Seventh Sense: The Gamebooks are Back !

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I’m not sure how I missed that on the repo, but since there was a recent update, I had some time to check Seventh Sense. This application basically recreates the experience you could get from reading the Lone Wolf gamebooks created by Joe Dever in the 80’s. Gamebooks were heavily inspired by pen and paper RPGs, and did not read like your usual book. After every page or paragraph, you could actually choose your course of action, and jump to a different section of the book describing what happens next. But it went beyond than just that.

The reason why I made the parallel with pen and papers RPGs is that you had a character sheet that was needed to go through the book. You had to choose a number of skills among the now famous Kai abilities (i.e. supernatural powers), there was an equipment list as well and hit points (called as Endurance). You needed dice (or a random number sheet) to confirm the outcome of fights against enemies. Certainly not as complicated as a regular RPG, but more than a usual point & click adventure, for example.

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Joe Dever back in 1986. Yeah, now he’s like a grandfather.

Seventh Sense makes it possible to play the whole adventure on the Pandora, without the need to carry dice and papers. It plays very much like the original books, with the text on the right side of the screen, and your character’s attributes and inventory on the left, visible at all times. During fights, all calculations are handled by the application, and random numbers generated when needed. It renders it into a totally painless experience, which is great.

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You may wonder if it’s legal to actually get the book files. As a matter of fact, it is. Joe Dever gave his permission to the Project Aon guys (who converted the books to HTML) to re-use and distribute the books contents. That is why you can actually download the book files directly from the application and play through most of the series.

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Books are usually part of several chronicles, and the first 5 books, for example, tell a single story. You need to go through the 5 of them to get to the end, while each book ends up on a cliffhanger making you want to know more. It has been probably more than 20 years that I have not touched these books (or Steve Jackson’s ones), and the writing seems a little bland nowadays, yet still fun and engaging.

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The interface works well, and even better if you reduce the font size for the text a little (so you don’t have to scroll as much). The latest update from eyecreate makes it run full screen by default on Pandora, which is the best way to experience it. All in all, it’s well designed and it performs very well on Pandora too.

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While gamebooks are certainly very much a thing of the past, they remain more “interactive” than most of the games we have out there. Who does not complain about the lack of choice in game stories, about too much linearity ? Gamebooks took the stance that almost everything is up to the player, and that makes them a strong form of interactive narration on top of the early text adventure games on computers. It’s worth checking the Lone Wolf out with Seventh Sense if you were born long after this whole phenomenon took place.

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3 Comments on "Seventh Sense: The Gamebooks are Back !"

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levi
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Nice, I only remember the old ‘choose you own adventure’ books which didn’t have stats or anything like that, just ‘go to page n’ decision trees and certain routes to the goal (or death in a number of interesting and unusual ways). I’ll have to give this a go now that I’ve got the parts to fix my Pandora.

Gandi
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Thanks Ekianjo for pointing me to this.
I will definitely try it – I do like interacitve fiction of any kind very much.
From text to graphic adventures to all other kind of games with a story line.
I’ve been playing “home – a unique horror adventure” on the iPad recently and was just about to try the “Sorcery!” series, which is very much like an electronic game book, too.
Maybe I should take a look at “Seventh Sense” first….