The Sinister Fairground – App Review


Adventure Time!

Adventure Time!

The Sinister Fairground by Cubus Games, for iOS, is a Gamebook, or, as described in the narrative, “a written work of explorative hyperfiction where the reader is the main character in an adventure”.

The setting for this particular adventure is a fairground outside a small town.  You’ve gone to meet your girlfriend, Sophia, but she doesn’t turn up.  Calling her phone, a sinister voice you don’t recognise answers, sending a shiver down your spine.  Something is terribly wrong. You decide to investigate the fairground and search for her, but it would seem that the nightmare is only beginning….

Solid 4s

Solid 4s

At its heart, The Sinister Fairground is a role playing game.  Your character has three ability skills, Body, Mind and Bravery and two combat skills, one for ranged and one for melee.  At the start of the game, these all have a value of 4.  There’s no rolling of your character or option to distribute your points. There’s a slot for equipping a weapon and one for armour, a health meter, an experience counter and a hero point counter.

The games story is split up into chapters, with the narrative delivered in small sections. The actions you can take listed at the end of each section.  Most of the time, this will be “Next”, but when different routes are available, you’ll have to make a choice.

Circus of MonstersThe story flow actually sticks closely to what a physical game book might show, presenting every option that may be available, wether you can take it or not. This includes entries like “Use the Oak Whistle”.  While this mechanic completely removes the mystery from all of the objects in the game, it does add some replay value as it clearly indicates other routes you could have taken. If you’re a fan of Monkey Island “use pulley on… rubber chicken?!” style puzzles, this might not be wholly to your taste.



Getting around

Getting around

Each chapter represents one of the attractions in the fairground. You access them from the map screen, and can play them in any order, although you have to finish the first five before you can progress to the next four.  You can leave a chapter at any point and return to the map, but doing so resets your progress to how it was before you started it.  Similarly, If you die during the chapter, you can continue the game from just the point just before you started the chapter.  Once you complete the chapter however, there’s no going back and your status and inventory are updated, ready to start subsequent chapters.


At many different points throughout the adventure you are presented with the option to try to make an ability score check.  Climbing a tree is a Body check, searching a pile of bones is a Mind check, investigating a dark tunnel is a Bravery check, and so on.  All the checks have a difficulty rating.  The check you have to meet is this value minus your ability score.  In order to do this, you roll two six sided dice. If the sum of your roll is greater than or equal to the check value you succeed. The story will branch dependent on the outcome, but generally it means the loss of some health points or you missed collecting a useful item.

However, all is not lost! Failing to meet a check gives you the opportunity to attempt a re-roll by spending three of the aforementioned Hero points. You can do this as often as you like, while you still have points left. If you wish, you can instead spend six points to bypass the check as if you had succeeded.  You start the game with a small number of these points, but you are awarded a bonus point for successfully passing a check, for completing some puzzles and for victory in combat.

Fighting a cannibal madman.  Standard day at the fair

Fighting a cannibal madman. Standard day at the fair

Combat occurs pretty frequently throughout the game.  Sinister carnys are always looking for a fight I guess.  Combat encounters are turn based.  There’s no initiative, so you always go first.  Every weapon has a skill rating and a damage rating.  The skill rating represents how hard it is for you to hit your opponent with it. There’s no clear indication how the combat skill scores affect the different weapon types, as to date I’ve not managed to increase these, but I would guess that as they go up, the difficulty goes down.

Combat mechanics are happily simplistic.  Like an ability check, hitting your opponent is a matter of rolling two six sided dice.  If your roll is greater than or equal to the skill rating, your attack hits and the opponent loses health points equal to the damage rating.  Your enemy then rolls two dice and performs the same check with their weapon. If they hit, they deal you damage equal to their weapons rating LESS the armour rating of your armour.

Some weapons have a limited amount of uses, such as fuel for chainsaw or bullets for a gun.  If you’re out of bullets, you’re back to your fists.

You can change the weapons and armour you have equipped and use items in the middle of combat without penalty, so switching to use a weapon with a much lower skill rating to finish off a badly wounded opponent is possible.

Besides the paths that open dependant on items or ability checks, other routes are opened by solving puzzles.  Most of these are fairly simple, with anagram and crossword style problems being the most prevalent, but there were a couple of tricky logic problems as well.  While these don’t really add much by way of difficulty with repeat plays, as an extra feature for the game, they’re a welcome addition.

Calm down, mate.

Calm down, mate.

Sometimes the story for the game feels a little disjointed, with the dialog sometimes feeling very different from chapter to chapter.  According to the developer, the writing was a joint effort on the part of 10 individuals, so I guess this has something to do with that.  That said, the more I played the game, the more I enjoyed the tone which revealed itself to be pretty tongue-in-cheek.

I did encounter a few problems while playing, with a couple of forced crashes, and lock ups when changing weapons mid fight, and one chapter got stuck in an unfinishable state, which made me restart it, but these were very infrequent and should be easily fixed by the developer with an update.

Overall, The Sinister Fairground was a pretty entertaining time.

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