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Heavy Metal Thunder – The Gamebook review: Great storytelling, but lacks instruction

A great addition to the storytelling game genre which hits in a number of places, but falls down in others

Heavy Metal Thunder is the latest in the growing number of storytelling apps; apps that produce elements of adventure through text, while introducing minor gameplay elements, and atmospheric visuals. It’s a medium that has found a place on smart devices, and acts as a kind of modernized version of the old choose-your-adventure books.

Your character wakes up with no memory aboard a space ship

Your character wakes up with no memory aboard a space ship

This story, however, is a different beast altogether. Focusing more heavily on text than other apps in the genre, the result is actually a more engaging game, even when it stops in the early chapters to explain how the gameplay elements work, and how you can assign points to your characters different aspects, like charisma, will, or strength, which in turn shape the story. The plot itself sees you control a man that’s woken up in space, seemingly alone, and with little to no memory of who he is. Your job is to both shape, and rediscover his life and personality, while also trying to escape a spaceship that is slowly being deconstructed. Escape the vacuum of space, and rebuild a man’s psyche from the ground up? Easy peasy.

The artwork is non-traditional and full of great coloring

The artwork is non-traditional and full of great coloring

It’s well told on the whole, but the writing style isn’t as engaging as it should be. The choose your own adventure element is distracting at time, as you simply want the story told. However, without much in the way of gameplay element, which was more present in similar apps like 80 Days, the backdrop, the sounds, become the frame for the story rather than an equal and overall experience.

However, some elements are stronger than others – the artwork in particular is incredible. Deep purples and blacks represent a dark, but bold color scheme, and match the kind of artwork you find in celebrated sci-fi graphic novels. It’s this kind of approach that makes you wonder why this artwork is so few and far between, and why the story doesn’t exist more as a comic book than an app. It would cut out the frillier bits of the story, but allow the artwork; one of the apps strongest elements to take more of center stage.

Plenty of text guides the story, but it can lack engagement in places

Plenty of text guides the story, but it can lack engagement in places

The soundscape is a big part of it too – haunting, deliberating, while each decision you make is punctuated giving weight via a deep confirmatory beat.

But despite the above praise, the game does have some issues. Firstly, the text is often dense, and pretty lengthy. Word-based description is preferred over visual, but sometimes, when gameplay instructions are included within the text, concepts can be over-explained, and you can spend a lot of time waiting to be more than just a passive reader. However, in other places, explanation is entirely void. When you need to ‘test your dexterity!’ something of a mini game is launched, featuring two blue shapes, with other shapes moving around their vicinity. There was no explanation as to what to do here, so we tapped on each of the blue shapes, and the flashing and moving ones within them stopped. The final shapes did not match, yet we were congratulated and given 1+ hero points.

The mini-games aren't particularly well-explained

The mini-games aren’t particularly well-explained

Heavy Metal Thunder is an intricately detailed story that’ll appeal to sci-fi, suspense, and mystery fans – but be prepared to read a lot, and take part less-so.

Price: $2.99 / $1.99
Developer: Cubus Games
Version: 1.2.1
Size: 232 MB
Platform: iOS Universal

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