Star Breed – Episode 1 in Review – There ARE gamebooks in the 24th century!

Amazingly, the age old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style gamebooks are having a surprise resurgence on the iDevice platform. We’ve seen both a re-imagining of the classics, like Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy titles (i.e. Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (TMA Review)) and original titles developed exclusively for the platform in the Gamebook Adventure series - Gamebook Adventures 3: Slaves of Rema (TMA Review). The creative folks over at Agni Studios feel there is room for more and have recently released their own interactive gamebook; this time set in space and titled Star Breed – Episode 1

Star Breed is an interactive gamebook, but with a few original twists. Two space ships have mysteriously fallen off the radar of the Dominion, but not before one of them sends a distress code, known only to the highest echelons of the military. A code meaning possible first contact. Some time later the ships have been located heading for a nearby star system. The fleet has been dispatched to meet them but it is going to be 18 hours too late. Meanwhile the local forces are preparing to meet the arrivers. Taking control of a young technician what will you encounter? New friends or dreadful enemies?

The underlying mechanics of Star Breed follows the basic interactive gamebook principles – you are presented with a situation and one or multiple ways to proceed, from which you have to choose one. Gone though are the age-old dice that serve as the core of many random checks and the combat system in other games. Instead Star Breed offers 2 minigames for the combat and hacking components of the game. Both minigames are a futuristic version of Whack-a-Mole, where you have to hit one of the 3 buttons, depending on the symbols on-screen before the timer runs out.

Playing Star Breed felt like reading a Sci-Fi action book. The story is almost completely linear, so more often than not you will find yourself choosing only out of a single option or multiple, with one of which being but a short diversion. There are no items or any other kind memorabilia, making the overall experience a bit barren. The various datapads scattered around the game, though having no real use of their own, do a fairly decent job of creating the atmosphere. The frantic minigames, however, have the reverse effect, jolting you to attention from the paced narrative. I’m still not sure whether this is good or bad, but for me it felt a bit off.

Graphically the game is what you’d expect – lots of text (though it does look gorgeous on the Retina display), no pictures (unfortunately), and a futuristic design. While for some aspects (i.e. when you plug in the datapad) the style looks authentic, I felt that for the general storytelling the developers could’ve spiced up the UI a bit. The minigames look fine, though it’s hard for me to imagine the developers failing on those, considering their simplicity.

Star Breed is a simplified interactive gamebook for the iGeneration, substituting intricate multi-path storylines and more or less deep dice-based combat mechanics with linear gameplay and frantic minigames. It maybe a reasonable title to start your acquaintance with the genre, though it’s far from the quality and standard set by the Fighting Fantasy or the Gamebook Adventures series. The only thing going for it is the sci-fi entourage, a first for the gamebooks I’ve seen on the iDevice, but unfortunately it’s far from enough to make it worth recommending.

With this I declare Star Breed – Episode 1 officially touched!

App Summary
Title: Star Breed – Episode 1Developer: Agni Studios
Reviewed Ver:1.00Min OS Req:3.1.2
Price:$2.99App Size:19.33MB
  • Sci-Fi setting
  • Easy-to-pick-up
  • Retina graphics support
  • Too linear with no inventory
  • Frantic combat and hacking minigames
  • Too action-oriented
  • No illustrations

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