Steve Jackson’s Sorcery!: The Complete Collection
Publisher: No Gravity Games
Genre(s): Action, Puzzle, Adventure, RPG
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, iOS and Android)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 23/06/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Book-Based Beasty Bashing
If you are as old as me and let’s be honest, you’re probably not, you would have loved thumbing through choose-your-own-adventure books as a kid. If you are a whippersnapper and have no idea what I am talking about then these were adventure books with choices. At various intervals in the book, you would be given a choice, to attack the snake turn to page 10 or to give it a wide berth, turn to page 20, those kind of free-flowing shenanigans.
I loved these books growing up, they feel like some of the point-and-click adventure video games we play today. This is a canny comparison as I think when the point-and-click adventure games of my youth started to gain popularity, the opposite happened to the choose-your-own-adventure books. They seemed to just die out. In 2013, Inkle Studios turned the four-part book series, Sorcery!, into video games on the PC.
Fast forward ten years and Steve Jackson, founder of Games Workshop and Lionhead Studios, popular fantasy series come video game saga hits the Nintendo Switch. How does it stack up to the books of my youth? How does it translate onto Nintendo’s portable console hybrid? Let’s find out, shall we? Roll for initiative! Grab a sword and let’s explore!
A Quadrilogy of Adventure
As I said, this Nintendo Switch outing has all four games crammed into one bustling adventure. There’s a lot to play, see and do here and the fact it even exists makes me very happy. Yes, it may not be as exciting as your boom-boom FPS or as deep as a sprawling open-world RPG but what you have is something quaint, something you can sink your teeth into slowly and something you can take your time with and get swept up in its text-based, hand-drawn world.
While I will not discuss the story too much, as it is one of the game’s main features and shhh, spoliers! It is certainly something to behold. Your protagonist starts their story in the town of Analand and during this first part of the quadrilogy, you are shown the basic mechanics of the game and if I am being honest, things do start rather slow. You are introduced to the combat mechanics, the weird but wonderful spell system and generally just get your bearings straight. It is in the latter three parts that things start to come alive.
What follows is a twisting narrative that’s full of surprises and intrigue. If you loved this style of book as a kid, you will adore this game. It’s a fantasy romp you control, full of beasties, robbers, fantastical locations and all controllable by the player. There are a few mechanical things implemented brilliantly into this game that really bring home the feeling of flicking through the pages of a choose-your-own-adventure book.
Rewind To Retry
Inkle has included the ability to rewind sections of the game and even if you die, you can choose how far you want to retreat. I think this system is superb, as when I used to read the books I would quite often flick to my required page, die and then go back and pick another option. It’s pleasant that the video game also offers the same flexibility and freedom. You will use this system often and I know, for a fact, it gave me a bit of freedom to choose wilder options and explore more than I would have without it.
From a gameplay perspective, Sorcery! is very basic. Select your next location, read some text and select what you want to do. It’s the atmosphere and the world-building that makes it all-encompassing. The spell system allows you to cast certain game-changing spells that, more often than not, got me out of a quandary. The combat system is a merry dance of attack vs defence and choosing when to spend your precious stamina to bonk a goblin on the head or defend to minimize damage. There’s also an ongoing stamina meter throughout the game which constantly has you with one eye on your rations and one eye on where you’re going, which is never overbearing but does require managing wisely. It’s just enough to always be on the tip of your consciousness.
Classic Sights and Sounds
Graphically, I think a lot of players will look at Sorcery! and immediately move on. It has a story-book-like presentation which fits the subject matter and original format beautifully. I just think some people, without realising will overlook it due to its basic presentation. I, however, adore and admire how it looks, it’s a hand-drawn trip down memory lane; it’s warm, fitting and unique. It definitely stands out, even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea graphically.
Soundwise, I think the minimalist approach, in this circumstance, really shines. The clashing of swords in battle, the smattering of basic sound effects and music that accentuate the game’s high-tension moments are a perfect fit. It’s a perfect hark back to the game’s minimalistic, classic roots. These are books you are playing and I think the devs took the correct route by choosing a more raw approach in both the audio and visual departments.
I have to point out that I did have a few frustrating performance issues. I had two crashes and a few weird occurrences but on the whole, the game performed well and the few minute issues I faced did not detract from the overall experience. Especially when saving is so frequently generous and the fact you can rewind time at your leisure.
Easily Recommended to Most
Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! is a great collection of choices and adventure. While some may find it boring and monotonous, probably the same people who probably don’t like books, I found it quaint, unique and it reminded me of simpler times. Your choices are vast, your options are numerous and the freedom of being able to rewind bad decisions is a nice touch. If you are a fan of the choose-your-own-adventure style of books or just want to play something a bit more measured, then I cannot recommend this title enough. Overall, I loved it.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
If you want to purchase Steve Jackson’s Sorcery!: The Complete Collection from the Nintendo eShop, you can here.
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