Author: Steve Jackson/ Publisher: Tin Man Games / Format: Android-iOS / Price: £3.99 / Release Date: Out Now
Back in the Eighties, Fighting Fantasy game books were the distraction of choice for the young geek. It was a book that also happened to be a game, and you could dip into a world of fantasy in which you were the hero for a short while. Most of these books were set in fantasy worlds, and tended to be tough but entirely possible. House of Hell stood out amongst the crowd, however. For a start, you weren’t a Conan style superhero swinging a sword and battling orcs, you were just a normal person, and it was set in the modern day. House of Hell is a game inspired by the worlds of Hammer Horror and similar genre classics. It is remembered fondly by the fans, and has returned to haunt the lives of a new generation, this time as a phone app for both Android and iOS formats.
This means that instead of being a book that directs you to turn to certain pages depending on your choices, you simply tap the screen once you’ve decided what you want to do. The app follows the original experience as closely as possible. You can even set the game to make the text look like a yellowing paperback if you want. Challenges are dealt with the same way; by rolling dice. This is handled electronically but a nifty little animation of rolling dice appears every time the text directs you to do so. (You can turn this animation off if you wish, but you may not want to; you can actually interrupt the roll and fudge the dice, the way you would if you were rolling real dice and trying to cheat.)
Set in the modern day, the game begins with your car breaking down and a spooky house in the distance. It is raining of course, and you run to the house, hoping to find a phone and perhaps assistance. Of course, as the tale progresses, you discover that there is something terribly wrong in the house and its people are warped and strange. It swiftly becomes apparent that something horrible is happening, and this is relayed via artwork taken from the original book, colourised for modern audiences. Be warned - House of Hell is notoriously difficult. In addition to tricky combat encounters, characters who lie to you at every turn and logic traps that lead to your doom, the game does a great job of surprising you as you progress. Old hands may well remember some of the twists, but they are so many it’s quite a difficult task. Tin Man’s game engine does help here; you can set the difficulty by playing the game straight (hard mode), playing it with the best possible stats (normal mode) or by skipping pages, healing your character up whenever you fancy and going to pages you haven’t earned the right to get to (easy mode). It’s still very tricky on Easy mode, which means you won’t finish this game before you get your money’s worth.
This is a faithful port to an electronic format, and it is also packed with features. In addition to colourised pictures, it has an achievements page, it tracks your statistics for you and has an interview with the author as well as a feature about the history of Fighting Fantasy. Old fans will love the nostalgia, and those who have never played this sort of thing before are in for a treat.