Here, Cubus Games brings Heavy Metal Thunder to the App Store (£1.99), and it’s actually more at home on mobile than it is on paper. Abundant words below.
What is Heavy Metal Thunder? As the book explains, somewhat ironically, it “is not a novel. It’s a game”. Heavy Metal Thunder goes one step beyond plain old choose your own adventure stuff, and asks the reader to keep track of stats and skills and inventory and whatnot.
Needless to say, that’s a whole lot easier on the Heavy Metal Thunder app, where everything is recorded for you. The app does, however, prevent the reader from – how do I put this? – bending the rules. ‘Yeah, sure I invested in NAVIGATION. Honest.’
In terms of story, we’re dealing with a guy who wakes up in the aftermath of a space battle with little recollection of what happened, though it’s quickly established that he’s an elite soldier tasked with fending off the evil genocidal Invaders.
The crux of the Heavy Metal Thunder story involves catching up to your ship to warn of an imminent Invader attack, but starting out with limited air and fuel, and with a myriad of lunatics out to kill you and steal your suit, that’s easier said than done.
As I touched on before, you’re given the opportunity to invest in different skills (COMPUTERS, XENOLOGY, DEMOLITIONS…), and in doing so you potentially open up different choices as the story progresses. It’s a similar deal with items; do you take that access card, or play it safe with the first aid kit?
In terms of combat, we’re relying on two six-sided dice, with a target score dictating the minimum roll required in order to land a hit on your opponent.
And that’s Heavy Metal Thunder in a 300-word nutshell. I could go into even more detail, but, yeah, you get the idea. Verdict below.
So, there are two facets to Heavy Metal Thunder: the story/writing, which is actually the meat of the thing, and the various game mechanics.
Now, I’m not exactly John Steinbeck over here, but the writing varies in quality throughout Heavy Metal Thunder, at times pulling the reader in, but more often than not being utterly cringeworthy, something akin to teen sci-fi lit. Here’s an excerpt:
“’My knight in black armor,’ she purrs. She leans forward ever so slightly and her moundy-round orbs push out against her dress, handfuls begging to be ripped off her torso and eaten. ‘My name’s Zelda,’ she says as she passes you and enters the ship.
“One of the guards leaves his post to follow her, but she leans out from the doorway and says tenderly, ‘Please don’t bother me for a moment, boys, I have to take a dump.’”
And there’s a lot more where that came from, as Heavy Metal Thunder goes on and on and on, and on some more. Contrary to the “not a novel” statement, it does feel primarily like a rather linear story than something the reader/player is genuinely involved in. At times you’ll read several hundred words before having any input, which makes the process of dying and starting from a distant checkpoint all the more laborious.
Speaking of dying, it’s irksome, too, that the player is reliant upon entirely random dice rolls, and confusing that an elite soldier struggles – particularly in the early going – against clearly inferior foes. Sorcery!, on the other hand, adopts a combat system that demands a little skill.
Oh, and have I mentioned that your character is called Mister Wiggles? I’ll just let that hang for a few moments…
On the plus side, I came to appreciate Heavy Metal Thunder’s artwork, and the music and sound effects complement the action nicely. And heck, when I realised chapter two was on the way, I did think, ‘Yeah, I’ll probably play that.’ Go figure.
- Plenty of meat for your money
- The artwork
- The music and sound effects
- Some of the writing is terrible, quite frankly
- Arguably more novel than game; incredibly verbose
- The random dice-based combat system
Summary: Perhaps my choose your own adventure expectations have been set too high by the likes of Sorcery! and 80 Days, but Heavy Metal Thunder is flawed in more ways than I have space to detail here. Having said that, I’m glad I saw it through (it was tempting to abandon ship on more than once occasion), and I’ll definitely – against all logic – be checking out the next instalment.
Developer: Cubus Games
Price: £1.99 @ App Store
Compatibility: Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimised for iPhone 5.