Sorcery! (Android) Review

By Kyle Henderson 07.06.2014 3

Review for Sorcery! on Android

Sorcery! is an adaptation of one of Steve Jackson's (of Fighting Fantasy fame) earliest gamebooks. More specifically, this is the first book in his Sorcery! series, originally called The Shamutanti Hills on release in 1983. The prose is copied wholesale while things like combat and inventory management are more fleshed out. It's pretty much the same experience though, made more accessible for the modern smartphone gamer.

There's a lot to say for simplicity in smartphone games and Sorcery! is about as simple as it gets. As an adventure gamebook brought to digital life, there's nothing to do in Sorcery! but quest. Players are tasked with reading chunks of story, making decisions, fighting the occasional beast or would-be assassin and keeping an eye on an inventory. It feels streamlined; there's nothing here that doesn't need to be and what's there is designed to be taut and satisfying.

The story is suitably concise. Taking place in a typical fantasy world of goblins and orcs, forests and walled cities, the tale concerns a magical artefact known as the Crown of Kings. Said artefact alternates between the kings of the land, each one ruling for five years in turn, only when the magical headpiece is in their possession. Unfortunately, there's no monarch as the story begins because an evil Archmage has stolen the Crown for whatever nefarious reasons a naughty sorcerer would, and so the hero sets forth to reclaim the Crown of Kings and restore order to the land.

Screenshot for Sorcery! on Android

As silly as it all sounds, it is good fun and the overall plot mostly takes a backseat to the smaller stories along the way. Waiting to be encountered are multiple towns populated by quite different people, many of them rather shifty. Each village offers something to get involved with, be it news of the surrounding area or a side-quest for the gallant adventurer to complete. All of this is totally optional and almost every village offers an option to completely avoid it, but players are strongly advised against doing so as some of the best content is to be found here.

Forks in the road are another very common occurrence. The prose provides the player with a few lines of information (usually minimal) on each potential path and, once the decision is made, should the protagonist be met with death or some other grim fate, there is the option to rewind and see what the other path held. Rewinding fits in very naturally; it feels like just flicking back a few pages to see what would have happened in a gamebook, something everybody does, whether admittedly or not. The forks do come to feel like a convenient means to provide player agency without having to create tricky dilemmas though, as far too often a split path will simply rejoin ten minutes later to ensure that an important village or event isn't missed. It probably played a bit more smoothly in the original gamebook, without the player constantly being shown a map that clearly shows how futile many of the forks end up being. Ultimately, it's not a big deal but it can break the immersion a tad.

Screenshot for Sorcery! on Android

While a lot of effort has clearly been taken to give players the real feel of reading an adventure gamebook, the new additions are equally well-crafted. One of the first things that catch the eye is the beautiful map that forms the backdrop for the journey. Intuitive touch controls allow curious types to zoom in and out and move the focal point to anywhere in the Shamutanti Hills. Examining all the contours and little details is honestly one of the most enjoyable things in the game.

Aside from the map of terra firma, a more magic-focused character will spend time gazing at a star map full of letters. These letters form the short magic spells such as ZAP, DUM and HOT, which are cast by plucking numerals from the sky. A surprisingly extensive spellbook details each possible incantation, although many are only available in specific situations or when in possession of a particular magical item. It's a very cool way to involve magic and, given that the spells actually need to be memorised, the spellbook can't just be pulled out in the midst of a fight. It does a good job of making players feel like a bona fide magician.

Screenshot for Sorcery! on Android

The other main mechanic that's been given a good sprucing up for iOS and Android is the combat. Upon entering a fight, the hero and the enemy are presented at the bottom of the screen, facing each other, in paper cut-out forms. To attack, the player drags their avatar towards the enemy. The further across it's dragged, the more attack power is used. A higher attack power means more chance of damaging the enemy - they are playing the same game and if their attack power for that particular blow is lower, they will take damage. With the attack power decreasing every time an attack is launched and refilling whenever the player chooses to defend, the fights quickly become very tactical affairs. The writing provides a guide to the action, detailing how injured the enemy is and hinting at how powerful their next attack will be. It's an inspired way to deal with combat in a game like this and, most importantly of all, like everything in this game, it is excellent fun.

Screenshot for Sorcery! on Android

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

There's nothing in Sorcery! that doesn't add to the experience in some way and any small flaws are easily excusable, often as an unavoidable symptom of the genre. Very few smartphone games offer story and player choice on this kind of level - if at all - and it's great to see the gamebook enjoy a mini-revival on the perfect platform for them. Anyone who has even a passing interest in fantasy, RPGs or just story-driven games, would be doing themselves an injustice by not picking this up.

Developer

inkle

Publisher

inkle

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

1.) Massive Fighting Fantasy fan as a child. I had every single one - all 50+ (58, 59??)
2.) What I played of this on my iPhone was great fun, and really worked well to bring a fun idea and story to a wider audience.

I've just been looking at Wikipedia and found out there was also an Advanced Fighting Fantasy range, plus the original Fighting Fantasy books were resurrected, with new ones written!! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]
Darkflame (guest) 08.06.2014#2

I had a few when young too - including a Two Player book/s Smilie (never had someone else to play it with though)

Oh! I didn't know there was a two-player version!! See? I'm learning more and more about the series!

Darkflame, do you think this is the sort of thing you'd buy on smartphone? Kyle will have a review of Sorcery! 2 as well in the next few days.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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