When lockdown began, I set out to release my first gamebook. I turned to a 25 year old blueprint I penned when I was 19. It’s hideously juvenile but I thought, “With a tweak here and there, this could be revamped.” In the end it was placed on the back burner, while I found footing with two smaller adventures, First Year At High School and Paranormal Hero.
These are now available on Amazon. My next book was set to be a sort of secret agent themed adventure, but with what little time I have due to parenting, I do not feel I have the time nor state of mind to plot it. That said, I still have my quarter-century old blueprint and shall proceed to work on that. LIG3 will be The Druids Of Pneuma. Bigger and better than the first two adventures. Afterwards, I shall focus on a couple of novels.
Oliver McNeil, creator of The Storymaster’s Tales, invited myself and other gaming fan Helen Donovan, to take part in a live cam session of his latest game named Hotel Lovecraft. Thankfully my inferior internet allowed me to stay the duration, and what an incredible time we had.
The game differs tremendously from previous successes, Weirding Woods and Dracodeep Dungeon. While it is still card/book/dice based, the setup differs in that you are not building a map like in the aforementioned, but playing 6 levels (floors) of a creepy hotel based heavily with a feel of the titular name’s works. The chilling atmosphere when you explore each room is started with an accompanying soundscape and narration at the start of each scenario as usual. This works to great effect, creating a real sense of intensity and dread like in such games as the Room app series. The intensity grows tenfold as you get nearer the end of the game, say, the final two floors, where the end is in sight but you are scrambling round trying to complete your objective or avoid falling foul of any terrors out to suck you stat points away.
Even though Helen and I were the only two players, the six levels of five rooms kept the game going for two hours in total. She got away. I died in the last location. Because of her as it ultimately turned out, yet we’d been working together perfectly well until the final location. Women! 😄
Even though this game differs to Oliver’s others, it isn’t a far flung effort being traditionally easy to pick up and more importantly, great great fun. This will be the third ten on ten Oliver McNeil game when I score it on BGG. Thanks for all the fun, laughs, and games you bring to the world Mr McNeil. Originally crowdfunded on Kickstarter, you can order a late backer copy if you CLICK HERE.
So here we have it. The sublime Rhianna Pratchett enters the Fighting Fantasy franchise with her adventure Crystal Of Storms, becoming the series’ first female author, and armed with illustrator Eva Eskalinen. So how well did the pair do through the eyes of this age old fanatic of FF? Before I sink my teeth in properly, let’s have a look at the premise. A previously uncharted area of Titan, Pangaria… made up of a cluster of floating islands. Yes, floating! With this being a new area it gives Rhianna free reign to do whatever she likes. Even her own ecosystem of creatures. Clever! And she has introduced technomancy to the world, which has been created by a race of friendly Goblins within the archipelago. This is how the islands float. Don’t bicker, we’ve had friendly ones before, Giblet, Marsh Goblins etc. So one day, one of the floaty islands crystals goes pop, and it drops into the sea, sparking your thirst for adventure. It’s a great idea and I really love Rhi’s writing, comparable to Jonathan Green’s and Ian Livingstone’s. This girl is on fire.
Eva’s art is rather reminiscent of the much panned two-dimensional work of Vlado Krizan. While there is a slight improvement, most of these illustrations belong in a fairytale book for under fives. Sorry, it’s just not a met standard given the rock album cover Gods and Hollywood storyboard artists we had before. But of course, ScholasticUK know what kids like better than the six year olds of the eighties that actually read these religiously for four decades. I could moan all day but what good would it do? This is not to slate Eva or her art, it’s great, but just mismatched to this series which used to leap from the pages and tear your face off. Incidentally, I rather liked the Shark Kin illu, old creations are floating through now. Actually, I remember Jon asking for a reminder of it’s stats in the Facebook group. Superfan Victor Cheng answered like lightening. I’ll bet that’s when it was added to the mix. Speaking of which, there’s a whole lot of JG mechanisms on loan here, from creatures and codewords to settings and humour. The latter of which can sometimes get a little excessive… (you’ll see.) There are several typos – even in the intro heading – but in all fairness typos we’re always rife in the series. A couple of plot hole refs can have you flittering around the same island all day so you need to use some common sense. (investigating smoke for example, and how did I get a gold coin out of nowhere to recharge my wings?) In a place like Pangaria, I would have expected a gazillion Bird Men characters as well. Or how come The Watch members are not this species? Would’ve made sense in a suspended habitat.
All in all, this is a good book and a clever adventure. Whilst is isn’t up there with the series greats and that isn’t an Aakor on the cover, it’s certainly a great debut albeit influenced greatly by Jonathan Green whom mentored the author. Do another one Rhianna, and consult OOTP even more 😁👍