Gamebooks. They’re a concept I remember from when I was a kid, reading the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that my brother would bring home. Tin Man Games pretty much owns the genre on iOS and their latest offering is Judge Dredd: Countdown Section 106 (Out Now, $4.99) — which, it should be noted, is based on the comics, and not on the terrible Stallone movie or the upcoming reboot with Karl Urban. Given the source material, some might be shocked to find that this isn’t a first person or top down shooter, but rather an interactive story that would work better on an iPad as opposed to the iPhone or iPod Touch.
If you’ve never sampled a gamebook before, be advised that gameplay is almost non-existent. Instead, you read a story and at the end of each of its scenes are tasked with choosing from a series of options on how to proceed. While Judge Dredd: Countdown Section 106‘s story isn’t the most original, it is interesting enough to keep you adequately involved and motivated to go from choice to choice.
Your decisions and judgement calls all affect what happens to you later on in the game. Some choices can boost your attack or vitality and that may come in handy during a battle. Dice rolling determines battles (and some choices) and your attack and defense rating correlates to how many dice you get to roll. The total of the roll equates to how much damage will be done, and the thug has a chance to dodge the attack by rolling higher than your highest single roll. It’s a neat mechanic and one that’s been stylishly implemented, but at first it can be a bit confusing.
As you progress through the game and dice rolling segments become more frequent, you’ll get the hang of it and look forward to these moments. Now, I’m not a big fan of having my fate decided by the roll of a dice but it’s the best (and maybe only) attacking/defending option for a gamebook. In order to complete 100% of the game, you’re going to have to work your way through Judge Dredd: Countdown Section 106 multiple times, so the potential for replayability here is pretty high if you don’t mind all the reading involved.
Should you ever get lost or confused, there are guides available to you on the Main Menu screen. You can look up ‘Perp Rap sheets’ or the ‘Judge’s Handbook’, which acts as a refresher for anyone out of touch with the world of Judge Dredd. Throughout, the dynamic and attractive presentation goes out of its way to ensure you’ll never get bored. Dredd’s story could very easily been nothing but words on a plain old page but Tin Man add some real flair to it. You can also change the font style if you aren’t a fan of the default, which is a really nice touch.
The game is gorgeous and the artwork on certain pages is done in the same style as the 2000 AD comic, so longtime fans will most definitely enjoy this. The music is understated and works for this kind of game. The sound effects that accompany the dice rolling are well done and Dredd snarls awesome Duke Nukem-esque quips and comments after taking creeps out. Overall, the design is top-notch and keeps things interesting in what could’ve been a total bummer to play since most of it is spent reading.
iFanzine Verdict: You either like gamebooks or you don’t. I can see why some people would find them boring and at 5 bucks the price is pretty steep for those that are just trying the genre for the first time. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of gamebooks, but if you are into them and you don’t mind spending the cash, Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106 is well worth it. If you want to get into gamebooks, it’s a perfect place to get started. But all I kept thinking was how much better this probably is on the iPad.