Sorcery! 4 for iOS is the 4th and final installment of Inkleís hugely popular gamebook adaptations of the same name. If youíre not familiar with a gamebook, itís an old school, low-tech way to ďplayĒ an adventure game. Typically, these begin feeling like a traditional novel, however, as you make your way through the story you will repeatedly find the gamebook asking you to make some sort of decision or take some sort of action. Your choices will propel the story forward by directing you to the appropriate page number where you continue reading. If this sounds like a gimmick, trust me; itís not. While I have never read a physical gamebook, I have played Inkleís first three installments of the Sorcery! Series, and found them to be so unique as to defy traditional App Store categories.
If youíre beginning this final installment with an imported character from the previous games, you will be able to dive right in without missing a beat as everything will be familiar (except for the story, of course). If youíve never played the previous games in the series, fear not. Sorcery! 4 is a complete adventure, and requires absolutely no knowledge of previous games. For those veteran gamers coming in with imported characters, youíll be interested to know that this fourth and final installment will feel much more like the first two games rather than the third, which I felt was a bit less accessible due to itís open-endedness. Sorcery! 4 is a much more focused affair, although there are plenty of meaningful choices to make; enough to entice players back for additional playthroughs to be sure theyíve discovered everything there is to find.
As with previous games in the series, the graphics are a standout surprise, especially considering that these games are supposed to rely primarily on the playersí imaginations to give them life. The map has a distinctly hand-painted look, yet pops in three dimensions. The best way I can describe it is to imagine the map painted onto a rubber skin that is stretched tight, then extruded into three dimensions from underneath. Additionally, all character interactions look like animated paper cutouts. It all comes together to subtly and continually remind the player that this is, in fact, a gamebook come to life.
As previously mentioned, these games defy categorization in that they feel like interactive novels due to the well-written and descriptive text, adventure games because paying attention to small details in said text can make a big difference in how successful you are as you explore the map, and RPGs because you will be learning spells/counter-spells, managing hit points, and acquiring inventory items. All of these come together like alchemy, creating something entirely new and wonderfully intriguing. Lastly, while death will come swift and often, there is absolutely no penalty to rewind your adventure to whatever point you like as you play, giving you ample opportunities to experiment and explore. This simple mechanic makes the game brutally challenging or comfortable and relaxing; as well as everything in between.
If youíve already discovered how perfect gamebooks work on mobile, then what are you waiting for? Sorcery! 4 is a must-have for any fan of the genre, and I strongly recommend it to anybody who enjoys fantasy novels, adventure games, and/or RPGs. This is not only the culmination of the Sorcery! Series, but is also the pinnacle of Inkleís game-making skills. The only reason I canít say definitively that Sorcery! 4 is the best of the series is because the previous 3 were so darn good, as well.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - A stunning amount of eye candy for a gamebook. Sound: - 5 - Sound effects are minimal, but the music is top-notch. Controls: - 5 - Itís so well-designed, you wonít even need a tutorial. Gameplay: - 5 - You can tell the folks at Inkle love their work. A real treat.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Rewind the game after your first combat so you can learn the nuances of battle. This isnít about dice rolls; itís about reading the descriptive text for ďtellsĒ that will reveal what each opponent is about to do. Remember: you are about to face an archmage so ignore counterspells at your peril!