The Game: Fighting Fantasy: House of Hell
The Device: iPhone 5
The Price: $5.99 for iOS, Android and Nook
The Basics: Since acquiring the Fighting Fantasy license, Tin Man Games has made it their mission to bring back some of the classic 1980s gamebooks in digital form, but their first entry was actually brand new. Blood of the Zombies (review) was nevertheless an excellent title, written by original series co-creator Ian Livingstone and featuring a great story that saw you fighting through hundreds of zombies while trying to escape a madman. They now follow it up with a classic gamebook with a similar theme, House of Hell, written by the Fighting Fantasy co-creator of Fighting Fantasy Steve Jackson.
House of Hell begins as you’re driving on a rainy night and run into a figure on a dark road, swerving the car madly and smashing into a ditch. You emerge unscathed but can’t find the person you apparently ran over. Your car is completely broken down and you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, debating whether to walk the 20 miles back to town, when a light goes on in a nearby mansion. Of course, this is the titular house and things aren’t going to go well for you, but how well they go is entirely up to you. Even in approaching the house you can choose to ring the bell, knock on the door, or sneak around to get a better look in the window with the light.
A choose your own adventure-type game with roleplaying stats, dice rolling for combat, and plenty of grisly deaths awaiting you behind every door, these gamebooks are universally entertaining and House of Hell is no exception.
The Review: Very similar to their last apps, House of Hell does offer up some different gameplay. For combat you roll both sides of the battle simultaneously and compare the numbers- whoever gets the higher one hits. The FEAR system gives you a reason to perhaps not try to look behind every door and curtain on your way, and gives you pause before entering potentially scary situations. You start with a certain amount of Fear points and lose them whenever you are startled. If you lose too many Fear Points your game is pretty much over, because anything that you come across will literally scare you to death- and there’s plenty to terrify you at the end of this game.
Of course, the story itself isn’t too scary and feels almost campy today (the book originally came out in 1984!), but it deals with plenty of familiar horror foes, everything from zombies and vampires to cults. There’s a nice melange of tropes here that will please genre fans, although it’s perhaps a little too similar to Blood of the Zombies so soon. There were plenty of other themes for Fighting Fantasy so releasing a followup that sees you fighting through an abandoned house full of the undead likely wasn’t the best timing.
Another thing that can irk you about the story is that it’s entirely possible to get stuck in a section of the game with no way out. There’s a few moments where if you don’t have the right item you’re simply out of luck to proceed, and there’s even a few times where a round of combat leaves you dead even if you win. Keep placing those bookmarks!
Regardless, there’s a reason why this is considered a classic book and it still holds up wonderfully. The story is clever and the mansion offers a lot of different ways to tackle it, with plenty of secret areas and achievements to find along the way. The interface is the same great one that Tin Man has been using for all of their previous Gamebook titles and allows you to easily play it as you like and add bookmarks before any big decisions. You can play through the game as the creator intended in a Hardcore mode or even with a Free Read Mode that gives you a back button, heal me button and free choice button that allows you to unlock and links even if they’re not available to you (ie- if you don’t have the right items.) A nice little history of both the book and the Fighting Fantasy franchise in the Extras gives you insight into the world and just makes you even more amped for the next releases. Tin Man Games has an absolute ton of new games on the way this year, including six (!) new Fighting Fantasy titles and a followup to Judge Dredd. If they keep making them, we’ll keep playing them.
The Final Grade: A-
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