GAME REVIEW: Caverns of the Snow Witch

It is to my shame that I only discovered Tin Man Games’ gamebook apps in the last couple of months. I knew they existed and had heard good things about them from others but never ventured into the waters and picked any up myself. On a nostalgic impulse, I bought all of the Fighting Fantasy (a series of printed game-books I have fond memories of from the nineteen-eighties and nineteen-nineties) adaptations so far released by the company and produced in their Gamebook Engine. I was not disappointed. It was thus a great pleasure when their next release was revealed to be Caverns of the Snow Witch – a gamebook I have very fond memories of. Find out if the electronic version stands up today.

Travel to Northern Allansia’s perilous Icefinger Mountains to defeat the wicked Snow Witch in this Fighting Fantasy adventure!

Deep within the Crystal Caves of Icefinger Mountains, the dreaded Snow Witch is plotting to bring on a new ice age. A brave trapper dies in your arms and lays the burden of his mission on your shoulders. But time is running out – will YOU take up the challenge?

An original fantasy adventure in which YOU are the hero! From Ian Livingstone and Tin Man Games.

Let’s start with Tin Man’s gamebook engine and its implementation of the Fighting Fantasy system as created in 1982. I think one of the cleverest achievements Tin Man accomplished was creating a versatile engine which allows a number of different rule-sets to function. They publish adventures from multiple systems and the original game-book system’s rules transfer well into the engine. The reader / player is free to customise the mechanics to some degree as well. This boils down to two features: how dice-rolling works and the method by which the player progresses.

Caverns of the Snow Witch - CombatReally there are three methods of simulating dice-rolls in the application. The default is to touch the screen and the dice will roll across the screen with realistic seeming physics and (if the volume is up) a satisfying accompanying sound effect. Readers can change this so that a physical shake of the device will initiate the roll or, for those wanting to get through with minimal interference – instant rolls can be chosen.

The player can also pick one of three modes of play: Hardcore , which doesn’t allow backtracking; Adventure – which is how most people played the physical books. No cheating on dice rolls, but bookmarks can be set up to allow a degree of backtracking. The final mode is what I call “cheat mode” this allows the player to progress at will, even if they are missing items or clues that would allow their progress normally.

The gamebook engine automatically keeps track of the player’s health, equipment and other statistics and builds a map of the route taken through the adventure. These features speed up the gameplay as the player doesn’t need to constantly look away to chart progress or add new items to their inventory. The system will enable or disable the options available to the player as appropriate, considering the equipment they have found or their current statistics. As mentioned, the free-read (cheat) mode allows the player to bypass these locks.

I really love the presentation of these Apps. Tin Man show a love for the gamebook genre and for the Fighting Fantasy series by paying attention to details. Each book contains some real world background information (in Caverns of the Snow Witch, this is a brief history of the gamebook series) which is always interesting. An introductory video begins the adventure when the app is loaded, lending an almost filmic quality to proceedings.

Caverns of the Snow Witch - Old Art

Caverns of the Snow Witch – Retro Style

The artwork is lovely. Tin Man have not only included the original illustrations from the 1984 book version (turn the retro look on in the options when playing to mimic an aging paper presentation) but have also commissioned new colour art for this version. The fonts used (again, selectable in the options) are all clear and allow the player to find a font that suits them. I have vivid memories of the cover art from this book – a fiersome orc seemingly being choked from afar by the Snow Witch visible in a crystal ball and I am pleased that Tin Man kept this image in their version.

What of the adventure itself? Is it any good?

Well, yes. Honestly, it is. This adventure began a love I still hold to this day of adventures set in mountainous, icy regions. I love forests but adventures like this and my days of being a Scout in North Wales have given me an appreciation for snow-capped mountains as well. The adventure is essentially a three-act affair. In the first act, the player is out on the snowy-mountains, hunting down a Yeti that has been on a rampage. The adventure moves into an icy dungeon – the eponymous Caverns of the Snow Witch before turning (after it seems victory has been achieved) into a race-against-time style treasure hunt for personal reasons.

Ian Livingstone writes in a fluid style that flows naturally. There is just enough detail to keep the visuals vivid (along with the illustrations themselves which undoubtedly help in this) but without going into a depth that slows the adventure down for the player. Caverns of the Snow Witch is missing some of the complexities that Livingstone’s later adventures offered but, in my opinion, this can be a good thing every now and then. Sometimes one wants to test one’s puzzle solving abilities and sometimes one wants to march through an adventure and beat up the bad guys! OK, so this makes it a little simpler than other titles in the series but you still need an element of luck to get through – especially on your first try!

Should you pick this up? If you are a fan of sword and sorcery, fantasy video games and novels or have fond memories of this eighties invention that was the gamebook then, yes. The app is priced at £3.99 which is cheaper than a paperback novel and offers just as much enjoyment – if not more due to the interactive nature of the format. How many series these days allow YOU to become the hero? Tin Man’s software is bug-free and the attention they have spent on the adaptation shines through. I can’t really fault this release.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

GS Blogger: WedgeDoc

  • Platforms: iOS, Android
  • Developer: Tin Man Games
  • Publisher: Tin Man Games
  • Platform Reviewed: Android

To get hold of this and other Tin Man gamebooks, head over to their dedicated web sites: fightingfantasyapps.com and gamebookadventures.com

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