I had no idea Steve Jackson was such a cruel, cruel man. If I didn’t know better (and hadn’t seen the achievement that says it IS possible), I’d believe there IS no good ending to Fighting Fantasy: House of Hell, the latest offering from our good friends at Tin Man Games. I can’t count the number of times I’ve either been killed outright or frightened to death during my time exploring the eponymous house, and I’ve never had more fun being scared!
Fighting Fantasy: House of Hell makes the transition to the gamebook engine flawlessly. The controls are very responsive (I really got a kick out of shaking the tablet to roll the dice), the music is suitably chilling and is reminiscent of the Halloween theme. While the new art is sharp, colorful, and detailed, I applaud the choice of allowing players to see the original works, which are equally impressive. The story is extremely well written, naturally, and seems to have aged gracefully. Sometimes older fiction just reads outdated or stunted (go back and read the old Han Solo novels for an idea of what I mean), but FF:HoH gets in plenty of legitimate frights along with a fairly gripping narrative.
A simple, yet elegant interface makes playing FF:HoH a joy. A simple screen tap allows you immediate access to your character sheet, which is automatically updated to reflect status changes, equipment found, and most importantly, how many Fear Points you’ve accrued so far. The Fear mechanic is unique, and makes you consider your choices far more carefully during your exploration of the house. If you collect more than your allotted Fear Points (based on a die roll at the beginning of the game), your character literally dies of fright. Fear Points can be VERY easy to pick up, and difficult to get rid of. Combat is another simple yet effective affair, and never feels tedious. The pacing of battles is quick, making them a fun part of the quest rather than a chore.
As I mentioned in the opening sentence, FF:HoH can be PUNISHINGLY difficult on the hardcore setting. Fear Points are easy to acquire, your character suffers a penalty at the beginning of the game for being unarmed, and you have significantly less stamina. Fortunately, the game seems to make up for this by being more generous with dice rolls for luck and for combat. I’m sure it’s random, but I’m certainly not complaining! Tin Man Games wisely included two easier modes for gamers looking to experience the story without all of the hardship. Despite multiple playthroughs, I’ve yet to experience the best ending, though that may be because I was not wise enough to make proper use of the unlimited bookmarks the game offers, even in the hardcore mode. If I can offer advice to new adventurers, it would be a) USE the bookmarks- they’ll save you from a lot of backtracking, especially when you’re killed (and you will be), and b) be extremely careful picking up and drinking random liquids in a monster-filled house!
For $5.99 on the iOS App Store, Google Play, Amazon Appstore, and Nook Mobile Apps, Fighting Fantasy: House of Hell offers a great value. There’s plenty of replayability here, along with numerous achievements and rewards to unlock. Upon seeing his work transformed into tablet form, Steve Jackson said:
It’s been 30 years since the original Fighting Fantasy series was published, way back in the predigital era. Ian Livingstone and I have always wanted the series to keep up with the times, and
this treatment of House of Hell is exactly what we were hoping for. Neil and Ben at Tin Man
have excelled themselves with this iOS/Android version. They have reached a new standard of
digital gamebooks design excellence, and I congratulate them on this achievement.”
I can think of no better way to describe it. Highly recommended!