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[Review] Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death (minis)

Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death brings the original 16m selling series of Fantasy Role-Playing Gamebooks to PSN for the first time!

The once peaceful world of Orb is in terrible danger. Dark forces are at work to unleash the awesome might of the Evil One. Your mission is to destroy the Talisman of Death before the dark lord’s minions reach you. But beware! Time is running out…

This PSN-exclusive version of Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death also features a Tarot Card character generation system, and the classic dice-rolling rule set you know and love, with optional all-new Battle and Test Your Luck systems for bold adventurers to explore.

The intuitive Inventory system and an all-new Log Book help you easily track your progress through Orb’s magical world, make this the perfect way to relive this classic series.

Go forth, brave adventurer!

I used to play a lot of these “choose your own adventure” type books back in the day and had a lot of fun with them without cheating at all (going back to the page where I made the fatal decision of jumping of the cliff instead of staying inside the cave, etc). No sir, never did that… more than twice. How did it translate into a videogame? It did so in a great way!

You use the left Analog is used to scroll up and down the page you’re currently in. Using the D-Pad you can move left towards your inventory to use provisions or items to recover stamina, luck, skill, or even to equip weapons and armor you might find in your quest. Using up or down on the D-pad speeds things up, since it takes you directly to the available choices for the page so you can move on within your adventure. R button is used for zooming in and out on the written page to make reading easier for those that don’t have a 20/20 sight to report anymore.

And now for a VERY SPECIAL command: The Triangle button! This is used to open up the Log Book in which every character you find is given a page to be itself, along with a description (and some even get a special image if one was available in the original book) that will help you to get to know them better, or you can switch to another section that lists of all the items you’ve found or, and this is were it’s at, a looooong list with all 400 pages AND their contents (should you have unlocked it) so you can keep track of what choice takes you to what page and what the consequences can be, so you can actually have a shot at seeing all 400 pages.

Remember how I said this was based on a book series? Well, I hope you like reading (I do!), because you’ll be doing A LOT of that in here! The book IS the setting and is how the User Interface is placed as to bring to life the written word in a digital world. In Talisman of Death, reaching a Game Over (You have died!) is part of the experience, since you can’t possibly see every page on a single run. Loading the same file allows you to retry and fix your mistake while making other choices, which will, eventually, also end up in a Game Over during several more “trial and error” situations.

You can re-roll your character when you start (or restart) the game in case you’re not satisfied with how the 3 tarot cards are trying to deal your fate. Skill is important for making more successful hits or dodging enemy attacks, Stamina allows you to take a hit here and there or survive after you fall into a trap or hazard, and Luck allows you to increase the damage you deal, decrease the damage sustained from and enemy attack or to be “lucky” in a specific situation so you avoid a trap, enemy, hazard… or death.

I died within 5 minutes of starting up the game and after only 10 pages… just the way I like it! After starting again, I took another path and died AGAIN, which quickly reminded me that the obvious option to take is not always the right one to favor. Once you’re ready to load your save file after a Game Over, you’ll be able to see what % of the book you’ve already seen (and completed) and the game autosaves every time you flip a page to make a choice, so there’s no way of “tricking” the system into going back to BEFORE you made a choice. Nor should you want to, since dying or loosing stamina from traps actually brings you one step closer to 100% completion of the book.

There are several items to find in your quest. Some are Skill enhancing weapons and armor, others help you recover your stamina, or your luck and others are needed at some point of your adventure to progress down the right path or to encounter a new item that WILL come in handy down the road. You can’t use items while in an actual fight, so you must use any recovery items BEFORE engaging in a fight. You ARE given the option since you HAVE to click on the fight icon, which is nice. And not having to use pen and paper to keep track of everything in your backpack or the skill, stamina, luck values, or the stamina and skill of your enemies during every enemy encounter, or a real pair of dice to play along has really streamlined the experience and made it even better!

Options you cannot choose on a page (because you lack the proper item, got lucky/unlucky, don’t have enough money, etc.) can’t be selected at all to progress… unlike the ones that you can choose and that are colored a bright hue of red. It’s easy to spot and understand, which makes it better overall since it prevents you from using an option you wouldn’t be able to make in the actual book if you played in an honest and ethical way. It helps in selecting options that are contained within a paragraph of text so they don’t get lost.

There are two ways to play Fighting Fantasy: The Talisman of Death. You can go with the “pure” option and do everything with the random roll of the dice to decide if an attack has landed or not or if the gods have smiled upon you… or you can change it into a more “dynamic” system in which you select to flip a symbol from a playing field that contains Helmet symbols for a good attack, a Red Demon symbol for when the enemy lands a strike upon you, or a Crossed Swords Symbol that means that your attack has missed. These symbols are flipped open and moved around until they’re flipped back so you can’t see them and must randomly pick one BUT if you’re good enough you can see where the good symbols are and always win a fight.

Skill difference between you and your enemy determines how many of the Good, the Bad, and the Miss symbols are present on each fight so each one has a different feel. Choosing not to use dice also means that luck in combat is calculated by placing a red and green bar at the bottom of the screen which represents bad (red) and good (green) luck. Stopping the moving cursor on either will bring you luck or misfortune.

Luck in situations is carried out a bit differently, as 12 runes are placed in a circle and your current luck stat determines how many are red and how many are green so you can try to stop the circling rock on the color you want. I say “want” because sometimes you’ll want to be unlucky on purpose to get an extra page added to your logbook, as this is the only way to make sure you’ll be constantly unlucky. Only exception is when the game ask you to roll a die or two and take that value up against your current skill stat since those are ALWAYS determined by a random dice roll.

And now to wrap this up give you an idea of HOW the game works, here’s an example of a situation that happens right at the beginning of the game (pages are not the right ones and some info has been changed as to not spoil the flow itself):

[spoiler intro=”It has begun…”]

“You arrive at a fork in the road. You can go into the forest or continue off the road and into an open plain. What will you do?” Mmm, OK, let’s go to the open plain, even if I’ve got some trolls and some dark elves behind me. They’ll totally NOT see me out in the open. “Turn to page 324”

Me: “The Dark Elves notice you. What will you do?” Well, I’ve got a sword. What do you think I’m going to do? I’ll attack them! “Turn to page 183”.

Me: “One of the Dark Elves starts doing some hand signaling and before you can react you realize he’s casting a spell. He has immobilized you and now all the other Dark Elves move in for the kill. Turn to page 112”

Me: “You have died. Return to page 1”


Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death is a great option for PS3 and PSP owners, as it brings the gamebooks created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone to life in a great package. It’s easy to understand, pick up and play for 10-20 minutes, and then get back to it later should you choose to; or you can do a marathon 2 hour run and see how far you can get. Definitely worth the asking price and a worthy purchase for your collection.

[review pros=”Gamebooks are back in style and available for your PS3 and PSP!
Huuuuge amount of content
Very Fun and Addictive” cons=”Log Book doesn’t remember what section you left at once you exit (which will be fixed in the next game in the series)” score=90]

Developed and Published by Laughing Jackal

Cost – $4.99

Available on PSN

Want to get this game? Then you can:

Buy Fighting Fantasy: The Talisman of Death Itself!

Buy a $20 PSN Card!

Buy a $50 PSN Card!


– Game was completed before writing this review.
– Total amount of time played: 10 hours.
– This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death provided by Laughing Jackal.