Deathtrap Dungeon doesn't get the most out of its star actor

"And how shall I think of you?"

Eddie Marsan was brilliant in the BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, playing the conservative magician bringing magic back to 19th century England. He has a fearsome intensity under his mousy appearance. Watch it, you'll like it - or better yet read the book it's based on, it's even better.

I mention Marsan because he's popped up in a video game - he's the star attraction. He's the narrator in Deathtrap Dungeon: The Interactive Video Adventure. He's the guy in a big leather chair who tells you the story. And as this is an adaptation of a Fighting Fantasy, choose your own adventure book, he has everything to do.

He's a great signing! He certainly turned my head. But in motion he's surprisingly underwhelming, careful and measured. It's as if he's sight reading, like he could only be afforded for the day, and, as there was so much text to get through, retakes weren't an option.

It would work as an audio book, but as a visual piece, where he's the only thing you're looking at - sat still in a chair, in a dark and cluttered room (the choice of framing is questionable), with very little musical accompaniment or sound effects - it's a bit flat. And the rest of the game doesn't really pick up the slack.

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It's not awful, not by any measure. It's still capable of transporting you to a fantasy world which delights in your undoing. It's old-school in that sense - you will go the wrong way and die, that much is certain. And there's a refreshing thrill to being hemmed in and able to make only a couple of decisions per scenario, rather than the many choices games seem to drown us in today. It ups the tension.

But all this is down to the source material, really, and a better way of experiencing it is in Inkle's adaptation of the Sorcery! series from a few years ago. It's got lots more energy and seems to better understand the nature of interactivity and being a game. Plus, it's £10 for parts one and two whereas Deathtrap Dungeon is £8.

I hope Deathtrap Dungeon can be polished up to more of a shine - it's in Early Access as it stands, a rather odd choice for a game like this - because there is something in being read a story, especially a story like this. And especially by Eddie Marsan.

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About the author

Robert Purchese

Robert Purchese

Senior Staff Writer

Bertie is senior staff writer and Eurogamer's Poland-and-dragons correspondent. He's part of the furniture here, a friendly chair, and reports on all kinds of things, the stranger the better.

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