple case of clicking your preferred option on-screen. Combat outcomes are based around your character's health, stamina and luck points, with success or failure determined by in-game dice rolls. Your stats are displayed around the screen so everything's easy to keep track of, and rules of the more intricate battles are thoroughly explained so you never feel lost or overwhelmed.
Everything works well for the most part, and some nice artwork pops up here and there to illustrate your surroundings (usually matching exactly with what your imagination had already put together). We can't help but wonder if adopting a slightly more over the top persona for Marsan's narrator might have upped the ante in the entertainment stakes a little but, other than that, Deathtrap Dungeon: The Interactive Video Adventure is a fine update, and certainly a novel way to experience a true genre classic.