@FightingFantasy – Gates Of Death. The second brand new Fighting Fantasy adventure game book released after Port Of Peril in 2017s Scholastic relaunch of the series. So how was it for me?
Me after finishing Gates Of Death by Charlie Higson
After an excruciating wait from Fighting Fantasy Fest 2 up until today I finally managed to tread through the latest adventure set in Allansia. Charlie Higson of The Fast Show fame had been a fan of Fighting Fantasy for years, and has graced us with Gates Of Death, his debut epic for the series. He was invited by FF co-series creator Ian Livingstone to guest write, and has made history as the first guest writer to have his own name on the front cover of an FF book. The celebrity essence may lend the series some pulling power.
Now, you may already know that I cannot stand the internal art scholastic has chosen for these books.
Little better than cheap grayscale slap dash comic styles, and this book is no exception. It’s a shame because the beautiful realistic illustrations in the classic series is what attracted me to FF in the first place. Thankfully, Higson’s writing hits the nail on the head and saves the book with fast paced scenarios and cleverly interwoven snares for readers to get netted up in. Multi FF author Jonathan Green is said to have coached Higson and this is apparent as Gates Of Death contains a couple of similar elements to Greens work Night Of The Necromancer, although this may be coincidence. But then the lore dies.
One thing I noticed is the fighting aspect is really kept to a minimum. You could always use an alternative to get yourself out of a rut with opponents. I think I completed the adventure with only four actual melee combats. There is plenty of magic to be found and used in this adventure, three pairs of magic shoes for example. I guess he likes giving you plenty of chances to win as you only need one pair!
FF is now meant to be aimed at a younger demographic than before, although this book introduces the words ‘bum’ and ‘farting’ into the FF vocab. Not to mention a mutant with two faces on it’s bottom actually illustrated! While it’s clearly meant to bring humour it seems to cheapen the feel of the serious quest.
Overall this is a grand adventure plot, much better than the flawed ho hum badly named Port Of Peril (which barely has anything to do with the Port in question, you’re there longer in this book) …but an uneducated debut for Higson to the series. He could easily do better. 4/10
Me and Charlie Higson at FFF2 – 2017
So Scholastic have set the next six #FightingFantasy books into motion. Another five revivals and a brand new title, The Gates Of Death, should be joining us around April. Whilst not many of the die hard fans appreciated the cover art of the first six releases last year, at least they was all done by the same artist and looked generic. Unfortunately we are now met with a change in design. It’s not good.
Though one may argue the artwork is slightly more in line with the classic series (I said slightly) , it has been confined to a tiny circle in the middle of the page with about 80% the rest just a single colour broken by white lines. I’m pretty certain this is a money saving device. When you consider the full cover of art we had in the 80s – 00s this isn’t progress nor very eye catching. With the last six covers Scholastic gave the excuse they was using this type of art to appeal to an era of video gaming children. So why the change? I guess they’re admitting they was wrong and the fans we’re right and now going down the cheapest route tasting sour grapes.
The Gates Of Death will be the first ‘presented’ written FF adventure since Jonathan Green’s wonderful Howl Of The Werewolf, and from the look of it Charlie Higson (of The Fast Show fame) will be the first non series creator to have his name boldly displayed on the front cover. Prestigious that may be, but is this a marketing twist to attract his own fans to buy this new quest? Either way, I am grateful for another new story and hope it goes down well with fans expectations and spurs Scholastic to employ other guest writers too such as the aforementioned Jonathan Green, Dave Morris, Jamie Thomson etc etc
Jam meets Charlie Higson at FFF2
This week was a tremendous one for Fighting Fantasy fanatics like myself. Andi Ewingtons comic version has had issue one released, a bunch of which (there are several covers) arrived to my workplace the other day and I managed to snap this brag pic.
So how has it turned out? In one word, fantastic! The comic is true enough to the gamebook published in 1985 and focuses on the post apocalyptic life of an ex car racer. Society has collapsed and vicious road thugs and motor gangs haunts the highways. Even this first issue has a couple of lovely Easter Eggs draughted in to the frames by the ultra talented Simon Coleby, and Len O’Grady on colours. I hear there are 5 of which I think I have spotted 4 (I refuse to do spoilers at this early stage). The first issue is basically about setting the scene and characted development. We get to see just how rough the world has become and it leaves you on a cliff hangar ending ready for issue 2. My only blast is it ended too soon for a monthly comic. It needs a couple more pages in it.
The front of the book also contains a foreward by Ian Livingstone CBE himself pictured below with an equally handsome Me. He writes about his inspirations behind the book and why he wanted to go more futuristic with book 13 in the Fighting Fantasy book series when his usual mediums are sword and sorcery epics.
Current production is at the cover art for issue four stage so if you love a good post-apocalyptic yarn, get on over to forbiddenplanet.com and order your copies TODAY!
Freeway Fighter Comic:
Pro’s – good production team delivering polished material on time.
- Con’s – bit too thin for a monthly comic. Half a dozen more page sides should do it.