The Forest of Doom is a lightweight paperback adventure that lacks the sophistication to satisfy.
The latest adventure game book from Tin Man Games, Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom is a challenging, but not terribly sophisticated sword-swinging romp through the foreboding, monster-infested Darkwood Forest.
Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom is based on an old-time game book of the same name, originally published in 1983. I'm not familiar with it, but I looked it up on Wikipedia and I'm pleased to say that the cover on display there is virtually identical to the one that greets you when you launch the digital edition; with the notable exception that this new version is gently animated, granting a slow, dangerous motion to the wicked-looking creature on the front. It's an impressive start.
The story sets you up as an intrepid adventurer who, through a strange twist of fate, embarks upon a quest to recover the Hammer of Stonebridge, a legendary weapon that will save a nearby settlement of dwarves from an onslaught of trolls. Alas, as so often happens, the hammer has been broken into two pieces that have fallen into the possession of local monsters, and if you want the big payday you're going to have to find them both and return them to their proper home.
The Forest of Doom looks and sounds very good, with a clean, simple interface, sharp fonts, plenty of colorful illustrations, and a strong soundtrack. An automatically-generated map helps you keep track of where you've been and where you're going; bookmarks allow you to save spots for later play (or to recover from a dangerous move that doesn't work out quite as planned); and the character sheet is simple to read and understand.
That simplicity, in fact, runs through just about everything in the game, and in many ways it's a big part of the appeal. Your character and your opponents have just three stats – strength, stamina, and luck – and the formula for determining victory in combat is simple and easy to understand. Descriptions of locations tend to be short and to the point, and options to use inventory items are presented automatically whenever appropriate. This is an adventure that you can dive into and chew through pretty quickly and easily – untimely death notwithstanding.
But that simplicity also means there's not much to see here in the way of descriptive flair or nuanced storytelling. The forest in which the game is set feels more like a jumbled collection of random locations than a cohesive "place," and most monster encounters are almost completely interchangeable despite the wild variety you'll meet (and kill), from gremlins and hobgoblins to wyverns and giants. It's very thin fantasy, the sort of lightweight swords-and-sorcery paperback stuff that a bored 12-year-old might find engaging – which I suppose, given the source material, is probably appropriate.
The interface is well-designed and easy to use, but I found it was often very slow to respond to touch, sometimes taking several seconds before registering a button press or bringing up the user menu; this could be the result of playing on an aging iPhone 4 as it's also rather slow to initially load, but for what it's worth I find it hard to imagine a game like this being overly technically demanding. The buttons themselves are also tiny, although their size can be adjusted along with the font itself, and if you're playing on an iPhone you'll almost certainly want to increase it considerably.