Cursed from the beginning
To celebrate its fifth anniversary, Tin Man Games recently released Curse of the Assassin, the sequel to its first gamebook, An Assassin in Orlandes. Tin Man Games is well-known for its creative, interactive gamebooks, including the Strange Loves series and Judge Dredd. Unfortunately, Curse of the Assassin became a tedious gamebook adventure instead of an exciting, engaging choose your own adventure for the iPad.
Curse of the Assassin spends the first ten or so pages giving you an extremely detailed account of what’s happened since the events of the story. While it’s important for the story to establish its setting and recount some of its previous events, the narrative drags on, and you’re left wondering when your adventure will actually begin. It would have been an interesting change of pace to give the reader an option to choose certain details during the introduction of the story that could possibly affect later events – which is fairly common for gamebooks – to allow the reader to decide how their adventure plays out. In this particular story, all you can do in the beginning is name your character.
Curse of the Assassin can be played in three levels of difficulty: casual, adventurer or classic. Classic is considered the purist mode and provides you with very limited bookmarks to save your progress in case you make a mistake. Adventurer and casual give you unlimited bookmarks, but casual provides you with many healing potions to keep you alive in the event you have a series of unlucky dice rolls. It’s nice to see these options for varying levels of difficulty.
Like many other dice-based gamebooks, there are initial fitness (agility) and vitality (health) rolls to determine your stats. Battles are fought via dice rolls that you make for your character and your enemy. You can collect items throughout the game, and some of these may add points to your base offense or defense stats. Choosing to sleep or eat can restore a minimal amount of vitality.
However, vitality isn’t just lost with unlucky dice rolls during a battle scenario. It can also easily be lost by making an unsuspecting wrong turn. Tripping on some stairs may lead you to lose more vitality points than what you recovered from a nap you had a few pages before. There are ways to make a gamebook challenging by punishing the reader for making bad decisions, but to lose chunks of health for deciding to take the stairs instead of a narrow walkway, or choosing to wade across an underground stream instead of swimming is frustrating.
Once your adventure takes off, the options to explore and survive in your quest are unfortunately mundane. You’re oftentimes choosing among left, right or straight paths while in a tunnel or dungeon, or choosing to go through a door or bypass the door by using a narrow walkway. Having to repeatedly make these similar decisions is overly simplistic and ultimately, boring. There are also a few missed opportunities for battle; some of the fight scenes are merely witnessed or taken care of by a partner you’ve picked up along the way. Other times, one unfortunate and seemingly insignificant dice roll could lead instantly to your death.
Tin Man Games’ Gamebook Adventures 8: Curse of the Assassin starts off a bit slow and never truly picks up as you progress. Unlike its predecessor, Curse of the Assassin’s story trudges on, as too much of it is spent navigating through too many similar scenarios. The numerous ways you can instantly die are also annoying, and looking for every opportunity to hold onto your precious vitality without chugging health potions and sleeping became repetitive and laborious.
Review copy supplied
Tested on iOS