Inkle's Sorcery! 2 for iPhone and iPad (US$4.99, universal) is a fantastic take on Steve Jackson's (not that Steve Jackson) adventure gamebook series of the same name. Despite a cumbersome, yet necessary spell-casting mechanic, Sorcery! 2 retains the fun of an old-school adventure book and feels at home on a modern device. Here's my look at the charming Sorcery! 2.
Jackson's Sorcery! series was a collection Fighting Fantasy adventure books, published between 1983 and 1985. Four titles were published: The Shamutanti Hills, Kharé: Cityport of Traps, The Seven Serpents and, finally, The Crown of Kings. Sorcery! 2 tells the story of Kharé: Cityport of Traps. Before you ask, there is a Sorcery! app, based on The Shamutanti Hills, and future releases will feature The Seven Serpents and The Crown of Kings.
You play as a young adventurer in the port city of Kharé, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Traps, n'er-do-wells and deception abound, so stay sharp. You've got to find an ancient gate, and your actions affect the story, much like Edward Packard's Choose Your Own Adventure books.
As you approach the city gate, you meet an elderly and mildly threatening guard. Right away, you have options: talk to him, fight or cast a spell. A scroll of text appears, describing the scene and your options. Background noise emphasizes the atmosphere and adds to the fun. At the end of the scroll are your options. Tap your choice and see what happens. Note that this will affect the overall story significantly. The guard is old, so be nice (you just might see him again).
This game is beautiful. The art feels like prints made from woodcuts. There's a fantastic 3D effect as you move about the city, and your hero looks like a miniature you might use for a tabletop role-playing game. The developers have done a fine job of preserving the spirit of the books, the feel of a board game and an immersive atmosphere. This is very apparent in combat.
When you fight a bad guy, you enter combat mode. You and your foe stand toe to toe. A slider lets you choose the type of attack you're after, as well as how much force you'd like to put behind it. The turn-based action is accompanied by dramatic music and fun animation. You can opt for diplomatic solutions, of course, but they don't always work.
And then there are spells...
Spells played prominently in Jackson's books. They're a bit chaotic in nature, and that's by design. Each spell is cast by using a three-letter magic word. The words are constructed one letter at a time. It gets interesting because you don't always know what any combination of letters will produce. It might be a fireball. It might be increased stamina or a thick fog. Not knowing is part of the fun.
Except when it's not. I was rather frustrated when I needed an offensive attack spell and got something altogether useless for the situation. Perhaps I'm just a party pooper, or maybe I'm too used to D&D 4th edition. However, you can browse the spell book and memorize the incantations if you like.
When you opt to cast a spell, the scene drops away and you're presented with a spinning globe of letters. Tap one to begin your magic word, another to continue and a third to finish it off. Then the spell is cast.
You can "rewind" if you make a mistake or die, or even play again. With so many options, I imagine I'll play Sorcery! 2 several times.
It's really a lot of fun and will appeal to those who like adventure stories and games alike. Pick it up.