Recently, I wrote about a run of Choose Your Own Adventure mobile apps by Delight Games, and how I got into the CYOA scene back when I was in school. Strangely, before even hearing about the likes of Dungeons and Dragons, and other pen and paper adventures, I was rolling dice and calculating luck factors, completely unaware that I was playing guided fantasy.
The Fighting Fantasy series sold in the millions throughout the 1980’s and was headed by the co-founders of Games Workshop, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson. Some of these games are now available on iOS and Android, thanks to Tin Man Games.
Inspired by the re-invigoration of CYOA on its new, handheld platform, I eagerly went back to the source of my dice-rolling adventures with Freeway Fighter, written by the fantasy-adventure OG, Ian Livingstone. These books can be picked up online for a handful of change, in great condition, and even as first editions without any extra cost.
First published in 1985, Freeway Fighter looks into the distant, dystopian future of 2022, when most of the population has been wiped out by a deadly virus. The survivors live in small, desert camps, in an endless battle for fuel and Credits.
Your mission is to drive from New Hope; the surviving population’s last bastion of peace, to the oil silos of San Anglo in and armed, Dodge Interceptor to trade for an armored fuel tanker, return it to New Hope and kick-start the post apocalyptic world’s slow-grind into normalcy.
The whole thing couldn’t be more “Mad Max” if it starred Mel Gibson himself, but despite the glaring similarities, it’s extremely enjoyable.
All you need is two dice, a pen and paper and away you go. You’ll find yourself collecting car parts, syphoning fuel, bare-knuckle boxing and drag-racing against pick-up trucks that have been converted into Roman chariots, all in the name of restarting civilization.
I failed on my first attempt in around 50 turns, rather tamely, by running out of gas and being forced to abandon the Interceptor and walk the plains back to camp. On my Second attempt, after a gruelling, 90-something turns, I died at the hands of “The Animal”, despite the use of my deadly knuckle-dusters. Finally, after almost 100 turns, on my third attempt, I managed to restore humanity, and even rescue a hostage. The book has a tonne of replayablity, different routes to take and even different endings. The game isn’t the most intuitive, and has a lot of luck involved, but every so often you’re rewarded for making bold moves, or punished for overstaying your welcome.
The artwork, provided by Jim Burns and Kevin Bulmer, is a 1980’s gem; with mullet-clad warriors and shoulder-padded women regularly making an appearance, making you crave watching some retro movies. I’ve had Alien, Mad Max and Blade Runner running in the background, as I’ve battled my way though this book. Each run has taken 1-2 hours to play through, and grants a unique piece of nostalgia. I’ve seen that the FF series has since been bought out, modernized and republished, but I can’t help but hope that they still have the same vibe, and live on in another generation of roleplayers.
Next up, I’m thinking of taking on one of the dungeon-crawlers; either Citadel of Chaos, or the original, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.