[Review] Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy – Nintendo Switch

Written by Lewis Petch
  • Developer: Nomad Games
  • Publisher: Nomad Games
  • Release Date: 29/11/2019
  • Price: £7.99 / $9.99
  • Review code provided by Nomad Games

Breathing Life Into the Adventures of Decade’s Passed

I have stated in a past Nintendad review that I am no stranger to gamebooks, including but not limited to the Fighting Fantasy books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. So a chance to review a digital game adaptation of not 1, but 3 of Ian Livingstone’s classics? Yes please.

Fighting Fantasy is a series of roleplaying gamebooks that began publication in the 80s boasting over 50 books in the original series, with a few more being written in the last few years. So it’s good to see a few of the classics return to a new audience.

Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy consists of, you guessed it, a trilogy of games: Deathtrap Dungeon, Trial of Champions, and Armies of Death. The latter 2 of the 3 being unlocked as you beat the one prior. Each of the games is a sort of dungeon crawler – card game hybrid with a focus on random elements. They are however, still firmly rooted in their gamebook origins; a fact which many previous attempts at fighting fantasty video game adaptations have distanced from.

How to adapt the dungeon’s and dragon’s-esque dice roll heavy combat and gameplay style to an enjoyable video game is a challenge that has historically been quite difficult to tackle, but I feel they have done a good job here bringing something new, while not entirely abandoning what made the books so great.

One Step Forwards, Several Glorious Steps Back

The gameplay of this trilogy begins with the player selecting a class (or potentially race?) from a number of predefined options. Followed by distributing stat points. While in Fighting Fantasy this would traditionally be decided by a few random dice rolls, here you distribute the points yourself in a way the developers deemed fair. Each point in a category is another ‘dice’ for use in situations which require either luck or skill. This is a much more user friendly decision, and an obvious choice when adapting these adventures.

Once in the game you will be presented with the story, and you will go about your adventure, being allowed to choose where to move and want to do via multiple choice (very much in the vein of the original books). At certain points throughout your adventure, a random event would take place – this is where a major change has been made. A card will be pulled from the top of a deck, this will state what you find, or adversely, what happens to you. This random encounter system, makes the adventure somewhat fresh on every playthrough. I say somewhat, because ultimately, many of the major encounters must remain the same in order to tell the story.

In terms of the combat, Nomad Games’ opted for an interesting approach. Retaining a form of dice system that the original books used, rather than using traditional dice, they opted for mostly blank dice, with (initially) only one face showing anything. All dice are rolled simultaniously and each one that lands on a symbol is a hit. The picture above shows 4 hits. This will deal 4 damage to the Giant Fly that I was pitted against. I personally think the original system with skill and attack strength and both player and monster attacking at once could have easily been used here rather than the turn based system they put in place. They however opted to change it, this may upset fans of the originals, but it is by no means a poor system.

Dated In More Ways Than One

Unfortunately, visually the game is lacking. Very dated and lackluster graphics detract from the experience somewhat. This style of game does not require the best of the best in terms of visuals. However a little more polish would be appreciated, as the art is mediocre at best and the animations are worse.

The sound sadly follows suit, the audio in this game lacks any meaningful contribution. The sound effects are basic, and the backing noise isnt much more than an eerie, echoing noise as you explore.

Concluding the Adventure

Despite a few shortcomings, I did not encounter any real bugs or noticable issues during my time playing. The overall experience is a wonderful one for fans and newcomers of Fighting Fantasy alike. Just a little more focus on the visuals and audio could have brought all three of these adventures brilliantly into a new era, but the Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy remains firmly planted in the past, in both good ways and bad. Decisions made by Nomad Games in terms of gameplay alterations from the original books are all or mostly good. Bringing a new sense of fairness and a competent and enjoyable way to experience three classic Ian Livingstone adventures, i’m happy to be able to recommend this game to fans like myself, as well as anyone even remotely interested in seeing what Fighting Fantasy is all about.

Pros

  • Lots of quality of life improvements
  • Faithful to the originals
  • Randomised encounters add replayability
  • 3 enjoyable, classic adventures

Cons

  • Dated visuals and audio
  • Poor animations
  • Heavily based on RNG and trial and error

Verdict
An enjoyable, albeit dated, return to some classic adventures of old that remain worth your time.
3 / 5

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