The original Sorcery! games on mobile made a big impression. They were my first encounter with Inkle, a studio I''m now besotted with, and they were among my first encounters with larger, bigger mobile games. In fact, at the time - and this was quite a long time ago - I couldn''t believe my hunk-a-junk iPhone 4 was capable of something so beautiful.
I still see Sorcery!''s spectacular world maps in my mind - maps I now know are drawn by Mike Schley, but I still hear Vaughan Williams'' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis in my ears; and, perhaps more importantly, I still think about the scenarios the game presented me with - the unpredictability of their outcomes, the strangeness of encounters, and the delightful realization the game wasn''t afraid to kill me for taking a wrong turn.
Obviously, a lot of this is coming from the old Steve Jackson Sorcery! game books. But there''s so much of what I''ve come to know as Inkle in there also - a cheekiness and a desire for adopting conventions and doing what you don''t expect. And perhaps above all, a skill that I believe is unmatched.
Sorcery! was overshadowed by the studio''s own success with 80 Days and by the prestige of Heaven''s Vault, and was zeroized by appearing on both mobile and eventually PC, where it failed to make much difference. Time passed and Sorcery! is now back.
Sorcery! is now available on consoles for the first time. It has been bundled up on Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation (it was last seen yesterday, 23rd June). I''m struck by the fact that the entire four-game series still is.
I think it''s something to do with the game-book premise, and how there''s always a decision to make no matter what you''re doing. There''s also something I discover endlessly fascinating in the seemingly endless possibilities of narrative outcomes in the game, the consequences. Theoretically, anything can happen, but I can just as soon die for some completely unexpected reason as I succeed. The rules aren''t bound in mathematics and systems, but they are only bound by imagination.
I find it quite encouraging that activities as old as these - sorry Steve! - still have so much entertainment power, and are still feeling so much absorbent and fresh. Perhaps it''s because they come from a different era that they are so well-known now. Or it might be that Steve Jackson has a wonderful imagination.
It''s that, really, and the original performance of the Sorcery! games that makes them worthwhile returning to the future. Sadly, little was done to them for their console arrival. Compared to simple mobile ports, it seems to be impressively wide and large. But at this time, it feels clunky, as though something of the game''s delicacy has been lost during the transition.
There''s a sense of relaxation to the games on mobile, as well. While ambient noises, when they are there, are difficult to pick up, and sporadic orchestral blasts that play at milestone moments or when you open your spell book are deafening. There''s no ruffling noises or quill-on-parchment scratching. It''s just still and a bit stagnant.
It''s a shame that this was a chance to really polish the Sorcery! games up for an audience that didn''t notice them the first time around. An opportunity to harness some of the technology advances in the near-decade since the series began, and give it a proper second chance. The games have remarkably good results, but they are equally excellent and the port doesn''t do much to improve that.