I haven't written much about the Fighting Fantasy video games. I'd never really intended to cover them, as the main target of this blog has always been the books, in their most non-digital format. In fact, I've not written much of ANYTHING in the last month on here, almost entirely due to having found myself in one of those terribly unexpected 'relationship' type of things. So please accept my most sincere and utter apology, and accept this post as a peace offering. Please forgive me. Don't hit me. Please.
You would immediately think that a series like the Fighting Fantasy books would have generated quite a huge back catelogue of video games. But I suppose that the books really shone through best in their native format, as the ones that did develop never really saw anything near the same level of sucess. Let's start these out chronologically, shall we?
The first ones were a line of games on the home computers of the time, namely the Commodore 64, Amstrad, BBC, and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. As a kid I did have a Spectrum, but never had the patience to load any of the games. In fact, the most enjoyment I got from the games was to play the cassettes inside my Teddy Ruxbin, and watch the toy frantically spew out the mechanical screeching like it was possessed by a demon or something.
Next up was perhaps the biggest one for the time, Eidos' Deathtrap Dungeon. I managed to grab a copy of this on the Playstation, and found it wildly anticlimactic for reasons I'll explain soon. But for the era, this was a huge moment, as it was a 3D dungeon crawler in the same vein of the Tomb Raider games, which Eidos had innovated recently. I remember waiting very eagerly for this game for several years.
The game gives you two possible playing characters, the hulking and very manly Chain-dog, and the leather-clad and nubile Red Lotus. The adventure is simple enough, as you treck through level after level of the titular Deathtrap Dungeon, killing monsters in order to find keys to unlock doors or pulling levers in order to also open doors. Doors are important to this game.
The action in the game is nice enough, enemies tend to fly apart with a satisfying squealch when you whap them with a sword. But before long, your character soon starts to acquire ranged weapons like fireballs and (if I remember right, might be getting confused here) a blunderbuss, which feels nowhere near as intuitive as the old hand-to-hand combat.
The graphics were good for the time, but certainly haven't aged well although I won't hold that against it. What I will hold against the game, though, is that the controls feel utterly clunky. Your characters move like trucks, even the semi-naked Red Lotus who has hips the width of her shoulders and breasts that could choke a small child. When the characters move backwards, they have an awkward manner of gradually sliding back in an odd shuffle, peering over their shoulder as they go.
One thing I'll say about the Tomb Raider games, also by Eidos, was that the controls were smooth and easy. Not in this case. Your range of enemies also feels very limited, and it isn't until the last few enemies that you start to see a nice variety of boss monsters. If these bosses, including the same multi-eyed beast from the cover of the book, had only been paced out through the game in a more smooth way rather than attempting to create a gauntlet at the climax of the game, it would have been all so much less dull to trudge through the army of generic minions.
Aside from those downsides, it's still an entertaining enough game and makes a decent distraction for a few hours. Ultimately though, I'd hoped for a bit more.
So let's move on to things that have been a bit more sucessful. Tim Man Games have in recent years and months been releasing their own version of a few of the books, on the lovely and respectable Android tablet (of which I own) and on some other kind of format for a thing called an eye-pad or other (which I don't own), although I'm sure that nobody will remember what an eye-pad is, I doubt they sell well and are doubtless a lesser quality product than the fantastic Android tablets (*wink wink*).
Okay, I'll be serious. The iOS system has had a bucket-load of Fighting Fantasy games released on it. Tin Man Games are the chaps who have released on Android too, and they've thus far done House of Hell, Forest of Doom, and last year's Fighting Fantasy book Blood of the Zombies. Each of these are straight-up translations from the books, playing almost exactly like the classic novels, so are doubtless the most faithful of all the video games around. And like I said, they're on iOS and Android, so your preference of tablets is catered for (developers, please take note!) whichever way you like.
American fans are able to get a copy of several Fighting Fantasy books on their Kindles too, but by this point we're steering further away from the definition of video games and into digital e-editions, so I'm going to call this a day here. If anyone out there has any comments or thoughts on the Spectrum era of Fighting Fantasy games, please let me know and I'll include it all here. Out of the whole lot, I'd recommend going for Tin Man Games' versions, as they're just outright the best quality available.
In many ways I think that the FF series kinda missed the ball in terms of video games. But to be fair, I think the Warhammer chaps missed the ball in terms of video games too, so maybe it's just my perception on it. Either way, the Fighting Fantasy games make an interesting footnote in the catelogue. This weekend, I should have the time to bring you a whole new playthrough, so stay tuned for that. Until then, take care all.