If Temple of the Spider God doesnâ€™t get your book-allergic teen reading, then Iâ€™m struggling to see what will. That said, if an interactive story of evil mind-controlling spiders taking over the world misses the mark, Iâ€™ll struggle on and find something else, rest assured.
In the meantime, Tin Man seems to have leveled up since Revenant Rising, roping in Fighting Fantasy Game Book writer, Johnathan Green, and illustrator Joshua Wright to produce a much sexier piece of interactive storytelling. Donâ€™t get me wrong, I still stand by Revenant Rising as a fun foray into the digital game book but guys, in Temple of the Spider God, you had me at conquistadors.
Okay, giant spiders hooking into the brain-stems of hapless humans, itâ€™s not a completely original idea. Saw it in Doctor Who. Saw it in the Dragon Warriors game books. But thereâ€™s nothing like a proven concept duly freshened up on a new platform. The whole Pirates of the Caribbean undertone helps too.
You start the story in a Dukeâ€™s court as his loyal hero-in-residence, save the Dukeâ€™s life from a brain-stem-latching spider, and off you go to save the world from arachnid domination, after a quick trip to the market for sword, armour, and health herbs. Greenâ€™s done a great job with the descriptionsâ€¦punchy yet with a nice â€˜high fantasyâ€™ flavour. The dialogueâ€™s not quite so sharp but, as a scriptwriter, Iâ€™m probably being overly picky. And there isnâ€™t that much dialogue to speak of anyway.
And Temple of the Spider God looks and feels so much better than earlier titles. Jungle adventure music by Adrian Watkins sets the epic, sweltering tone, and fires up into militaristic pulse-quickening beats every time you get into a scrape and have to roll the dice. Die which can again be manipulated a little by judicious shakings of the iPad. Itâ€™s perversely satisfying to turn an opponentâ€™s six into a one with a well-timed jolt. No, itâ€™s not cheating, itâ€™s gameplay!
Speaking of gameplay, in addition to the usual dice fights with monsters and possessed conquistadors, and the odd fitness check to avoid traps, we have the addition of the Phobia check that, if failed, can lesson your effectiveness in battles with spidery nasties. A nice homage to Arachnophobia, fullas.
On the narrative structure front (the â€˜make or breakâ€™ ingredient of interactive game books) I was really impressed to see three almost completely independent pathways for our hero. Land, shoreline hug, and deep sea voyage. Theyâ€™re all on a par for difficulty and action, but if youâ€™re up for some serious Pirates of the Caribbean action, then go for the deep sea voyage on your first attempt. Swashbuckling fun! And sure, the three narratives intersect for the final chapter, but what you have is three almost totally unique storylines leading up to a challenging and satisfying climax. Great for repeat play. And I know Iâ€™m not supposed to, but Iâ€™ll give you one hint to help prevent you from recovering too much ground later on: be greedy. A questionable moral message, I know, but in Temple of the Spider God, avarice pays off.
Soâ€¦has Temple of the Spider God turned me into a rabid Tin Man fan boy? It sounds like it, doesnâ€™t it? Well, Iâ€™m not really anyoneâ€™s rabid fan boy. Donâ€™t think I was born with that gene. But Tin Man has not only managed to give me nostalgic sustenance from a game genre of my childhood, theyâ€™ve succeeded in making the adventure game book genre more fun that itâ€™s ever been.
Nice one, Tin Man. Bring on the next book!