Imagine being lost on a dark, rainy night with no sense of direction. You’re concerned about making an appointment scheduled for the next morning, and judging by the directions that an old man gave you earlier, it would seem you are more lost than ever. You continue to drive on the unfamiliar road until a figure emerges from the darkness into your headlights.
With quick reflexes, you swerve to avoid a collision with the shadow and end up wrecking your vehicle. While uninjured, your car is no longer functional and stuck inside a ditch. Your only salvation is a rickety old mason on a hill five minutes away. Against your better judgment, you make the short trek up the driveway to the estate. Unfortunately for you, all is not well inside the house.
The House of Hell by Steve Jackson is just one of many paperback books that have made the transition to digital game thanks to Tin Man Game’s Gamebook Adventure engine. Like the other releases in the series, you start by building your character and reading a brief introduction of the game mechanics. The character creation process in House of Hell still includes the basic stamina and combat skills from previous releases, but it is also introduces another stat called ‘Fear’. Fear determines how many scares your character can withstand before dying of fright. It’s a unique feature that forces the player to procedure with caution as they investigate the mansion.
The game includes three difficulty settings to help the player survive the horrors inside the House of Hell. Hardcore mode allows you to play the game as Steve Jackson envisioned it. Your Skill is given a -3 modifier for starting the game unarmed and all your stat values are based on the rules from the original paperback. You are given unlimited bookmarks (i.e. save games) to mimic reading a real book. Medium mode is for casual gamers. There is no Skill penalty for starting the game unarmed and your stats are slightly increased for survival. Like Hardcore mode, you are given unlimited bookmarks.
Free Read Mode is a ‘cheat’ that offers the player some perks during the adventure. A back button is included to turn back to previous pages in the story; a Free Choice Button helps in making difficult decisions; and a Heal Me Button restores stamina lost during combat. Basically, House of Hell caters to gamers of all skill levels.
The game spends little time on pampering the player. Once you reach the front door of the manor, you are immediately given choices to ring the door bell, use the door knocker or creep along the back to peer inside windows. Like the book it represents, the choices you make impact the outcome of the story. Knocking on the front door leads you into the house where you are introduced to the lord of the manor, while sneaking around the house and peering inside the windows exposes a segment of the story that isn’t learned until much later. While both scenarios are unique, they both lead to the same junction in the story where you must investigate the house and learn its dark secrets.
The scenarios in House of Hell are full of chance encounters. Every room you investigate can be a possible encounter with a creature or ghost. Depending on the room, you can investigate cabinets, closets and boxes for items that can be used later. Items collected during your adventure are stored in an inventory system that can be accessed via a menu by tapping the iPhone’s screen.
Even though the House of Hell was initially written for young adults, the story is well-written and full of surprises. Alliances are formed with strange characters trapped within the evil halls of the manor; ghosts deliver eerie messages; and a plot to sacrifice your soul during a satanic ritual quickly unfolds. It’s not unicorn and rainbow material that’s for sure.
Like previous Gamebook releases, combat relies on a dice-rolling system that mimics the original paperback. When combat is initiated by clicking on the ‘Fight on’ requester, two pair of dice are rolled to determine the outcome. One pair of dice represents your hero and the second pair represents your enemy. Once the dice are rolled, you can only manipulate the roll once by shaking your iPhone. The dice will flip and a new roll will register. Sometimes manipulating the dice roll is worse than accepting your first roll, so proceed with caution when trying this.
The menu system can be accessed anytime during your adventure by tapping the iPhone’s screen. From this menu, you can view the Adventure Sheet (which contains your hero’s stats and items being carried) and bookmark (i.e. save) your location. In Free Read Mode, you can ‘Go Back’ a page, unlock choices in the book by using ‘Free Choice’ and restore your stamina with ‘Heal Me!’ without the aid of a healing item. The menu system is neatly organized and easy to navigate.
House of Hell is very engaging; it manages to produce a compelling story that transcends the realm of young adult fantasy game books. It’s also a trip down memory lane for gamers who grew up reading the Fighting Fantasy paperback series. Here’s to Tin Man Games for a job well done.
Platform: iPhone 4
Developer: Tin Man Games
Publisher: Tin Man Games
Rated 12+ for the following:
• Frequent/Intense Horror/Fear Themes
• Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes
• Infrequent/Mild Cartoon or Fantasy Violence
• Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity
• Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.
|Beautiful illustrations heighten the experience.|
|The experience is enhanced by a great sound track and unique sound effects.|
|Difficult to master and fun to play.|
|Fans who enjoyed the original book will enjoy this for its nostalgia value, while newcomers will appreciate HoH's uncanny approach to horror.|