Category Archives: Interactive Fiction

Hello everyone, and welcome to Musgravian Musings, a little space of my own where I can do some non-review reflections on whatever games strike my fancy. Usually, I use this feature to talk about recent game releases that I didn't review for whatever reason, but I'm doing something a little different this time. I tend to review the bulk of the many gamebooks, visual novels, interactive fiction, and other similar narrative-based games here at TouchArcade. Many readers have asked me about where they should start with the genre, or what my favorites are, so I thought that I might as well oblige. I don't want to bury you with choices, so I'm just going to keep this list to five (plus two) games...

The Sorcery! [$4.99] series came to an emphatic conclusion last year, and Inkle's groundbreaking gamebook titles have made a profound impact on mobile gaming as a medium. With some truly phenomenal storytelling throughout all four titles, and consistent support through successive updates over the years since the games initially launched, the Sorcery! series has been a reference point and pivotal example of both how serious and immersive experiences can be found on the App Store, but also how they can be catered to the platform's many unique strengths. For the first time in the title's four year existence, the original Sorcery! has today been made completely free to download - if you did somehow miss the game, its sequels and the universal critical acclaim every entry received over the past few years, this is a fantastic opportunity to finally immerse yourself in Sorcery's universe...




Historically, it's hardly been a rare occurrence for the Japanese games market to look almost completely different from those of the rest of the world. While easy internet access and converging technologies have brought previously distinct regions together, Japan is still often marching to the beat of its own drum. The mobile market is another fine example of that. To look at the Japanese App Store charts is to see almost an entirely different group of games than you might see elsewhere. Many of these games never get an English release, and when they do, they rarely catch on. The latest to try is Fate/Grand Order [Free], a social RPG/visual novel hybrid that has been tearing up the charts in Japan since its release nearly two years ago...

Classic Reload - 'Lost Treasures of Infocom'

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the Classic Reload, the regular feature where our minds are forever voyaging. In each installment, we take a look at a game from the App Store's past to see how it's holding up in the here and now. It's a chance to revisit old favorites, reflect on their place in the overall library, or simply to take a deeper dive than our reviews typically allow. As the one most likely to be eaten by a grue, I try to choose a balanced selection of games to feature. If you feel like something cool is missing, please let me know. You can leave suggestions in the comments below. I can't promise we'll get to any suggested games soon, but they will be added to the master list for future consideration...

'To The Moon' Review - When the Moon Hits Your Eye

To The Moon [$2.99] is an experience that depends almost entirely on the way its story unravels, and the exceptional music backing it. Spoiling the story, any bit of it, beyond the premise would be doing any potential player a tremendous disservice. And while I can offer up all kinds of praise for the audio, it's not as though that's easy to convey through text. So what should I write here? Let's start with this: To The Moon is an amazing journey through the memories of a man who has reached the end of his life, and as long as you don't mind the fact that the gameplay doesn't involve much more than walking around and clicking on things, you really ought to play this...

'Sunless Sea' Review - A Brilliant Journey in a Dark, Fascinating World

When I reviewed Falibetter Games' Fallen London some time ago, I talked about how much I enjoyed the dark, twisted, yet also funny world the writers have created; it's not every day you journey through a London realized in an intriguing Victorian Steampunk aesthetic. While that literary RPG was great in terms of content and ideas, the app itself had huge issues that, unfortunately, kept players away. I'm glad to say that Sunless Sea [$9.99 (HD)], Failbetter's sequel of sorts to Fallen London, works pretty much like a charm on an iPad, and that made playing it much more enjoyable than Fallen London simply in terms of it actually working as it should...

AT Games hates you and wants to launch you into a black hole. That's what my time with Full of Stars [Free] revealed to me. They created an amazingly clever idea, something that takes a simple kind of space chase game as you dodge asteroids and other perils that fly past you. But this is just the core of a larger experience, involving an interactive fiction story that plays into the events of the game, including when you die on a level and try to continue. And then there's a curious long-term metagame as you try to rescue human survivors, and explore more of the war-torn star system you're in. The difficulty, excessive repetition, and ever-present monetization drags the experience down, but not to the point of killing the charm of Full of Stars' genius core idea...

To tell the truth, I've put off playing Versus: The Elite Trials [$3.99] for a while. I didn't particularly enjoy The Hero Project: Redemption Season [$4.99], the last gamebook from author Zachary Sergi, and I was worried that I had completely forgotten where the story left off at the end of Versus: The Lost Ones [$3.99]. That gamebook, which you should definitely play before getting into this one, was something of an information dump. There were too many characters to keep track of, lots of world-building, and a plot that threatened to branch off in some truly confusing directions. With more than a year passing since playing the first chapter of Versus and now, I wasn't confident that I remembered anything from it anymore and wasn't looking forward to having to refresh myself. I kept shuffling The Elite Trials to the back of my to-do list, and now that I've finished it, I feel pretty silly about doing that...

For all of the interesting themes that can be found in the published works of Choice of Games, one of the more common ones is that of war. I suppose that's no different from a lot of forms of entertainment, but it does start to feel like I'm re-living Disney's Mulan over and over again. Somehow a plucky (and usually lowly) hero manages to upset the certainly-evil invading bad guys almost entirely on their own, and usually gets a smooch or two along the way before being declared the best person that ever was. Yes, I'm over-simplifying, but it's only because this premise is starting to get a little weary. I had hoped Runt of the Litter [$3.99] would put a new spin on the theme, with its central conceit being that you need to raise and train a war gryphon. Indeed, it does play out differently than I would have guessed, but it's hard to say if that's for the better or the worse...

'Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze' Ep. 1 Review - A Fun Experience With Great Fan Service

Let me first start by stating the obvious; if you've watched even a few Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries' episodes (currently on Netflix), you will enjoy Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze [$2.99] Episode 1 much more than if you know nothing about the Australian lady detective. Before getting into the review, let's talk a bit about the TV show because its spirit is carried intact into the visual novel adventure. The show takes place in 1920s Australia and is a procedural of sorts with an overarching narrative loosely tying it all together. Miss Phryne Fisher is a private lady detective who doesn't take no for an answer and manages to solve all kinds of crimes using her wits, persistence, and feminine wiles. The show is quite funny and definitely entertaining...

A couple of years ago, publisher 5pb released an English version of the cult Japanese indie horror game Corpse Party [$17.99] on the App Store. While it was plagued with some nasty bugs at launch, it was eventually updated to fix those major problems. The original version of the game, released on the Japanese PC-9801 platform in 1996, used RPG Maker to make a decidedly low-fi survival horror game. When the game's remake, BloodCovered, hit Windows and PSP more than 10 years later, the series finally went international. Its solid success overseas fueled a string of sequels for a variety of platforms, with the latest release being the PlayStation Vita game Corpse Party: Blood Drive [$31.99]. In an odd move, 5pb has opted to skip over all of the games following Corpse Party: BloodCovered to release an English version of Blood Drive on mobile...

One of the things I like about games and books is their unlimited possibilities; the stories we can create in both of those mediums are limited only by our imagination, especially when video games trade fancy visuals for text-based gameplay. Failbetter Games' Fallen London is one of my favorite games precisely for its imaginative and expansive world whose variety I find highly entertaining. Voyageur [$3.99], a piece of "interactive science fiction literature" as its developers call it, is inspired in many ways by Fallen London [Free], and that should come as no surprise since the game was produced in partnership with Failbetter Games. While in Fallen London you explore the streets and stories of an alternate Victorian-era London, in Voyageur you begin a one-way trip towards the center of the galaxy. Since this is a one-way trip, the game adds a roguelike layer to your typical interactive fiction experience, which attempts - thought not that successfully - to promote repeated playthroughs. Is the journey worth it, then? Read on and find out...

We first talked about Voyageur [$3.99] in June of last year, as its description as a "literary space exploration game" and "procedurally-generated science fiction novel" really caught our attention. We also found it interesting that Voyageur was part of the Fundbetter initiative put together by Fallen London [Free] developer Failbetter Games. If the masters of narrative and literary games at Failbetter were also backing an indie literary space adventure, well, it seemed like nothing but good could come from that. And as of just a few moments ago, we can finally find out for ourselves as Voyageur has officially released in the App Store...

All the way back in 2012, the cult Japanese horror game Corpse Party was released on the Japanese App Store. It took more than two years for the English iOS release of Corpse Party [$17.99] to come out, and when it did, it suffered from some early issues with bugs that were eventually resolved. The sequel, Book of Shadows, has been available in Japanese for quite some time, but as of yet, no English version has come. That makes it interesting that the follow-up to Book of Shadows, Corpse Party: Blood Drive [$31.99], released today in both Japanese and English versions simultaneously. Hopefully this is a good sign for future English releases from publisher 5pb...

Cannonfire Concerto [$3.99] is another gamebook release from Choice of Games that offers an unusual premise and excellent world-building. You play as a touring musical virtuoso in a setting that has something of an 18th century European feel. It's a time of momentary peace for the region, but things are starting to fire up again. It's up to you to decide whether or not you want to get involved and which side you'll pull for, but whatever you choose, the show must go on. Written by Caleb Wilson, Cannonfire Concerto is a lighter and faster-paced read than some of the last few ChoiceScript games released, but that doesn't stop it from creating an interesting setting and having a good bit of fun with it...

In my first year or so here at TouchArcade, it felt like Tin Man Games had something new coming out pretty regularly. In the last couple of years, however, the well-known gamebook developer has opted to spend more time with each release, with the results being quite impressive. From the experimental subscription-based gamebook app Choices to their stunning conversion of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, it seems like a new era for the Australia-based developer. Falling somewhere in the middle of those two is Tin Man's first crack at the popular visual novel genre, Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze. The first chapter is due out on February 8th, just a few weeks from now, and it's looking great...

'Empyrean' Review - Empyrean Rex

'Empyrean' Review - Empyrean Rex

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Empyrean [$5.99], one of the recent releases of prolific gamebook publisher Choice of Games, doesn't start off on a good foot. Major events are happening to your character before you can even get your bearings, and it feels like the story is telling you a lot more than it's asking you. It doesn't help matters that the game's primary setting, the dieselpunk-styled city of Actorius, has a lot of lore to explain. The whole thing comes on a bit too strong initially, and I had to force myself to push through it in the early going. Give it some time to unfurl a little, however, and Empyrean proves to be great fun. It's a pulpy thing, to be sure, but it's high-quality pulp. I ended up enjoying it so much that even though this is one of the longer ChoiceScript games I've played, the time seemed to fly by...

Nomads going on massive treks across the land with their tribes in tow. A lot of quality entertainment has been mined from that concept, most notably in recent gaming history with The Banner Saga [$9.99]. This time, Choice of Games is taking a crack at it with Saga of the North Wind [$5.99], a relatively lengthy adventure gamebook from writer Tom Knights. It's a good idea for a game like this, and the quality of the prose here is strong, but a few elements keep it from being all that it could have been. If you've got an interest in the topic matter, though, you'll probably find something to like here...

A few years back, I got into the show Pretty Little Liars, and I'm still not sure exactly why I did so. It is a pretty entertaining show, and even though I'm not the target demographic - I know many, many teenagers who love that show - I still enjoyed the, well, interesting plot lines and the entertaining mystery. The show is launching its final season in 2017, but you can continue to enjoy the glorious adventures of Hanna, Aria, Spencer, and Emily, in the form of an interactive fiction game. Specifically, Pretty Little Liars is launching today on Episode [Free], the interactive stories platform that has hosted stories like Mean Girls in the past...

RPG Reload File 099 - 'Joe Dever's Lone Wolf'

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, the weekly feature where we do it all for Sommerlund and the Kai! Each week, we take a look at an RPG from the App Store's past to see how it's doing in the here and now. It's a chance to revisit old favorites, reflect on their place in the overall library, or simply to take a deeper dive than our reviews typically allow. As one of the last remaining Kai Lords, I try to choose a balanced selection of games from week to week. If you feel I'm missing something important, however, you can let me know by posting in the comments below, stopping by the Official RPG Reload Club thread in the forums, or by tweeting me at @RPGReload. The schedule is planned well in advance, so I can't promise you'll see your suggestion soon, but I will add it to the master list...

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