The Game: Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106
The Device: iPhone 4 (Note: The screenshots are taken from the iPad version.)
The Price: $4.99 universal iOS app
The Basics: Developer Tin Man Games has been busy crafting their own massive fantasy world over seven Gamebooks Adventures and counting, but they’re now working on licensed properties. Undoubtedly the biggest is 2000AD’s Judge Dredd, a familiar face (lower jaw?) to comic and film fans. Based on the long-running series (it debuted in 1977!), Judge Dredd is set in a overpopulated future where most of the planet is a wasteland and survivors live in mega-cities that are overrun with crime. The solution to the rampant drugs and violence? Judges. These guys act as police, judge, jury and executioner all in one package, and Dredd is perhaps the most famous (and feared) of them all.
Since this is a Gamebook Adventure, a roleplaying Choose Your Own Adventure-type story, you’re given tons of choices to make and possible outcomes for your character. Judge Dredd is perhaps the perfect protagonist for a game like this since it allows you to investigate crimes and try to determine what’s going on, meting out punishment as you see fit. In-game dice are rolled for the combat and skill checks that will frequently test you, and although there’s a lot of little cases along the way there’s an overarching mystery for you to solve.
The Review: Much like with An Assassin at Orlandes, you read the story and make decisions on what Dredd should do every few pages. Rather than start with a blank character like in the other Gamebook Adventures, here you’ll get a seasoned pro and can choose what specialties he can excel in via some training at the start. These will influence Dredd’s many different stats which can be improved over the course of the game- for firing his gun, driving his cycle, or even for his commanding presence. If the latter is too low, for example, you’ll find it hard to get people to do what you want by telling them and should resort to violence instead. (Judges don’t run.) By choosing what Dredd is good at you can subtly change the way you play the entire game.
As usual for these gamebooks combat is handled by dice, with the victor generally being the one who rolls higher, although it’s a little more involved than that. You can reroll your dice if you see a bad outcome on the way by simply shaking your phone, although you’re stuck with the second result. There’s a little bit of strategy to it but it’s simple and makes the game a lot more involving.
There’s not too much in the way of replay value here, though. Tin Man Games’ other titles generally have quite a bit of replay value because there are many possible paths to take. There still are with Judge Dredd, but once you know what a particular crime is all about there’s only one real way through it. Half the fun is coming up on crimes in progress and trying to figure out just what’s going on, hoping you’re finding all the clues and getting the right person, and once that’s done you’ll never try another option. Over the course of the game you can earn in-game achievements and there’s also Perp Record Sheets you collect every time you arrest or kill a notable criminal. There’s some amusing background info there.
The gamebook has a bit of a time limit too, since there’s a big event that will end your journey prematurely if you don’t hurry through certain sections. Fortunately you have a limited number of bookmarks (more for easier difficulty levels) that can be placed to save your progress. But these are small gripes that don’t detract from how exciting it is to play through the game the first time.
Satire runs hand in hand with absurdity here and Nick Robinson’s strong writing shows his complete familiarity with the source material. The captivating and sometimes quite funny story is aided by German Ponce’s illustrations, which fit the theme perfectly. People familiar only with the Stallone film might be surprised to see how much fantasy and cyberpunk is crammed into this universe, as you’ll face everything from pet dinosaurs to old people mysteriously falling down and injuring themselves to a gang trying to steal a truck full of sex robots.
It all adds up to a tremendously fun app and perhaps the best showcase for the Gamebook Adventures series yet, as well as a setting we can only hope they revisit sometime soon.
The Final Grade: A-