Reviews by End Master

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Rebel Planet, by Stefan Ufnowski

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A FF scifi game thatís actually okay, March 7, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This one was a case of I got it and didnít play it right away. Scifi settings generally just donít work with the Fighting Fantasy system for whatever reason.

Eventually I got around to playing it and to my surprise it wasn't bad.

This game has quite a bit of back-story to it. It goes on about how human started colonizing other planets and when they eventually encountered another alien species called the Arcadians who eventually conquered the human planets one by one.

Of course conquering and holding are two different things so the Arcadians at first had a hard time of keeping the humans in line. That all changed however when they created a super computer that would make this whole space empire thing a lot more efficient. While the entire Arcadian race was unified already, they needed that extra edge so the entire race put a chip inside their own heads to get this weird cybernetic hive mind thing going.

Of course this now caused the amusing situation that the Arcadians had basically enslaved themselves to a computer while at the same time enslaving the humans. (They did try to put the chip in human heads, but after many failed attempts, human brains just donít accept the chip and die during the process) Things have been this way for over a century now.

What this all means is the underground resistance has built up and prepared the cunning plan of destroying the Arcadian super computer because it that goes down, thatís going to completely turn the Arcadians into turnips. Great plan, of course youíll need to get to Arcadion first and thatís where the difficulties lie because human space travel is severely restricted unless youíre an authorized merchant and the further out from earth you go, the more restricted it is.

So naturally as a member of the resistance youíve got the necessary fake merchant identification, but itís still not going to be easy as you have to make contact with other resistance cells on other planets to get the necessary codes youíll need to get access to the next planet.

And yeah, these codes already involve some Steve Jackson like number crunching.

Also despite this being a scifi setting, the combat is more like a traditional FF book. Humans arenít supposed to have weapons so your ship is unarmed and no fancy ray guns for you. And the Arcadians are so paranoid they donít even carry such things anymore, they just give their people laser whips and lightsabÖer I mean laser swords to keep humans in line, which is a lot easier nowadays. (Naturally youíve managed to acquire one of these laser swords and theyíre fairly easy to smuggle in security checks apparently as long as nobody is looking too closely)

Though you do get a ďsudden deathĒ option where if youíre ever in unarmed combat, you can roll an extra die and if you get a six, you kill the person outright mainly because most Arcadians are a little less combat skilled and youíve been studying their weak points for years.

Okay on with the actual meat of the game.

Basically itís just going to one planet, meeting with resistance members, getting the codes and then moving on to the next. As if it needs to be said, failing to get the codes will result in failure of the game.

The first two planets are easily the more detailed parts of the journey and as I remember thereís a bit more exploration in general. The codes are easier to get there as well.

By the time you get to the third planet things start getting a little harder and it starts getting more barebones of getting the codes and getting off the planet. If youíre going to get ďstuckĒ itís probably going to be on this planet since I remember the codes being a lot harder to access here.

The final stage of the journey is going to Arcadion itself and trying to blow up their computer.

Thereís a lot more backstory thatís more interesting than the actual game itself, because despite it being one of the better scifi settings, most of the encounters arenít exactly the most memorable. The game isnít boring, but it just doesnít have much that stands out or at least it didnít for me.

Not much else to say about it really. For some reason I didnít mind the code hunting as much in this one. Probably because of the way the story was set up of having to make contact with resistance leaders and sneak your way to the Arcadian homeworld, needing important stuff like that felt more ďnaturalĒ as opposed to whenever a puzzle just pops up out of the blue in the middle of a dungeon.

Itís an okay game and if youíre into scifi settings youíll probably like it even more.

ZDay Survival Simulator, by Ed Anderson

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Like playing a comic book, March 5, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Zombie games of any kind are pretty common and have been for awhile so itís equally common youíre going to find a lot of bad ones. ZDay is however one of the better ones.

ZDay at its core is a choose your own adventure style game, with some resource management elements. Youíll acquire weapons, useful equipment, and survivors. You can even equip these survivors to make them more effective in battle and heal them when wounded if you have healing items.

While gathering equipment and such is vital to survival, there are plenty of opportunities to die instantly if you make the wrong choice. You have an equal amount of opportunity to be killed by a zombie or other human survivors. The game always gives you a score of how likely youíd be able to survive if you were in a ďrealĒ zombie apocalypse whenever you finish the game (Usually by dying).

Thereís definitely enough branching here and different ways to go about handling situations, giving it quite a bit of replay value. It plays pretty quickly too, so dying isnít even really an issue if youíre the impatient sort that gets frustrated easily.

Probably heresy to say this for a IF game, but the comic book artwork style is what really makes this one stand out compared to similar games of its kind. Considering it was drawn by a DC artist, itís not surprising that it seems to work well for the game. Though I can't help but think The Walking Dead comic was the big inspiration even if that was produced by a different company.

Itís a fun game, which is why itís unfortunate that the developers never did any more with their creation. There were supposed to be expansion packs, but nothing else was created as far as I know.

Still, with what does exist within the game, thereís enough content for more than a few playthroughs.

Infinite Universe, by Brewin

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Wait, this isnít Orlandes, March 5, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

While there were 12 GA books set in the same fantasy world, there actually were 13 of them. There was a single sci-fi attempt in the GA series that came out after the Spider God book. (So technically Infinite Universe is the 8th book)

Much like the Orlandes setting there is a map available in the options setting if youíre interested in getting a larger look at the setting. Thereís also an encyclopedia of things like for the fantasy books, but the difference is you donít have access to it until you play the game. (So no research before you get started)

Since this one came out right after the difficult Spider God book, this one had some of that difficulty carried over, like you only get three bookmarks rather than six. Though it still has three difficulty settings rather than just two. (Adventurer setting is called Bookworm in this one)

This one sort of does a bit of the character creation as part of the story, like picking if youíre male or female. Oddly, you donít pick your name. Youíre Joe Bloggs (if youíre male) and you donít remember anything though someone who appears to help you brings you a bit up to speed on whatís supposedly going on. Youíre a Terran Galactic Secret Service initiate and the academy that youíre in is under rebel attack.

Of course since you canít remember anything, thereís no reason to necessarily believe what heís saying and you can just shoot him. Always like games that give a wide variety of options.

The first part of the book is a bit chaotic considering youíre in a fire fight situation and youíre suffering from amnesia on top of everything. The writing though is a bit chaotic as well. It seems to go from humorous (breaking the fourth wall quite a bit, even to the point of self-mockery) to serious to technical, sometimes all within the same passage. Itís almost like the author wasnít sure what he was going for, though it doesnít bother me too much. Just makes reading through it feel a bit weird sometimes. There are a lot more random rolls in this book too which adds to the chaos.

Fighting seems a bit more lethal at times, though that might be due to shooting people with lasers as opposed to beating armored opponents with a sword. Granted both kill you just as well, but hi-tech weaponry tends to do it faster.

If you manage to survive the first part, youíll soon learn whatís really going on and embark on a larger adventure filled with danger, time travel and a general odd writing tone.

It should be mentioned that originally this was also Tinmanís experiment with ďpay to playĒ content since you could play the first part for free and unlock the rest after you shelled out more money. Iím guessing it didnít really work out for them since as far as I know, they didnít do it with any of their other GA books.

This one probably gets even less attention than the fantasy series because it was a one shot. Iíd also say that it isnít really as good as any of the fantasy books which is similar to how the Fighting Fantasy series struggled with sci-fi settings.

Still itís not bad and I think there was potential here if the writing had been a little more focused. Itís worth at least a play through if only to see what a GA scifi setting themed series might have been like.

A Dark Room, by Michael Townsend

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Surprised this one is on here, March 5, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

The definition of ďIFĒ is a bit broader nowadays despite the fact that many still argue over what constitutes a ďTrue IF game.Ē Personally, I've never really felt the need to nerd rage about it too much since most of the purist types just come off as pretentious boomers that are more laughable than anything else.

Still, I was still surprised to see that A Dark Room is listed in the database, since it doesnít really have any puzzles or typing in words to do something like say a Infocom game would, and it doesnít really have a branching ďpick a pathĒ like a CYOA game would. Itís not even a weird hybrid ďgraphic text adventureĒ. Even something like Seedship or Out There have more branching choice elements.

Iíd say that A Dark Room is more of a real time sandbox survival simulator with some mystery story telling elements. Choices that you make are more determined by what you need to build or where you need to explore to advance the plot as it were.

However itís in the database now, so far be it from me to argue semantics, the game is pretty fun anyway. I particularly like the way it slowly reveals more and more of what exactly is going on and who you are.

Sometimes waiting around to click stuff can get a little dull, but the overall gameplay entertained me. Especially as more options opened up as you build more things and are able to explore the land around you.

Itís a fun diversion and worth a play through.

Untold RPG, by Adam Gerthel, Christopher Entzenberg

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A hidden gem, March 5, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

When I got this one a few months ago, I didnít have excessively high expectations for it. I figured it might be okay at best, but something about itís presentation just didnít scream excitement. Of course one can never judge a book by its cover and this one is no exception. While Mizal went over quite a bit, Iíll try to add some of my own impressions.

The game starts out pretty simple using everyoneís favorite amnesia driven plot at first which will turn into a revenge driven plot as time goes on. Doesnít sound too impressive even describing it here, perhaps even negative given how many tend to hate amnesia driven plots, but there is more going on as you discover.

The closest comparison I can make to this one would be one of the better books from the Game Adventure series. (And one that doesnít have the crashing issues) Itís actually better than the GA books in terms of the inventory and stat pages which is nearly laid out and compartmentalized (GA books would shove everything on a ďsheetĒ that awkwardly popped up on the side). This book has more stuff to keep track of though, so better organization was definitely a must.

The writing was consistently good throughout the game, music and background art certainly helped with keeping immersion. Your stats do come into play quite a bit and arenít just for show. Obviously certain stats open up different possibilities or make certain encounters easier to bypass. In true RPG fashion, I used charisma as a dump stat leaving it at one, and focused on others instead. I could only imagine how much harder the combat would have been if I hadnít.

Combat is a real time spamfest. Itís definitely the weakest part of the game. Personally I would have preferred virtual dice. Though you get different button options to spam depending on what type of weapon you have, though you usually canít press those special options until enough energy builds up during the combat. With some you get the option to parry attacks, which you can use to prevent taking damage.

So thereís an idea of timing in involved with combat, however in practice, youíre usually just spamming the attack button and hoping for the best. This is why I think focusing on raising stats like agility and resilience, while also getting better armor, worked a whole lot better keeping me alive in the long run. In fact early on in the game, there is a piece of armor which essentially makes most of the game WAY easier combat wise. The piece of armor isnít really easy to get though, but given that youíre able to get it fairly early in the game, it almost seems like a hidden ďeasy modeĒ to unlock.

Of course all the steel underwear in the world isnít going to keep you completely safe, because as with all good CYOA based game, you can get instant death passages in more than one place. One major thing that youíll find yourself doing is disguising yourself as various enemies so you can get through certain areas with less problems (or sometimes avoiding instant death). Youíll need to have the appropriate clothing of course and remembering to wear it.

Which brings me to the CYOA elements. There definitely is some branching here, though due to it following a certain storyline, youíre of course inevitably following it to its natural conclusion. Itís the journey of how you get there thatís going to be a bit different. Whether you decide to bash your way through everything or try to talk your way through some bits, depends on what skills you focus on and what items you manage to acquire.

I did find that there are at least three different ďwinningĒ endings. Not sure if there are more I didnít discover. Wouldnít surprise me though as the game is sizable and lends itself to multiple playthroughs. Though you get the option of four save points so if youíre strategic with where you save, you wouldnít have to necessarily play entirely through the whole thing again.

I liked this one and would definitely try out another game made by this company.

Asuria Awakens, by Stuart Lloyd

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
The final episode in the GA world, March 4, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This is it, the last book they made in the GA series. Iím still not entirely sure why, though I can only guess it might be due to getting the Fighting Fantasy books and making more money off those instead. A shame really since as much as I like the FF series I found the GA series to actually have more interesting stories and there was still much more to explore.

Anyway, for the final outing, this one takes a cue from Lords of Nurroth, by having a bit of extra customization, like choosing if youíre male or female. You also get four extra abilities that youíll have to test from time to time. Now the first time you play through, youíll go through the in story process of raising your stats (which also fills out your background) however in replays, you can skip this part and just allocate points as you see fit during the character creation page which is very convenient.

Fitting for the last GA book, it starts in Orlandes City, youíre technically supposed to be an ďinvestigator, but youíre more of a jack of all trades neíer do well since youíre living in the slums and will do stuff like kill and torture for money.

Book starts you off right in it with someone holding a knife to your throat. Eventually youíll be taken before the Duke of Orlandes who youíve apparently worked indirectly for in the past. While you might start in Orlandes City you wonít be staying there since the Duke sends you on a mission located all the way to a city called Casporur on the opposite side of the continent. In fact itís probably one of the few areas of Orlandes there hasnít been an adventure taking place in yet.

Youíre supposed to be finding out what happened to an emissary that went there along with learning more about the rumors of the return of the god Asuria and finding out if there is any truth to them. The next part goes on a bit about your training and preparation for the mission and how youíre given only the barest bones of equipment and that youíll basically be on your own since the Duke doesnít want to be implemented in the plot if you get caught.

Doesnít take long before rebels seek you out since theyíre concerned about all the Asuria business, along with people going missing and figure you can help them too. Of course the ruler of Casporur and his closest advisors all seem to be focused on Asuria to a cult like degree, though they arenít completely happy with each other either. Youíll have to figure out where everyone exactly stands. who to side up with (If only temporarily) and ultimately uncover the main plot.

Thereís a slight steampunk element to this one. Stuff like clockwork golems and a submarine are present. Though there is also a mild Cthulhuesque element present to this one as well due to the whole bringing up a ďdeadĒ god from the water, along with some body horror going on. They certainly didnít hold back for this one.

While the writing and gameplay were excellent, I encountered the same crash problem I had for Songs of the Mystics. I'm guessing they didn't tweak these last two books on the technical side of things.

Again, would have been a higher rating if not for the technical issues. The game itself is very good and is a respectable end to the GA series.

Songs of the Mystics, by Kieran Coghlan

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Slightly off key, March 4, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

A couple things off the bat that stand out about this one. One, this one doesnít take place in Orlandes, it doesnít even take place in another major land like Rema. It instead takes place on Isla Des Misticos, which sort of sits in-between Orlandes and Rema (And Drymar which is the third major land the GA books have not had an adventure taking place in)

The other major stand out, is you play as a female protagonist, as opposed to a male one which has been the case for nine of the past books (The tenth, Lords of Nurroth allowed you to choose).

You belong to a rather insular community that lives in the forest called the Mystics that defend a wellspring thought to be the source of all life. Youíre the daughter of the last of the Spellsingers which are basically singing wizards. Due to Orlandes starting to colonize the island and steadily encroaching on the previously unblemished nature, your mother has decided to stop them by becoming one with the wellspring.

Unfortunately for you, she means to do this by sacrificing you in the process. Naturally you escape and the rest of the game unfolds from there. Along the way, youíll soon discover that you also have the power of a spell singer, and youíll gain various songs throughout. And youíll need them too, to overcome some of the difficult encounters.

There are several paths you get to choose from fairly early as youíre making your escape so the encounters will be varied. You can fight a serpent man sorcerer, help defend a village, be captured by a traveling circus or even help underwater monsters. This book tends to take the protagonist on a wide variety of situations. Mostly seeing the effects of ďcivilizationĒ on the island since youíve never been out of your forest.

Assuming you manage survive the initial escape, youíll eventually encounter someone who will help you more directly and even act as a new ďfamily.Ē From there youíll encounter more struggles like a plague gripping the island and eventually a showdown with your mother of course.

While the story in general is intriguing and the combat is fair, I have no complaints about this book other than it had some pretty bad crashes which I hadnít had an issue with on previous Tin Man games. In fact it crashed to the point where I had to actually uninstall the app and reinstall it to get to work again.

Would have been a much higher rating without the crashes.

Lords of Nurroth, by Dylan Birtolo

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
City of Thieves GA style, March 4, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Not a sequel to a previous book, but definitely back to Orlandes because the GA books still havenít explored ALL the major regions of the land yet. As by the title, this one takes place in Nurroth which is located in the northern region of the land and is considered to be quite the hive of scum and villainy (Basically like FFís Port Blacksand), so itís even more appropriate that your character is a thief. Not an adventurer that does some thieving when down on his luck either (Like in Catacombs) youíre an outright thief.

This book is also the first to add more customization. For example, you get to choose if youíre male or female and you get four abilities that you can add a few points to at the start.

Story start off as you going about your one of your thievery jobs, afterwards you get hired for another one which naturally turns out to be more complicated than you signed up for.

One thing that stands out about this game is there are a lot more fitness and ability checks than actual fighting. In fact you should probably avoid fighting if possible since your equipment isnít exactly the most powerful. (Though thereís one exception to that) This can make some of the actual combat difficult, but it sort of emphasizes the fact that youíre not a warrior or adventurer in this one, youíre a thief that relies on other abilities rather than combat.

As the story progresses, it goes on a bit about the cityís background from time to time and how itís semi-held together by various clans which can barely stand one another and are on the verge of open hostilities. Thereís a call back to Revenant Rising and how Saul was a member of one these clans. As if the internal conflict wasnít enough, thereís strife with the city of Falavia as well. (Which makes sense given Saul laid siege to it at one time)

The funny thing is there is obviously of lot of stuff going on here, however as youíre a simple thief, you donít really play a part in a lot of it most of the time. This story in the scheme of things is actually fairly short.

You can profit from being an honest thief, you can profit from treachery, you can uncover the actual secret plot and try to play a bigger role on the world stage, you can just complete the job in ignorance, and as always you suffer an ignoble fate if you really screw up. While there is one ďtrueĒ winningĒ ending, this is probably one of the few GA books that has multiple ďlesserĒ winning endings.

Despite this one being a little smaller in scope, I actually enjoyed this one most out of all the GA books. The multiple endings, different branches and even using different stats give this one a lot of replay value especially since itís on the shorter side.

No major downsides to this one.

Sultans of Rema, by Gaetano Abbondanza

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Another sequel so soon?, March 4, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

With the ninth GA outing, this one continues the adventures of the protagonist from Slaves of Rema and plays a bit of catch up from the events in that book. From there is goes on about what youíve been doing since your escape. Acoleii is the major Reman city state thatís been causing problems for the southern cities of Orlandes and has been mentioned in passing in a few past books about its increasing hostility.

Of course since you managed to escape from that city, now youíre considered important enough to go on a diplomatic mission to another major power in the Rema province called the United Emirates of Akbir to make sure Orlandes doesnít have more hostile governments to deal with from that area of the world.

You start your adventure off in a Reman city state called Callae and itís from here you must travel to the Emirates. You wonít spend too much time in Callae before youíre making your trek across the desert. As you might expect thereís plenty of danger here, environmental and the usual kind. Thereís a few different ways to cross it, others being more difficult than others.

Survive the desert and then your mission continues in Amin al Joddah where youíll have to locate your contact and hopefully expose the Acoleii plot to muddy the waters between Orlandes and the Emirates. This is where a few key important objects and information come in handy.

Much like Slaves of Rema, this one is probably about fair as far as difficulty level. Combat can be tough in places since armor is generally expensive and finding it isnít common. Upgrading your weapon is a little easier, so this is one of those games where you might be able to his hard, but you better take out the enemy on the first try if theyíre rolling a lot of dice to attack. The last fight is especially difficult if you arenít really equipped for it, but itís doable thanks to having some help if you have nothing else.

This one is also similar to Curse of the Assassin in that itís a bit more story heavy, however I liked this one better since it felt a bit more focused on a single plot line. (And it doesnít end on cliff hanger!) Plus itís always nice to get away from Orlandes once in awhile to see other parts of this world.

Highly recommended, especially if you liked Slaves of Rema.

Curse of the Assassin, by S.P. Osbourne

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Back to the basics, March 4, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Eight books and the GA series is already making sequels to past adventures, well it was bound to happen eventually.

I guess they decided the last book was a bit too difficult so they brought back the ďmiddle of the roadĒ Adventurer mode and six bookmarks for classic mode again.

As with most sequels, the book plays a bit of catch up on what happened to you in the first book (Which itís assumed you won, since you wouldnít be in the position youíre in for this one right?) It also goes on about what youíve been doing since which is a lot better than when you started in the first book. You have a new girlfriend thatís one of the Archduke of Orlandesí daughters now rather than drinking yourself into a stupor.

The book not only does call backs to the book that itís a direct sequel to, but also to major events that occurred in other books (Slaves of Rema, Revenant Rising, etc) to further create a sense of a changing world. Probably goes on a bit longer than most like, but I donít really mind stuff like that.

The story starts off with you discovering a childhood friend has died and you investigating his apparent murder. This leads to more backstory about how this dead friend and some of your other old friends used to have an adventurer party until you all split up.

The investigation will eventually lead to traveling back to your old village, involving a visit to your parents (and the old friendís parents to inform them of the news) and branch into three different paths depending on what other old friend you decide to seek out.

While this one starts out with a simple plot, the storyline itself gets more complex as it goes on. Youíll be uncovering more mysteries to fighting creatures thought to be just folklore. The book in general is much more packed with writing, at one point I read over 15 pages or so before moving on to a choice! Combat almost takes a backseat to the story most of the time, especially since you donít do much equipment upgrading or item collecting. Most of the stuff youíll be collecting thatís needed is information.

In fact, itís entirely possible to ďwinĒ but still lose. Even with a complete victory, thereís still a bit of a cliffhanger, which is a bit annoying given they havenít continued this series in a long time. However combined with three different companions you can potentially travel with, thereís more replay value here than past GA books.

If you donít mind a more story oriented GA book then youíll enjoy this one.

Temple of the Spider God, by Jonathan Green

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Lolth is that you?, March 4, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Moving to yet another location of Orlandes, this one takes place in one of the more southern cities of the land called Miramar, or at least it starts off there. Youíre also playing a character of a bit more status in this one rather than some down on your luck wannabe adventurer. You actually work for the Duke of Miramar and the story basically starts out with stopping an assassination attempt on him (via venomous giant spider) and him sending you out to hunt down the suspected culprit which is an explorer named Cortez who went out with three ships and never came back years ago.

This book is a lot more difficult than any of the past six that came before it. First off, it eliminates the ďmiddle of the roadĒ adventurer mode and goes back to classic and casual. And classic has been ramped up in difficulty by only allowing three bookmark save points rather than six.

Also this book adds a new stat called Phobia (Which reminds me slightly of FFís House of Hell FEAR stat). It starts automatically at a lowly seven and youíll be testing it quite a bit because your phobia is, you guessed it, spiders. And youíll be facing all sorts of them this adventure since it would be odd not to given the title of the book.

So the adventure starts off with having to figure out the roots of the assassination plot and equipping yourself for the adventure. Keep in mind you can mess up and fail to discover the proper information and get a premature ending, though you get a couple ways to discover the plot, so failing in this way isnít excessively easy.

Assuming you succeed you get a couple of options of traveling to your destination, either by ship or land. Always nice to get a bit of a difference in paths to reach your destination. Regardless of which path you pick (and assuming you survive all the different dangers which can be pretty varied) youíll eventually reach where Cortez last travelled to and where you being the last stage of your adventure.

The jungle and the temple are both filled with quite a few fitness checks, some of which will lead to an instadeath result. The fights are about average because by this point you should be well armed and protected, but thereís always the spider related enemies that can potentially make combat more difficult due to the phobia check.

All throughout the game there are a few items you sort of need to collect along the way to make even winning achievable. While itís possible to get through the game without a certain item, it makes the final combat very difficult.

Itís a tough book overall, but I found it to have a more interesting adventure than some of the others in the series (Even if it does have a similar basic plot of another book) The colorful artwork in this one really works well too.

Definitely one of the better GA books.

The Wizard from Tarnath Tor, by Al Sander

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
A plodding trek through some ruins, February 26, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This one takes place in the northern portion of Orlandes near (and in) the ruin of Tarnath Tor which was supposed to be a great city a couple centuries ago until it suffered an orc (called orcuns in this series) attack which resulted in the wizards casting some major spell to protect the city, however something went seriously wrong which itís a ruin.

All of this doesnít matter to you at the moment though because youíre taking the role of yet another down on your luck adventurer that has failed to find your fortune. In fact the game starts out with you hanging upside down by your feet after a group of bandits massacred the caravan you were traveling with.

Thankfully instead of finishing you off they leave you for dead which allows a young wizard to stumble upon you who sets you free and essentially starts you on your quest. He explains what exactly happened at Tarnath Tor all those years ago (Basically a magic accident) and says he wants you to help him gain access to his wizard tools. Given that you donít have much else going on and the potential for adventure and loot is great, you accept the quest.

I should point out that this book has one of the longest intros so far. I think you have to flip through about fourteen pages before you even get to a point with choices. The book in general though is long on background and description mainly due to the fact that Tarnathís fate is a bit of a mystery as far as what happened there all those years ago.

The first act involves traveling to Tarnath Tor which starts off getting yourself prepped for the adventure buying equipment and such. Might as well spend all the money the wizard gave you because itís the only part youíre going to be able to stock up. The trip to Tarnath Tor is rather uneventful in the scheme of things. Thereís a couple paths to reach the destination, but like I said, nothing really stands out.

When you finally reach Tarnath, the adventure improves a bit. Youíll run into stuff like animated statues, zombies, a goblyn tribe, a lich etc. Some of which can kill you instantly if you donít have the right equipment, though there is the option for negotiation with a few encounters and even playing monsters off against one another if youíre feeling treacherous.

Eventually if you manage to navigate your way through the ruins correctly youíll soon find the young wizardís tools, along with discovering the whole story behind the fate of Tarnath which will eventually lead to dealing with the final encounters.

Despite the book surrounding the exploration of a mysterious ruin brimming with danger and the remnants of powerful magic, itís rather average. While this one strays slightly from GAís usual theme of getting revenge on those that wronged you, it doesnít really provide too much of a compelling reason for the adventure in the first place other than chance. And while thereís a good reason provided later, it comes so late in the book, you donít really care too much about it by that point other than finishing the task out of a sake of completeness.

I didnít hate the book, but itís not one of the more memorable ones.

Catacombs of the Undercity, by Andrew Wright

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
More of a sewer system than catacombs, February 25, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This one goes directly back to the city of Orlandes rather than just the land. This time youíre a small time adventurer that supplements your living with some thievery which in the scheme of things isnít too much different from what you do as adventurer except stealing from the inhabitants of a dungeon isnít considered breaking the law.

Instead of getting busted by the city militia though, you get caught by the criminal organization that runs the city which is even worse. While you protest that you werenít actually stealing, you arenít believed and youíre thrown into the Orlandes City sewers as a sacrifice for the shadow god cult that the crime organization seems to also have ties to.

From there you have to survive the sewers and try to make your way to the undercity which lies somewhere deeper and is a beacon of ďcivilization.Ē This part of the game is fairly tough since youíre literally weaponless and without armor. Granted the opponents you come across arenít excessively tough, but a few bad rolls and youíre dead. Doesnít help that when you do manage to acquire a weapon, thereís at least one random roll event that can deprive you of it. Might as well restart if that happens.

Despite all that, there isnít necessarily any more combat in this one, itís just that it's more dangerous to engage in it. This one seems to make more use of fitness checks as well.

When you get to act two which is the Undercity itself, youíll get a bit of a breather and a chance to heal and restock items and equipment, though I certainly hope you managed to get into a few fights and loot the bodies before you got into the city because things start costing money here.

As with most of these books, youíre going to seek a bit of revenge on the ones who threw you into the sewers to die in the first place, but youíre going to need some help if you want to make things easier. Hopefully along your trek through the sewers you encountered some folks that could help you with the final showdown of infiltrating their headquarters, because despite the fact that you can go it alone, it probably isnít a good idea.

While there are a couple paths that can lead to the ultimate victory ending, this is one of the harder books due to the lack good equipment from the beginning and you typically donít get the best armor that allows you to roll six dice for defense. Also, there seems to be a bug where the game wonít recognize upgrading your armor, leaving it fairly low throughout the game. This bug doesnít make the game impossible, but it makes it more difficult than it needs to be

Despite this really annoying bug and that it might not have as ďepicĒ of a feel as some of the other books, itís still worth playing through.

Revenant Rising, by Kieran Coghlan

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Death is not the end, February 25, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Going back to the Orlandes for this setting. This one takes place in a more central region of the land near the city of Falavia. Thereís references to familiar cities and lands mentioned in previous books, though this one specifically makes mention of one of the more infamous names in the series namely Makros the Unearthed who is a great necromancer. Your buddy Saul in the story convinces you to go rob his lair. Not really the greatest idea.

Thereís a couple different pathways to the lair, but ultimately youíll get to the treasure that your buddy convinced you to go get and then heíll promptly betray you which will result in your death. And thatís where act two kicks in.

You wake up thanks to Makros who isnít pleased about his amulet of invulnerability being stolen. (Thereís a call back to GA2 when he makes mention of someone stealing his staff in Myr) Heís raised you from the dead to got fetch it for him since heís got more important things to do than to bother with hunting down petty thieves. He makes it clear though that since he raised you, youíre under his command, though at this point youíre looking to settle a score with your ex-friend who is attempting to use his new found power to try to take over Falavia as the first step in conquering Orlandes.

The plot of this one is another revenge focused one, with ďsaving the worldĒ as an after thought. Makros doesnít really care however about your traitorous friendís ambitions, he just wants his property back.

The gameís rules change a bit here since youíre dead and all. So healing potions donít really work, but honestly combat is pretty easy since youíre given a very powerful sword that will heal you when you kill someone, plus you can heal by meditating from time to time. Thereís another thing that can act like a healing potion of sorts if you can find it.

The first part this act mostly involves traveling to Falavia, while second is dealing with Saulís actual siege of the city. Thereís more than a few paths here, however only one is going to allow you to move on to the last act, because even if you manage to get revenge on Saul and save Falavia, you still have Makrosí magic enslaving you.

Assuming you figure it out, your last challenge will be breaking Makros magic that binds you.

I liked this book quite a bit. Not many of these sort of books that let you play as the undead. More world lore expanded on for this series and the challenges in this book are about right. I have no complaints about this book and found it to be a solid adventure for this series.

Slaves of Rema, by Gaetano Abbondanza

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Are you not entertained?, February 25, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

For the third outing, the GA series moves away from its Orlandes setting a bit and focuses on another part of the world known as Rema which at one point used to be the equivalent of this worldís Roman Empire. Not so much any more by the time the books take place, but itís still considered a major power.

Youíre from one of the southern Orlandes cities that does a lot of trading with the Reman city states, one of those things you trade in are slaves. Youíve also been mildly sheltered all your life (Despite being trained as a soldier), so itís a big surprise when your ship gets captured by the Remans and they take everyone as slaves. This would be considered an act of war, but thatís the least of your concerns when youíve just been thrown into the arena as a gladiator.

The main plot is to survive the arena and escape back to your home city of Bosque in Orlandes. The first act is mainly escaping the arena with the help of other slaves, second act involves catching a boat ride back home and dealing with the problems that pop up with that. Youíll also discover some other sinister plots along the way. The book has a couple of winning endings depending on how you handle the first choice of combatants for the gladiator fight. The book in general has a few branching paths which will eventually link back up to the main path, so thereís still replay value here.

I already liked this one more than the last two books, mainly due to the pseudo Roman setting and slightly different set up for adventure. (Youíre trying to escape from something rather than trying to kill something) I was reminded a bit of Trial of Champions from the FF series, but this one was WAY better.

While this story starts you off as slave, the book is actually pretty fair with the combat, skill checks and item hunts. I suppose this could be considered one of the ďeasierĒ books. Though I donít consider that a bad thing and thereís still plenty of instadeath endings if you arenít careful. I particularly liked the non-standard ending where you turn into a mer-person.

One disappointing thing is I was hoping the gladiator bit was going to be longer. Perhaps even a non-standard ending where you just end up preferring the life of one anyway (Eventually gaining your freedom via combat) However, thatís a very minor thing I was disappointed in since the rest of book is excellent.

Siege of the Necromancer, by Neil Rennison

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Some improvements over the first, February 25, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

The second book in the GA series already makes a few changes by changing the mode options a bit. Making ďClassicĒ a bit more lenient with the bookmarks and adding an ďAdventurerĒ mode which acts as a middle difficulty option between classic and casual.

Everything thing else remains the same mechanics wise.

This one takes place in a different part of the GA world, the other side of the continent of Orlandes in fact. Youíre a miner heading back to to the city of Myr to see your family again, but along the way, youíre already hearing stories of a necromancer taking the city over. Naturally youíre a little concerned about this.

Doesnít take long before youíre already in the thick of battle as goblyns (Yes, itís spelled that way since the GA series tends to have all the same familiar fantasy races with just slightly different names) have been pillaging the area and as you soon learn, attacking the city of Myr. A majority of the adventure involves you getting into Myr and stopping Erid Buul who apparently is leading these goblyns as just one step in his plans.

If the first book resembled a fantasy version of a revenge action flick, this one resembles a fantasy version of Die Hard. Youíre basically going through the half ruined goblyn infested city of Myr trying to get to your family and stopping Erid. Heís a bit more of a traditional ďconquer the worldĒ type, but heís really only in the beginning stages hence why you still have a shot at beating him.

The name of the book gives away some of what youíll be facing, which is the undead, but that isnít necessarily apparent until a little later since the main force is goblyns. In fact you may start to wonder where the hell does the necromancer part come in given the severe lack of undead in the beginning, but they start showing up a bit more later.

Perhaps in an effort to pad it out a bit more, the game drops a lot of background when examining different tapestries or sculptures. Thereís also quite a few places where you get multiple choices of doors or paths and they either ultimately loop back to one or you canít open the doors at all. I felt like this could have been handled better.

This game also has a terrible oversight. There is a character that will help you if you provide him with certain information. This particular character pops up in a few different locations probably in an effort to make sure you donít miss him (Still possible though). Now itís entirely possible to gain the needed info before you actually meet him. However if this happens, you donít get the option to tell him and youíll be in a walking dead state. Itís pretty annoying.

The game decides to throw a bunch of difficult combat at the very end which can be pretty tough if you havenít gotten the strongest weapons and armor.

While this one improved upon the GA system, the basic plot felt about as compelling as the first book, so Iíd rank it about the same. Itís another solid adventure despite some of the mistakes that were made.

An Assassin in Orlandes, by S.P. Osborne

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
The beginning of Tinmanís original series, February 25, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

While Tinman games is well known for reissuing the Fighting Fantasy books and updating them, I feel like their original Gamebook Adventures series which put them on the map in the first place doesnít get near enough attention as it should.

It could of course be due to the rather uninspired name ďGamebook AdventuresĒ. They really should have come up with something better, but hey at least itís accurate I suppose.

Boring series name aside, there is no doubt that they did A LOT of world building even before they put out the first book. In pretty much every one of these books in the main menu area you can look through an extensive index of the worldís history, races, major cities, creatures and even a map.

While I know ďinfo dumpsĒ irritate a lot of people, they managed to implement them well enough here so as not to get in the way of the actual story. I actually appreciate more of this kind of thing since it make me care more about the adventures.

Honestly, with as much world building that was done in the GA series, itís the closest thing to a ďmodern successorĒ to the FF series. The stat system is different, but I feel like what they did works better in this format than the FF stat system. The games typically give you the option of a ďclassic modeĒ and ďCasual modeĒ.

Classic mode allows you to play more like a traditional gamebook, though you do get ď3 bookmarksĒ which act as save points. Casual mode pretty much allows you to make choices even if they would be inaccessible to you and you have unlimited healing and bookmarks. Itís more so you can just enjoy the story.

And of course it wouldnít be a Tinman game if you couldnít unlock artwork and various achievements for things.

But enough with the basics of the GA mechanics and background, letís get on with the first book in the series.

This adventure plays out more like a revenge action movie with a slight twist rather than a traditional ďYouíre an adventurer, go kill this evil overlord.Ē plot.

You start out drowning your sorrows in alcohol at some tavern due to your girlfriend breaking up with you. Hardly the typical beginning of an adventure! It gets going from there though as soon as you leave the tavern.

Youíll get mixed up in a plot that involves someone going around assassinating nobles and on top of everything else theyíve captured your ex which is the main motivator for you to get involved in the first place.

The first part of the adventure mostly involved finding out who to track down and where theyíre going. This mostly takes place in the city of Orlandes. Thereís a few branching ways this can be accomplished, the paths will link back up though assuming youíre successful. If you arenít successful in acquiring the necessary information, youíll be treated to some non-standard endings of your failure.

Second part of the adventure is traveling to the assassinís place. There is one place in particular that you donít want to miss out on visiting. In fact in this section, itís probably just best to explore everything. (Well thatís good general advice for most IFs!)

The last part involves getting to the assassinís lair and the final showdown with a twist added. While I wonít spoil it (Though itís easy to guess) the twist sort of doesnít really make a whole lot of sense. Or rather the plot seems a bit convoluted as far as the villainís grand plot is concerned and it seems like it would have been easier to try a different approach than what they actually did.

Then again, this is a revenge action story, so maybe it just works that way.

In any case, itís a solid first outing for the series. The story isnít the most original, but the writing is fine. It isnít perfect, but then neither was Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

Trial of Champions, by Ian Livingstone

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Dungeon 2: Deathtrap Boogaloo, February 11, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Yet another one available through the Tinman games FF Classics app.

As mentioned in the title, this is a sequel of sorts since youíll be participating in an all new dungeon created by Baron Sukumvit who has raised the reward because heís just that confident that nobody is going to beat it this time.
But none of this really matters to you right now, because youíre a slave.

Thatís right, while you were sailing from Port Blacksand to Oyster Bay (Presumably to visit Mungoís memorial) you get captured by slavers.

People really need to learn that sailing from Port Blacksand never results in good things.
So you get transported to place called Blood Island thatís run by some petty tyrant called Lord Carnuss who is making all his slaves fight for his amusement, but also to see which one is the toughest so he can send them through his brotherís dungeon because he wants to show him up.

Yeah the baron apparently has an even more messed up brother also with too much money and time on his hands.
Since he wrote the first one, itís not surprising that Ian wrote this one too. It also shouldnít be surprising that youíre in for a series of tough battles right from the start. The item hunting wonít begin until a little later though.

So the first part of the adventure is basically being a gladiator. Here youíll encounter a few instant deaths while youíre going through all the tests. These include a race and jumping over burning coals while wear heavy sacks on your back. Timed jumping and ducking some blade machine. A blindfolded gladiator match involving several contestants. A regular gladiator match with some big monster.

Assuming you manage to survive all this, you vow to not forget all the other slaves that died for Carnussí amusement and get revenge.

So Carnuss and crew transports you to Fang where his brother is getting the dungeon festival started. The other contestants are a dwarf noble, a elf prince, an eastern warlord and a chaos champion. Apparently this contest attracted a higher class of participants than the last time around.

Youíre thrown in the dungeon with nothing but a sword which is pretty short sighted of Carnuss if he wants you to win all for the purpose of showing up his brother. He could have given you a few extra things to help you out, but he doesnít believe in playing as a filthy casual I guess.

From here on as you might expect, itís a dungeon crawl. Start item hunting because the main thing you have to collect are these little gold rings. You donít get told you need to do it either, because Ian wrote this and screw you if you canít keep up. There are a few riddle bits too.

Much like the first dungeon, the encounters arenít exactly the most memorable. I mean there are a crapload of tough battles and instant death paths, but it's just so common and expected here thatís its hardly worth dwelling on.

The baron must have gotten a deal with a necromancerís guild or something this time because it seems like there are a lot more undead running about. A tougher battle is with a skeleton king on a horse where you need a blunt weapon to do the normal amount of damage to him. Another encounter is with a Lich Queen. Again even the monsters are royalty this time around.

Youíll also have some encounters with the other contestants, but unlike the first dungeon you donít get to interact with any of them like you did with Throm. In fact most will just attack you immediately.

Other notable encounters I guess are with the trial masters. One of which is some Buddha looking dude who gives you some tests. Failing any of these tests either means death or enslavement to work as a dungeon flunky meaning you just trade one form of slavery for another.

The other trial master is a wizard who asks you how many rings youíve collected. This part is really longer than it needs to be since he asks several questions about how many you exactly have. Give the wrong number and he'll call you a loser and kill you. (No really, he'll actually call you a loser) In fact this bit even has an anti-cheat number which if you give a particular answer he'll call you a liar since there was no way you would find that number.

If you got that far, now you have to do some sort of number puzzle with them and turn to the correct number. Fail and you die. With all the puzzle and riddle stuff in this book, I thought I was playing an Ian written story not a UK Steve one.

Assuming you pass THAT, youíre almost out. Honestly though that whole bit could have been cut down by the wizard asking you if you had the correct number of rings from the start and then killing you if you didnít.

Soon after that youíll get one more "test" one choice leading to instant death and the other leading out since the baron loves trolling people at the last moment. Finding the exit you'll get bunch of cheers and the usual surprise by Baron Sukumvit who wasnít expecting anyone to win again.

When Sukumvit is about to hand you the prize, his brother Carnuss steps up and claims that because youíre his slave that he represented him and as such HE gets the twenty-thousand gold.

Nobody is exactly thrilled with this using a ringer crap even if there isnít any specific rule against it. However since Sukumvit doesnít like his brother anyway, he changes the rules by giving an additional to the reward to the winner by granting a wish. Naturally you say your wish is to avenge all the dead slaves and fight Lord Carnuss.

Carnuss of course protests, but heís shouted down by the crowd and they wonít let him off the stage when he tries to leave. Since he runs the risk of getting lynched he draws his weapon saying ďSo be it!Ē

Despite everything, heís actually no push over in combat. Just had a strong sense of self-preservation and not wanting to be bothered to dirty his own hands.

So if you kill Lord Carnuss you get your revenge, your prize money and a lot of warm and fuzzies for winning in the first place. It then mentions that itís more gold than you could ever live on by yourself, so you get the idea to hire an army to conquer the unknown lands past the Moonstone Hills since youíve got the coin to do it.

Now, think about the wording. It didnít say explore. It clearly said conquer with an army.
Apparently you were a villain protagonist all along.

Thatís the book.

Well this one was another one I didnít really ďproperlyĒ finish. Just sort of by passed some of the stuff I needed and didnít have most of the time.

I canít say this is one I was really into all that much. I was never big on the first deathtrap dungeon so I wasnít big on this one either. Really I found the more interesting part of this book was the beginning where youíre doing gladiator stuff. Probably should have just focused a whole book on that instead.

As for Lord Carnuss as the main villain? I feel like he was one of the better ones. At least you have a personal reason to hate him since he enslaved you whereas in other books youíre often just being told ďHey this guy is an evil overlord, you need to go kill him.Ē (Or in Zagorís case, heís minding his own business and you just invade his home and murder the hell out of him.)

Itís an okay book, but itís nothing too special.

Deathtrap Dungeon, by Ian Livingstone

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Spoiler: This entire adventure is a dungeon crawl, February 11, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Another one available through the Tinman Games FF Classics app.

DD is one of those books that tends to be one of the favorites in the FF series. Itís not bad and I certainly enjoyed it, but I never got the big deal about it.

The premise is a guy named Baron Sukumvit holds this Trial of Champions event in the city known as Fang. Because heís a rich jerk with a lot of time and money on his hands, heís created this insanely dangerous dungeon for this purpose. People enter and if they survive then they win ten-thousand gold. If they fail, then they die.

So far nobody has won and being the ego/greed driven adventurer you are, you decide to try your luck.

Yeah, itís basically like a fantasy version of any of those 80s scifi movies where you got a gamshow based around trying to survive to the end. Surprised they didnít actually put it in a scifi setting actually, but probably for the best that they didnít.

Despite the simple premise, this is where the series started connecting other books and creating a greater world. It mentions the city of Fang being located close to Port Blacksand and few other background lore things.

Before you enter, it also mentions some of the other contestants. One of them is an armored knight, two of them are barbarians, one is an elven girl, and another is some ninja dude. And youíll meet most of them all again at some point.

As to be expected for a book called Deathtrap Dungeon, the book is incredibly punishing. Having high stats is sort of vital due to some tough battles, but there are a lot of instant death scenarios. Some of them can be easily avoided provided you arenít retarded like say crawling into a hole where a giant rock grub came out of. (Yes, you can actually do that)

Most of the encounters you have are either fights or some room where you have to make a skill check due to traps. While there are encounters that stand out, most of memorable ones involve you bumping into the other contestants.

Youíll also bump into a few trial masters that are in key parts of the dungeon. Sometimes they just give you a riddle to solve, but in one instance you have to under go a series tests, which Iíll get to in a moment.

The dungeon could be said to be divided into two sections. The only real difference is the second part is a little more lethal and you might have uncovered the fact that you need 3 gems to pass the final test.

Yeah, Ian with his item hunt again. Might have helped had you KNOWN about collecting vital gems from the start, but then again maybe it's just assumed that as a filthy adventurer youíre going to be snatching any valuables you can anyway.

So getting back to the first half of the dungeon, youíll actually encounter one of the barbarian contestants known as Throm. The pair of you will actually agree to work together for awhile which is a bit of a first in the FF series to be traveling with someone.

Thromís not too much of a talker though and you'll probably want to keep in mind that for this contest, THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE winner and eventually you'll part ways after a major encounter with one of the trial masters.

Around this point you move on the second phase of the dungeon, which I said seems a bit more lethal. A lot more instant death parts and tough battles, one of which is a freaking T-Rex, though for some reason they call it a Pit Fiend. (Because itís in a giant pit I guess) You can avoid a direct fight with some luck and some skill checks as I remember.

It is also at this point youíll bump into the last remaining contestants at some point. One of them even has one of the gems and that one is an unmissable encounter so it's sort of a "gimme" assuming you manage to defeat them.

One encounter of note that isnít contestant related is one where you bump into a female troll who wants payment for pulling you up on a primitive elevator. You can fight her, pay her or talk your way out of it. Talking is amusing since you look about the room and see a picture of a male troll and make reference to it. She tells you that the picture is of her brotherÖSourbelly! She then gushes about being very proud of him being a guard in Port Blacksand.

Assuming you have all the gems, there's still a last bit with the final trial master. Failing to have all the gems leads to a non-standard ending of being a flunky for that trial master and remaining trapped in the dungeon. Which couldnít be a worse fate for an adventurer seeing as youíll be working a regular 9 to 5 job.

If you have all the gems then you have to put them in correct order. This is sort of a call back to the Firetop key puzzle. Get them in the wrong order and you suffer damage, but if you survive it, you keep getting chances to put them in the correct order.

After youíre done messing around with the gems and finally get them right, you'll eventually emerge victorious to a cheering crowd and the baron has no option but to give you your prize. I can only guess that this crowd was somehow watching all this stuff unfold on perhaps a giant crystal ball.

There really isnít a ďfinal bad guyĒ to fight. I suppose is the closest thing to one is the last surviving contestant since it's a pretty tough battle and near the end of the adventure. There's also a tough fight with a manticore towards the end too.

But since itís the dungeon thatís trying to kill you the entire story, that could be considered the ďmain bad guy.Ē

In any case, as I said I never got the hype with this one, but its still one of the better FF books.

City of Thieves, by Ian Livingstone

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
One of the best FF books, February 11, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This is another one available through the Tinman FF Classics app.

After playing the disappointing Starship Traveller book, this one was more enjoyable as I was back on the world of Titan again and chopping things up with a sword.

The story has a typical set up. Youíre an adventurer, you get hired by the town of Silverton to get help from a wizard by the name of Nicodemus to stop an evil necromancer called Zanbar Bone from terrorizing the place and such.

Nicodemus however lives in Port Blacksand which is basically the hive of scum and villainy of the land so youíll have to brave the infamous city of thieves.

Despite how generic this all sounds, this is probably one of my favorite books. Most of the setting is entirely in Port Blacksand so itís a ďcity crawlĒ but is pretty rich with varied encounters.

I'd definitely say Port Blacksand did inspire a few things in my own writing of crime infested fantasy cities.

One thing thatís a little odd, is there are many sections of the book where you get the option to just walk into some private home to explore. While if you were playing as thief this might make a little more sense, but then again as an adventurer I suppose it isnít too far fetched that youíre just going in places uninvited and taking stuff anyway.

Still, in a place known as the city of thieves, youíd think more people would at least lock their doors, though given some of the messed up encounters, maybe common thieves are rolling dice on survival by breaking in anyway.

Really going on about the encounters would be a section unto itself. Most of it is when youíre breaking and entering these private homes.

A funny one is somebody asking who it is and if you say ďtax manĒ they just toss a bag of coins at you from the next room without even looking. You take them and leave. There's also a few creepy encounters (With accompanying pictures!) which might make you think twice about just blundering into people's homes.

The adventure itself is sort of divided into three parts. The first part is trying to find Nicodemus. Eventually when you get to the middle of city divided by a bridge you find out heís living under said bridge. So you go there to talk to him.

And in typical fashion for these wizards, he wants to do the bare minimum to actually help you. He tells you heís old and doesnít want to leave his house (canít say I blame him) but heíll tell you how to kill Zanbar Bone. Youíll need Lotus Flower, A black pearl, and hagís hair mixed together to grind in his eyes. But first youíll need a a silver arrow to shoot into his heart so you can paralyze him first. Plus youíll need to get a unicorn tattooed on your head. (I swear I think Nico is messing with you on that last one)

So begins the second part of the adventure, where you're seeking out all these things in the second half of the city. As you can tell Ian wrote this one seeing you now have an item hunt to do with no indication where any of this stuff might be.

Eventually your time in the city will come to an end when every eventual route leads to two troll guards by the name of Fatnose and Sourbelly. They mess with you immediately and no matter what you say or do, you're going to have to leave the city. (The easy way or hard way)

Whatever you do, you wonít be in Blacksand anymore and itíll ask you if you managed to get all the needed items. If you didnít you instantly fail since you canít risk going back into Blacksand now. (Or at least youíre not going to risk it)

If you managed to get everything, the end game begins, but first a new wrinkle!

As youíre making your way to Zanbarís lair, you get a message from Nico via carrier bird telling you that you only need grind up two of the three items to kill Bone.

This means now you have to play a guessing game of which three items to grind up since Nico is a senile old coot and canít remember. This apparently ticked a lot of people off, but given how most of these books go with their one true path mode of operation, this sort of thing is hardly surprising.

So after cursing Nico a bit you set off to Zanbarís place. This part is pretty simple. You get into some fights with undead, before locating Zanbar, but thatís about it.

Anyway so thereís the final showdown Zanbar. You actually need an item that Nico didnít tell you to go find, but you need it anyway to not get instant death. You can find it in Zanbarís place though because evil overlords always keep the item that can mess them up close by.

The showdown is pretty quick. There's no complicated duel like you might get with Zagor or Dire, it's just having the right item combos and passing a skill check and you'll win. If not, Zanbar will kill you instantly with his life draining lich powers.

If you avoid such a fate, you'll go back to Silverton and get a bunch of praise as usual.

As I said while the basic plot of saving some dumb little town from the local magical bully doesnít sound like much, the adventure through Port Blacksand is where all the cool stuff happens.

Zanbar seemed like a cool enough overlord (He looks a bit like a typical skeletal lich from the pic of him), but he seems a little disjointed from the rest of the adventure unlike say Zagor or Dire.

After youíre done with the city part of the adventure, going to kill olí Zanbar seems almost like an afterthought.

Of course as I said, I still think this one of the top FF books set in the world of Titan.

The Citadel of Chaos, by Steve Jackson (U.K.)

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Better than Firetop Mountain, February 11, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

I found that Tinman Games does have some more of the Fighting Fantasy books available, but they're not immediately accessible unless you get their Fighting Fantasy Classics app. Not sure why you can't just download them singularly like you can with others, but there you go.

Like most Tinman game updates of the FF series, they don't add too much other than colorized pictures and options to limit your "bookmarks." (Saves) The app itself also provides a bit of history on the FF series.

On with the actual book review.

This one gives you a little more purpose than just a simple dungeon crawl. Instead of being some wandering adventurer going into the evil overlordís lair to kill and take his stuff, youíre now employed by the government to go into the evil overlordís lair and kill him. (And take his stuff anyway)

Okay itís a little more complicated than that. Youíre trying to defend your homeland from getting conquered by this wizard Balthus Dire who in later lore you find out he was evil school buddies with Zagor and another evil wizard dude whose name escapes me at the moment.

Basically they all learned under this mentor type, and surprisingly none of them ever backstabbed each other and when they all ďgraduatedĒ by killing their mentor (who realized too late that he was schooling three hellspawn) they all just went their separate ways to perform dark deeds in their own corner of the world.

I think Balthus and the other guy clashed at some point due to both trying to conquer the same territory, but Zagor seemed content just chilling in his mountain though. (Until some wandering adventurer kicked the crap out of him)

Anyway so this adventure also gives you access to spells! Youíre an apprentice so you only get a limited amount and you roll to see how many you get during the stat roll. Choose your spells wisely since you donít ever get the option to replenish them. Or at least I donít remember any part in the book where you get that option.

So despite being a wet behind the ears apprentice they send you of all people to go assassinate Balthus Dire. Pretty sure someone in the magic school didnít like you if they sent you on some suicidal mission like that.

Since youíre supposed to be infiltrating Balthusí place, youíre trying to be low profile by masquerading as someone thatís just another minor of Direís. Since Dire is an equal opportunity evil overlord, you can sort of get away with this because heís got a diverse bunch of troops of all races working for him.

Though since everyone is working for a darklord anyway, theyíre all inclined to kill you just for ticking them off or being suspicious. Not to mention heís just got weird monsters running about that are probably going to attack anyone they come across.

The encounters in the citadel are pretty varied. Some of the more memorable ones include and ghostly washer woman, a campfire party with an orc, a dwarf and goblin and his girlfriend sitting on his lap, (who is giggling and slapping him occasionally from the description and accompanying picture) a leprechaun that just messes with you for the lulz, witch cooks and their oven heated by a fire elemental, Direís wife and more!

Honestly there are more weirder encounters in this one than Firetop and a few creepier bits which makes it stand out a bit more.

There's even a particular encounter where you sort of get to do something a little "morally questionable" but this isn't really dwelled upon too much if you do it. You're there to serve the greater good and all!

There are two major encounters that will stop you from reaching Balthus Dire. They both sort of come one right after another. Since this is a Steve Jackson game rather than Ian Livingston, they won't be combat oriented. One is object based, though there's actually two objects that will work, unfortunately though one of them is on a path that prevents you from resolving the OTHER major encounter which requires having a correct piece of information to get past a certain area. So there is really only one "true path."

If you manage to get through all that, you'll finally meet Balthus Dire and it even shows a picture of him and he looks almost like a fantasy version of Wez from Road Warrior. It even goes on about how he looks more like a soldier rather than a sorcerer.

The final battle with Dire is sort of cool since there are quite a few ways you can do the final combat with him, similar to how you handle Zagor in Firetop Mountain. You can go straight for the kill with combat, but he's pretty strong. The magic duel is a little more fun. Finally, much like with Zagor, there is a way to beat him without combat at all if you know his weakness. Though given what his weakness is, he's a damn fool for having things set up the way he does. Even Zagor had his weakness well protected.

So thatís basically the book. Always thought this one was better than Firetop. It certainly feels a bit more polished.

As a side note I always thought artwork cover for the original UK version was awful. Seriously itís really boring even when compared to the other UK covers, which are at least serviceable.

Anyway, I liked this one quite a bit and found the setting more interesting than the average dungeon crawler. Dire was also a cool villain compared to a lot of other FF villains. Would have liked to have seen him pop up again somehow.

Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country, by Adam Thornton

15 of 20 people found the following review helpful:
Offensively dull, February 5, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

So an IF member suggested that I review this story since apparently nobody else wanted to do it, which is odd since it has as of this review, over 15 ratings and there is an outside review of it linked.

Now Iím going to keep it ďcleanĒ, but given the subject matter, this review might still get a little ďadultĒ in parts. Be prepared.

Okay, well immediately the game tells me to read the first one since there will be references I wonít get unless I do, which Iím loathed to do since thatís more work than I wanted to do. Happily it turned out, the first one wants me to download something weird to my computer in order to play it which solves that problem because Iím not about to download anything just to play it.

So I press on without the advantage of past references or whatever else the author wanted me to know. However, Star Wars and Star Trek are pretty well known, so those references are easy. Space Moose would be fairly obscure, but I actually knew about that one from knowing something of underground comics.

The references I didnít know at all were the IF community members because quite frankly I donít keep up on whoís supposed to be popular within those ranks. Couldnít quite tell if these were meant to be playful jabs or outright insulting mockery by the author. First Iíd heard of any of them, then again I hadnít heard of the author of this story either until it was suggested to me.

I guess this game had music and graphics too, but I was just playing via the online link provided. Just as well since I could just judge it based on writing content alone.

Since I know this is primarily something known to be horribly offensive, I naturally attempt to engage in doing such things and soon learn that some of this isnít the case. So it isnít like I get to automatically force myself on anyone. Of course that might very well make it too easy, but the game could have gave a death scene or something for attempting it. Not sure why so many IFs shy away from death.

It was also my understanding that the protagonist, Stiffy was some sort of sexual degenerate to the Nth degree, so I was sort of surprised when I couldnít try to sex up the old lady or the corpses. Already Iím disappointed with how this was handled.

I mean even if the author for some strange reason didnít want to really push those ďboundariesĒ like he was attempting to do, there were better ways than just ďYou donít want to do that.Ē

For example, the old lady had a pistol, she could have shot you in the groin or something which could have made for a funny scene about feeling pain despite it being a hologram and how you decide not to try that again.

Hell, I could have written a whole amusing fail scene alone for the corpse one.

"You've never really tried cold packing before, but a hole's a hole right? You go over the corpses and try to pick out the most intact one. You eventually find one that looks like Kristen Bell, if Kristen Bell was horribly burned all over, missing a leg and had maggots crawling in her orifices. Closing your eyes and remembering episodes of "The Good Place" you get started... Five minutes later you're retching and busily trying to brush the maggots off your penis. One thing you've learn from all this, is you're definitely not cut out for necrophilia."

Well thatís what I would have written anyway.

So the first two sex encounters with the hologirl and the engineer are pretty dull. Barely pornographic compared to say that Sexual Service Act game.

The next two encounters get super graphic with the gay furry alien sex. Technically the Space Moose rapes you, but itís one of those things where gay furry alien rape is apparently full of lols. The arena gay sex battle with the Klingon was just an exercise in attempting to make the porn amusing. Just seemed like it was trying too hard though.

Eventually I wind up on the bridge again and I was trying to figure out where to go next. I tried to go to the planet where my engineer apparently went, but the computer didnít recognize that command. Actually, all throughout the game the parser was a bit on the annoying side with being precise.

Not really feeling very motivated to play anymore or figure out how to proceed, I just left Stiffy to wander his ship forever alone. Itís completely possible I missed out on the greatest stuff yet to come in the game, but it seemed like that was as good of an end as any.

Now based on one of the outside reviews, there was some mention of this being satire which is definitely was as far as the whole Star Trek/Wars thing, the problem is thatís been parodied so much (Even in a sexual way) that itís dull.

The review also mentions how it was doing some sort of ground breaking in ďfeminism.Ē

Lol, no. Just no.

First of all letís not mistake what this game is and giving it ďstatusĒ where it doesnít really exist. The game basically has you getting raped by a giant space moose. Fairly certain rape of any kind played for laughs is the very antithesis of any sort of feminist theory. (Not to mention this rape has the protagonist have some sort of ďgay awakening.Ē I can see THAT one being pretty problematic with a certain crowd.)

I guarantee this game wasnít written to make some sort of statement of how the objectification of the ladies is wrong and all that. It was just porn that focused more on the gay furry alien sex rather than the hetero kind and was written for the lols. Thatís it.

Didnít really do it for me though of course. I could probably just turn on the TV if I wanted to see bad Star Wars/Star Trek parodies with gay furry alien sex except now theyíre actually canon.

In any case, thatís the review. Hope it was worth it.

BRAD: the game, by Brendan Powell Smith

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Random but still amusing, February 3, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This was another one I stumbled on while looking up ďChoose Your Own AdventureĒ stuff in the early 2000s. I didnít know until just recently that it was VERY loosely based on the authorís own family members, though even back when I first played it I figured it involved real people based on the pictures linked to the cast descriptions.

And thereís A LARGE cast of characters. While itís not necessary to read through the cast description before playing, you might want to, just so you arenít completely lost because the game is as they say ďlol randomĒ enough as it is.

There is no real plot involved, you play as Brad who is very much a basement dwelling loser. You basically wake up like you always do and from there you can get into some adventures ranging from mundane to very weird. And when I say weird, I mean it. There is no real logic about anything that happens.

The endings you can get are arbitrarily scored. You can sort of guess if you got a better one or not depending on how high the number is, but thatís about it. Since thereís always references about how you canít find your pants and how much you like this one girl, you can kind of consider those your main ďgeneral goalsĒ though youíre only going to be able to achieve ONE of those and Iíll leave it to you to figure out which one is possible.

Technically there is a ďwinningĒ ending which unlocks a ďhardcoreĒ mode which starts things off differently. Hardcore mode is impossible to ďwinĒ though, but given the brand of humor going on in the story, thatís to be expected.

So getting to the humor, well itís hit or miss and I imagine it wonít be for everyone. I found it pretty entertaining though. There are some obscure references that probably only a select few might get. For example thereís a reference to an old computer RPG called Telegard. I smiled when I recognized that one. Thereís even a grue reference at one point.

As one might expect with a game so large and absurd about a basement dwelling loser, the content is firmly on the ďRĒ rated side in places. Thereís no actual sex scenes, but Brad is definitely a creeper.

While I can see the author moved on with other things in life, I am happy to see that they didnít do what the author of ďJerk Your Own AdventureĒ did and censor their work. They didnít disown it either. I can definitely respect that.

Jerk Your Own Adventure, by Anonymous

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Funnier before they censored it, February 3, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

So I stumbled on this one years ago when I was looking up ďChoose Your Own AdventureĒ stuff in the early 2000s. A little hesitant to click on the link at first, but thankfully it wasnít some massive porn site and was a simple CYOA.

The whole premise is coming home from work and finding the perfect way toÖwell letís call it relieving ďstress.Ē

While the game obviously is all about self-love, there actually isnít any porn involved. Even the pictures are mostly just normal pictures of every day items or rooms. Thereís maybe a couple pictures that have a really blurry image of some girl on a screen or magazine, but since itís intentionally blurry, it isnít like you can see much.

I remember playing through it and laughing quite a bit. Itís purpose to be humorous was clear what with the narrator insulting the protagonist constantly and the amusing ďbad endingsĒ though the ďgood endingsĒ were funny too. Iíd sometimes come back to it when I was linking it to other people who were looking for funny CYOAs.

Iím not exactly sure what and when it happened, but when I came back to it recently to add to this very database, I played through it and found that it was now censored.

Now itís not completely censored of course and Iím not sure if this was due to a bunch of whiners complaining to the author or what exactly. Authors ďdisowningĒ their past work is always an eye roll inducing thing, but watering stuff down and keeping it around in some ďsafeĒ form is bad in a whole other way.

In any case itís censored enough that it severely lowered my opinion of it enough that this wonít be getting the five stars I originally was going to give it. I canít really respect work much if the author doesnít have the courage to stand by it.

Sickness, by Stephen Lavelle

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
More of a rant than a game, January 28, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Moving on to the third game, this one seems more like a rant about the medical system rather than a game.

Someone also mentioned that it seemed autobiographical which Iíd agree with too given how it comes across. This is also probably why out of the four games recently uploaded from this author, this one was the most annoying despite it having the most plotted out storyline. The last thing I want to do is play as the author insert complaining about whatever isnít going right in their lives. Just not a fan of IFs being used a personal soapbox.

Even ignoring that potentially being the case, there is no real game here even from a CYOA perspective. Itís mostly linear with a few fake choices here and there that just change the text rather than leading to any different endings. This would have worked better as an angry blog entry than a game considering the lack of branching.

Definitely the worst of the four.

Blood of the Zombies, by Ian Livingstone

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Never expected a zombie FF, January 27, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This one was the major return of the FF series as far as their digital books by Tin Man games go. Like House of Hell, it was set in the ďmodern worldĒ rather than fantasy or (thankfully) scifi. Since this was the first one Tin Man did, they didn't add too many bells and whistles other than colorized pictures and a few other extras they usually do.

For some reason they severely streamlined the combat in this one. Not sure if thatís because they were trying something new or they figured people donít have attention spans nowadays. You donít even have many stats. You just use the STAMINA one and you just sort of need to roll over a certain number during combat.

Basic premise is youíre captured and sold to some mad scientist who is trying to make an army of zombies. You have to not only escape his castle, but you have to kill him AND EVERY ZOMBIE (The description of the book even makes a big deal of this).

Despite it being streamlined, itís still an Ian book, so be prepared for a lot of hard battles in places. In fact, it might even be worse since now you donít even have a SKILL stat to give you an edge. Hope you roll a lot of 12s.

The mad scientist Gingrich, himself is a mixture of creepy and goofy looking when they show pics of him. Heís fond of white rabbits so you see him holding a fluffy bunny in the picture. Everything in this book is really over the top, so the main villain being a little goofy looking doesn't really detract from him. I think it works in his favor in this case.

Along with zombies, youíll also encounter some battles with dogs and few human henchmen. The zombies sometime vary from the ďnormalĒ ones to weird ones. More than a few opportunities for instant death as well.

It wouldnít be a bad B-movie rip off, if there wasnít a girl to save. So youíll run into one of those who will help you in the book.
Final showdown is with Ging and of course heís transformed himself into some super zombie and you have to take him out with some Rambo style machine gun.

Now when it says you must kill ALL the zombies, that wasnít just some passing line, it REALLY means it. Because if you havenít killed a certain number of zombies to determine if you got them all, then you get a ďbad endingĒ where you and the girl you saved see on TV months later about a zombie outbreak overrunning various parts of the world.

This is probably the more difficult part of the game since this is a CYOA and if you didnít choose a certain route then yeah youíre probably going to miss a few. Ian as usual, making things harder than they need to be.

Of course if you killed them all, you get the good ending.

Anyway despite the streamlined system, I didnít mind the book. They did a good job on this horror outing, though again it definitely was more B-movie style than the House of Hell one. Sort of fitting that Ian has the blood and guts style, while Steve's was going for a genuine creepy horror.

Itís worth playing and it was definitely one I played through a couple times

Bloodbones, by Jonathan Green

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Better late than never, January 27, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This one has a bit of an interesting history. One I didnít even know about until like a decade later since as an American I had always believed the FF series ended with book 21. Little did I know it continued on to book 59, they just stopped publishing them here in the states. All those adventures I missed!

In any case Bloodbones never officially saw publication during the original book run. There were always rumors that it existed in a limited run, or a few special copies were floating about but the truth is, it never left the drawing board since the series got cancelled.

Eventually though during one of FF many reboots, Bloodbones finally rose from its watery grave. The Tin Man Games version didnít do too much with the updates in this one other than the usual stuff like colorized pictures, itís bookmark system difficulty, etc.

While this FF book didnít really see life until much later, it still feels very much like a 80s game book probably because it was written when that style was still popular. Itís definitely one of the more difficult books.

This one was written by Jonathan Green and apparently he tends to focus on horror elements in the FF books he wrote. I only ever read this one by by him (so far) but I can definitely see the horror elements in this one. He seems to lean more towards the Steve Jackson style of things since he has passwords and codes to trip people up rather than relying on tough combat (Though thatís still there too, along with a lot of item collecting)

This whole story is a little more on the personal side as far as FF plots go since youíre trying to kill the ghost pirate that killed your parents at one point. Youíll need gather what you need to defeat him along with finding him in the first place and youíre on a bit of a timer to do all this.

Probably due to a ghost pirate being involved AND voodoo, all I could think of was this being a more grimdark version of Le Chuck from Secret of Monkey Island. Given that this book would have originally been written shortly after that game came out, I canít help but wonder if there was a little inspiration there.

Still, this one didnít quite grab me as some of the other FF books. Canít really put my finger on why exactly. Iíd say itís one of the average entries in the series. Still worth a play through, but not really an excessively memorable adventure.

Appointment with F.E.A.R., by Steve Jackson (U.K.)

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Saving the world from FEAR itself, January 27, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

What are the usual settings that most nerds are into?

Fantasy? Obviously. Scifi? Of course. Horror? For sure. Post Apocalyptic? Definitely.

Well whatís the obvious one we missed?

If you said super heroes, then congrats, you are a true nerd.

Once again the FF series tries to step out of its comfort zone and do something other than fantasy. Heavy hitter Steve Jackson (UK) wrote this one, which isnít too surprising since he always did the more experimental stuff. Since Tin Man reissued this one, I'll also be going into how they updated the originals as usual.

Anyway, you get to be a super hero in a ďmodern earthĒ setting. You sort of get a name in this one too since youíre known as the Silver Crusader. However the Tin Man version already updates this by allowing you to customize your own super hero name, your gender and even what your costume looks like.

Other updates include "trading cards" you can collect, new artwork, and the whole book is done in a more "comic book" style in appearance. The main plot hasn't really been changed though.

Basic premise is youíre the defender of Titan City (Oh ho ho ho, a reference to the fantasy world) and you find out that F.E.A.R. (Federation of Euro-American Rebels) lead by Vladimir Utoshski AKA the Titanium Cyborg are having some secret meeting and you have to discover where and when its taking place.

Okay the set up for this one is a little different already. You do the usual stat rolls, but you also pick what powers you have from a list of four. Super strength, Enhanced Technological Skill (ETS), Energy Blast and Psi Powers.

Okay first off Super strength and ETS are basically playing as Superman or Batman respectively. These are really ďeasy modeĒ With super strength you even get an automatic skill of 13 and can fly. And with ETS there just about isnít a single encounter that you wonít have a device on you that can give an alternate solution to resolving it. Hell there is at least one villain you can encounter in the book that will kill EVERY other super hero instantly except the ETS one. (Just like the real Batman!)

Energy blast and psi powers are more difficult mainly because anytime you use those powers you subtract some of your stamina! The psi powers are the worst one since I know there are a few places they wonít even work and/or can result in instant death. It's definitely hard mode.

No matter what power you pick, youíll get a crime watch which will be informing you of the nearest crime taking place.

Another different thing is, combat stops when you reduce the villains to 1 or 2 stamina. Youíre a real hero in this one, as opposed to some dirty opportunistic adventurer so you arenít supposed to be killing people no matter how evil they are (And them trying to kill you). In fact if you accidentally kill a villain, you lose a hero point, which is another stat you keep track of in this book. Hero points donít really mean much though; theyíre just sort of a way to keep ďscoreĒ of how well youíre doing.

Depending on which power you picked, youíll get different clues from the start about various agents of F.E.A.R. The location and times of the meeting also change depending on the powers you picked, so thereís already some replayability here.

With all that out of the way, weíll get to the meat of the book.

Well the book is essentially one long string of comic book references. Almost every villain is a FF knock off of a Marvel or DC villain. Names are dropped constantly like some multi-millionaire called ďWayne BruceĒ, or Banner Street and Parker Airport.

It actually isnít just comic books either, they also got knock off references to other real world things like the ďWisneyland theme parkĒ or instead of a musical called Cats itís called Rats. Things like that.

Most of the time, the encounters donít really stand out unless you fail them. One major one is failing to save the president visiting Titan city and he gets shot Kennedy style.

Even kids arenít safe in this one. (And from earlier FF books we should know Steve Jackson wonít shy away from some child death) At one point a kid can die at Wisneyland and even YOU can zap a kid with an electric blast accidentally! (He doesnít die though)

One cool one though is one of the villains is threatening to poison the water supply and you canít stop him in time. Just when you think youíre going to get an instant fail game state, a gunshot rings out and the villain dies from some security guard that pops a cap in his head while he was distracted with you.

Speaking instant fails, a bad one is your true identity getting discovered. You essentially have to retire and hide somewhere. And nope, you donít get the option to just kill the folks who learn your identity to shut them up.

In any case, the day will arrive that F.E.A.R. has its meeting and at that point you need the location and time and add up some numbers or something and turn to that page. Obviously if you get it wrong or didnít get the info, youíll get a failed ending where Vlad makes an announcement over the radio to all over the world saying F.E.A.R. has taken over the Star Wars program satellites and as a demonstration of their power, theyíre going to use their super weapon to blow up Titan City.

Even if you get the location correct, you still have to face Vlad and he has a fearsome skill score of 17 making it virtually impossible to fight him even if you have super strength. In fact, combat will end after the third round at which point you turn to another page which results in an instant death description.

So how do you beat him? Well you had to pick up one of the few items you can collect in this game to weaken him and it's possible to miss it.

Might as well admit this now. Much like Starship Traveler, I never did finish this book proper because I never could find the get the time and location numbers right. I get that Steve Jackson loves his puzzles, passwords, codes and add up these numbers and go here stuff, and I get that makes the game aspect more enjoyable for some, but I've never been a huge fan of it.

Iíve also probably mentioned before that Iíve never really been into super hero stuff, so I was never really wowed by the fact that you play as one.

Still despite everything I just said, I did replay this one a few times. Not sure why given how it has things Iím just not that into in it, but that might be due to a testament to Jacksonís writing and the flow of the book which kept me more interested than I would normally have been.

So while this FF book isnít on my list of favorites, if youíre into the whole super hero genre then yeah this book would be a pretty good one to play.

Seas of Blood, by Mike Woodroffe and Alan Cox

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Didn't know this one had a computer version either, January 27, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

And once again, I'll be reviewing the book version since I never had the computer version and I doubt it was much different than the original since it came out around the same time. Though I certainly would love to see a updated version of this one by Tin Man Games.

Generally speaking, youíre always playing as a hero in FF books.

Even in a few titles where you might be working for someone evil, you'll still be a "good person" at your core. Or you might do something questionable, but you're pursuing a greater good. Hell, even the ones where you have very morally gray job like assassin or thief, it's still usually against someone even worse.

Well drown the kids and shoot the neighbors, because if you wanted to play as a complete unrepentant villain protagonist in one of these books, this is the one for you because you play as a blood thirsty, pillaging PIRATE!

Though Iím sadly exaggerating just a bit, because it was written by Andrew Chapman who wrote two earlier FF books (Both scifi) which were slim on the description. So youíre not going to get long bloody passages of you pillaging in graphic detail, let alone anything worse. You do get to take slaves, so it's not all bad. But Iím getting ahead of myself.

This book takes place on the world of Titan, but itís in one of the lesser-used areas. In fact, unless you sort of go and look up the lore in other sources, I donít think this book even mentions any of the usual known call backs to the world of Titan.

The premise of this book is you and a rival pirate by the name Abdul the Butcher are having a gentlemanly debate over who is the king of the pirates. The pair of you come up with a wager of sailing from the city of Tak to the island of Nippur and whoever manages to have the greatest amount of treasure within the 50 day time limit will get the title of King of the Pirates.

But this isnít some anime show and your name isnít Monkey D. so youíre going to have to put in a lot of work actually sacking cities, pillaging merchant ships and taking slaves.

Seeing as youíre in charge of a group pirates you have to roll up stats for them. (CREW STRIKE and CREW STRENGTH) This is for all the large scale battles youíre going to fight. Lose all your Crew Strength and it can safely be assumed you were also cut down in the battle and youíve failed.

You also roll up your stats as normal and have to keep track of a log book with how many days have passed as well as how much booty youíre racking up. You also get a pretty useful map of the area youíll be traveling and all the important cities and locations. Probably one of the few FF books where you get a useful map.

Okay so right from the start you get a lot of options of where to set sail. You can go try to find some fat merchant ships, head towards a city to sack or go find some caravans to harass.

The encounters in this book are pretty varied. You go up against ship crews, town militias, cultists and even a few sea monsters. There will also be times where youíll be fighting some tough personal battles as well.

There are more than a few encounters that are instant death. One of which is a direct mimic to Circe and Odysseus. (Beware of isolated women living on islands surrounded by lots of animals.) Another way is being an idiot and actually wrestling a giant. (It says he smacks you so hard you go flying into the next world. Years before Skyrim!)

A few other encounters that stick out include taking a break from traditional ďpiratingĒ and visiting some gambling dens to make some coin, possibly running into someone you know. Speaking of which there is another aspect I enjoyed with this book.

There are at least three places you can bump into old rivals or someone you owe money to. This addition of running into such folks made the adventure feel a little more immersive since itís giving a bit of background of other events that have occurred in your past.

One of them you owe a boatload of coin to and you have to do a winner takes all dice gamble. The other encounter is bumping into some friendly rival who is involved in a war between two city-states. The last one is really random. Youíre just sort of exploring one of the pirate friendly ports and suddenly this beggar attacks you exclaiming he lost everything because of you. Turns out heís another rival from your past that obviously fell on hard times.

In any case it was little thing like that, that made me like the book even more.

While you can take slaves in the book and they technically count as booty, theyíre sort of useless unless you sell them and you only get a chance to do that towards the end of your journey at one particular city. If you donít stop at that city, youíll be stuck with a bunch of worthless slaves at the end of your journey and the whole point is to have REAL coin on hand, not some crappy commodities.

Really the only weak point of the book is the final combat just before you reach Abdul. You have to have a mini-game fight with a big cyclops. Andrew always had these pointless mini-games in FF books he wrote.

Itís not a traditional roll the dice fight either. Youíll get a selection of moves to choose from and then turn to that page, then you see who got hurt and get another selection of moves. You keep doing this until one of you runs out of stamina points.

While the mini-game fight isnít bad (better than Andrewís other past mini-games) but it just sort takes up space for what could have been used for more story related passages.

Anyway after your fight with the cyclops youíll meet with Abdul and youíll compare how much treasure you have.

Failing to have more treasure results in Abdul mocking you and you having to admit defeat. Winning of course means you mock Abdul and youíll get a pic of Abdul bowing his head in defeat and accepting that you are KING OF THE PIRATES.

And thatís the book.

As if it needs to be said, I really enjoyed this one and while Iíve never written too much pirate related stuff, the whole villain protagonist theme of this book probably influenced me greatly.

For whatever reason, this book doesnít get a lot of praise and I donít think itís ever been reissued in any of the several FF reboot attempts.

This one was also Andrewís last FF book and as far as Iím concerned he redeemed himself with this one and went out on a high note. He probably should have been writing fantasy rather than scifi since he did a better job at it.

I REALLY liked this one a lot.

Temple of Terror, by Simon Woodroffe and Mike Woodroffe

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Didn't even know there was a C64 version, January 27, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Well like I said in the title, never saw this one in stores in the 80s, though I certainly had the original book. I imagine there isn't much difference since this isn't a Tin Man games update (Which they don't change much anyway) so my review is going to be based on the that.

As an unimportant bit of trivia, this is the first book in the series where the US started using the same covers as their UK versions, though the lay out was still a bit different.

This is another one set in the fantasy world of Titan and this one could be considered a semi-sequel to Forest of Doom from a certain perspective.

Starts out with you hanging out in Stonebridge with those pathetic dwarves when Yaztromo has deemed to grace everyone with his presence by actually leaving his tower for a change.

In any case, he explains that some guy called Malbordus is planning to TAKE OVER THE WORLD with his evil magic because his momma abandoned him in Darkwood forest a long time ago and he was raised by dark elves that found him and he didnít get breast fed as a child.

Well actually we donít know last bit, for all we know some maternal dark elf might have taken care of that bit. (Hell maybe dark elf milk made him even MORE evil!) Speaking of which, awfully nice of the dark elves in general to take care of an abandoned human child rather than sacrificing it to some spider goddess or throwing it up against the wall.

In any case, Malís planning this scheme by gathering up some dragon artifacts in some lost city called Vatos and Yaz says there needs to be an adventurer to reach the lost city before Mal does.

Unsurprisingly all of the dwarves are cowards and you volunteer because youíre all into this sort of stuff due to being addicted to danger. Yaz thinks you look familiar and so takes you back to his tower where he teaches you some spells. Yep, you get some spells to mess around with. You only get four out of a long list, so choose wisely.

One spell that I soon learned I should have taken during my original play through was the ďCreate waterĒ spell. It seems sort of useless when compared to the other spells, but considering I ended up wandering about in the desert for several passages I would have saved on stamina points with easy water access and not dragging my carcass through the sand like a dead man.

So given that Ian wrote this one, it doesnít need to be said that youíve got an item hunt. Now granted you at least know about the dragon artifacts that you need to get before Mal does, but youíll soon learn that there are some other items that youíre going to need to get through this adventure as well. One of which requires you to disregard common sense to get it.

So immediately you get a couple options on how to travel to the lost city of Vatos located in the Desert of Skulls) You can go to Port Blacksand and book passage on a ship or you can just journey over land.

Regardless of your initial path, youíll soon get to the Desert of Skulls where I hope you got that create water spell because youíll be losing a lot of stamina otherwise. The desert is pretty brutal with encounters, ranging from shell demons to basilisks that can both instant kill you, along with just regular tough battles like giant sand worms. Eventually youíll stop wandering the desert and reach Vatos. For a ďlost cityĒ itís got a lot of activity going on. Granted itís not that surprising itís going to have beasties and such taking up residence long after its been abandoned.

While itís mostly lawless, technically it has a ďrulerĒ a priestess called Leesha as you later find out and her guards of all kinds patrolling the place. A lot of these are of the undead variety, but there are some run of the mill cultists and similar evil types. Sheís pretty much the one that organizes the motley lot to raid desert caravans for supplies and slaves.

Leesha even invites skilled artist from all over the world to impress her with their creations in yearly contests. The winner gets a boatload of riches, the losers get sacrificed. Youíll even bump into a few of these artists.

The topside of the city is pretty much abandoned and you end up descending under the city where all the action is and your search for dragon statues. However you soon get targeted by one of Malís assassins known as the Messenger of Death. Heís fairly nasty looking from the pic and whispers ďdeathĒ in your ear before disappearing.

Basically heís a big trolling jerk. While youíre doing your usual item hunt of exploring every nook and cranny, you run the risk of seeing one of the letters in the word ďdeathĒ at which point youíll lose a few stamina points. If during your adventure you see EVERY letter, he pops up and kills you instantly because a regular annoying item hunt just isnít hard enough.

So the search is basically a dungeon crawl at this point. Along the way youíll mostly encounter a lot of Leeshaís minions. Not too many friendly folks, but not like you'd find many in a Temple of Terror. There's another unavoidable encounter at one point which makes the game a lot harder but it was probably a cheap way to make the last encounters difficult.

If manage to survive long enough, you eventually reach Leesha herself and I hope you have a certain item on you, otherwise it'll be the end for you. In fact there's another encounter after her which REALLY doesn't make much sense. Ian apparently took this opportunity to shove in stuff he forgot at the last minute since there are two vital things you have to stop and mess around with. One of those I can accept since it's just the usual Ian item hunt.

The second one is a lot harder to believe even in the terms of a fantasy setting and just opens up a slew of questions in terms of the story. Grant FF books are always a bit on the simpler side with their stories, but I expect them to at least follow some semblance of logic.

The encounter is just so maddening that if the option for your character to just turn around and go home, I probably would have picked that choice!

However, storyline issues don't really stop there and they exist all the way up to the end with the final showdown with Mal, along with destroying the dragon statues which you also need the right item to destroy them, or else you'll get a bad ending.

If you donít have all the statues you'll get a non-standard ending, where it says you look out a nearby window and see Mal riding a big black dragon in the distance and that heís going to take over the world.


I mean granted he can do a lot of damage, but unless you totally messed up and didnít get ANY of the statues, presumably he didnít get the ultimate power source. I mean there could have at least been a passage that made more sense like him popping up, instant killing you and taking your remaining dragons.

And thatís just it, he WILL pop up if you have all the artifacts. Malbordus is a tough battle, but nothing special. Boring really.

So thatís the book.

I found this one to be rather meh. I mean there were a few things of interest going on, but ultimately itís just sort of bland and has some severe plot holes in terms of the time frame.

At one point it implies that Mal is ahead of you, but somehow you wind up ahead of him. I suppose maybe he got held up doing some other stuff, but that combined with some of the other stuff going on in the book that I already mentioned and it felt like a mess as far as the story and gameplay was concerned.

Not to mention Mal just doesnít seem all that threatening, especially based on the pic you eventually see of him. He's certainly no Zagor.
Probably would have been better to not even have Mal in there at all and instead focused on traveling to Vatos to stop Leesha from summoning a world destroying demon or something. She seemed a lot more interesting.

While I didnít dislike it enough to not play enough to beat it, out of all the books I own set in the world of Titan, this is probably one my least favorite.

House of Hell, by Steve Jackson (U.K.)

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Hell? Somebody think of the children! Say Hades instead!, January 27, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This one has a bit of an amusing history. In the original US printing, the word ďHellĒ was changed to ďHades.Ē I imagine the reason for the mild sanitation of the title was partly due to the D&D ďsatanic scareĒ during the 80s. And given the theme of this book, that would play right into it. Somebody think of the children indeed.

The funny thing is the US version didnít sanitize any of the gruesome content inside (more on that later).

Anyway when my mom got this book for me back in the 80s, I was pretty excited about it.

Until they came out with the new digital FF book ďBlood of the ZombiesĒ this was the ONLY book that was a ďmodern eraĒ (at the time) real world setting. It was dedicated to a pure horror experience and I think it did pretty well in that regard.

This one was a Steve Jackson (UK) one and as can be expected it relied on finding a lot of passwords rather than combat. In fact, you should try to avoid combat as much as possible in this game since youíre generally crap at it anyway.

Youíre a ďreal personĒ not some tough adventurer this time. Your stat rolls will reflect this. Your skill roll is reflected on when you have a weapon in hand. You donít start out with one, so you subtract 3 from it until you have one. So even if you get lucky and roll a 12 for skill, youíll only be running about with a 9 until you can get a letter opener at least.

There is also a new stat called FEAR. Since again youíre just some hapless citizen you arenít hardened to the terrors of unnatural things. At various points in the game (usually when fighting some supernatural horror) youíll add fear points. If your fear points ever exceed the limit that youíve rolled, then you die of fright instantly, making the book even harder.

As I remember, the main winning path basically requires you to have at least a limit of 9 fear. Anything less than that and you might as well reroll since you arenít making it through even if youíre doing everything right.

Yeah, the book is one of the more difficult ones. There are a lot of instant death passages. And the digitalized version makes nothing easier. Just adds colorized pictures and achievements.

Okay getting on with the basic premise. Youíre a normal guy whoís supposed to start a new job, but your car broke down in the storm on your way there during the night. There is only one house around and thereís a small light you can see so you go to see if they have a phone because this is 1985 and you arenít rich enough to have a giant cell phone and it probably would be useless in this situation anyway since youíre out in the boonies.

As befitting of any traditional horror movie, this place isnít just a normal house and itís possible to get your head bashed in (or drugged), tied up and thrown in an empty room almost as soon as you enter the place if you arenít careful. This is generally a bad thing, since while you donít die immediately, youíll end up missing out on some vital info that can only be gotten near the beginning of the game and wonít win anyway.

So assuming you avoid getting drugged, the Earl of Drumer will tell his butler Franklins to to prep a room where youíll be expected to sleep. And this is about where the adventure really gets started as you go wandering about the evil house.

So now youíre free to roam about the house. Honestly I never did get the lay out of this place. Iím crap with maps anyway, but the way the house feels designed it doesnít seem like it would work. Though perhaps that adds to the creepiness since it implies normal time a space doesnít work here. Tin Manís automap feature that they added to some of the FF books, would have been nice here though.

Wandering about on the second floor lets you come across several doors with various names on them like ďAbaddonĒ or ďMammonĒ. Theyíre all demon names in some way but thereís no real indication of what lies behind them until you open them up to explore.

Exploring upstairs gives you a feel for the house and whatís going on. You can encounter skeletons, zombies, ghosts, etc. and theyíre all hostile of course. Thereís a few places where you can find out vital secrets of the house, but quite a few red herrings. Honestly though, you donít get too much help on how to actually escape the house.

Of course if youíre playing a FF book, you know simple escape isnít possible, youíre going to have to fight some major battle in order to win.

Eventually youíre going to make your way to the ground floor and even the basement which invites even more possibilities to get yourself instakilled. Some of the non-traditional endings are just as bad as the immediate death ones like getting yourself locked in a tall cage or small cage. Whatís sort of neat about this is you even get a last choice for how you want to spend your slow agonizing death!

There are also other places where you get stuck in a ďno winĒ branch and the choices you make are going to lead to death no matter what, itís just a delayed result.

Some of pics accompanying the encounters are sufficiently creepy looking. At least a couple could be considered nightmare fuel. Going back to the subject of censorship, there was a picture inside the book taken out for graphic content. The picture in question is a sacrifice in progress where thereís a picture of a naked young girl on an altar. (Her chest is tastefully blocked so there isnít any actual nudity)

This picture was censored in later editions of the UK version of the book, but the US versions had it. Murder all the young naked girls you want, but god forbid you use the word Hell.

Fortunately the digitized version has the word Hell AND pictures of naked girls getting sacrificed in all their glory. (And in color!)

Wouldn't be a FF book, if you didn't need a specific item to win and the final battle has a potential twist if you made the wrong choice. One last chance to troll you into losing, but such is the way with these sorts of books.

And thatís that for this book.

This book gets a lot of praise I think due to it being unique compared to many of the other ones in the series. However, it does get a lot of criticism since itís pretty damn difficult because it requires almost no straying from the ďone true path.Ē

Though I canít really say thatís any worse or better than when Ian is throwing monsters with 11 and 12 skill at you constantly. Itís just different.

Personally I also like the book because of the setting and even though Iíve never really been into the whole ďfind this passwordĒ thing in gamebooks, it didnít bother me too much here, but it took me a long time to figure out how to exactly beat the thing.

Anyway, I liked it and it's worth playing multiple times just to see all the different encounters in the house.

Caverns of the Snow Witch, by Ian Livingstone

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Ending fatigue and then some, January 27, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This one goes all over the place.

The book can be divided into several parts making it feel more like multiple mini-adventures rather than one big one. Some of the reason for that is the fact that part of this adventure was published in a gaming magazine and so for this book they added a lot more to extend it quite a bit. The digital version doesnít change anything other adding colorized/new pictures and achievements to unlock.

Despite the title, the story doesnít even start you off seeking out the snow witch, youíre actually hunting a yeti for a guy named Big Jim Sun since he wants his caravans protected. Heís offered 50 gold for killing the beast so you set out to do just that.

The hunt for the Yeti doesnít take too long. Eventually youíll encounter a trapper in the process of being killing by the yeti. The yeti is a very tough battle, but since Ian wrote this one, you knew what you were getting into from the start.

If you kill the yeti, the dying trapper tells you of how he found the entrance to the snow witchís lair in a mountain says sheís enslaving a bunch of people and planning to bring about an ice age across the world. He was going to try to stop her, but he obviously wasnít even good enough to take out a yeti and got wrecked like a scrub.

You donít even get the option for a premature ending and go return to Big Jim with the yetiís hide to get your 50 gold, you just excitedly go pants on head foolhardy to explore the snow witchís lair now that you know the entrance he told you about.

The snow witch has a lot of her folks wearing obedience collars so they have to serve her whether they like it or not. In fact you can have a conversation with one speaking very frankly about how he hates it. Still sheís got plenty of more willing servants as well.

The encounters on your way to the snow witch are generally challenging fights for the most part. Ice demons, crystal statues, even a dragon. A few you even need specific weapons for or youíll lose automatically. When you finally get to the snow witch herself, youíll definitely need some specific items to defeat her.

Yeah, itís pretty brutal and Ian does that A LOT in this one.

Okay so you managed to survive all that and kill her. And thatís it?

Well no, not quite. While you filling your pockets with loot, a dwarf and elf pop in thanking you profusely for freeing them from the snow witchís enslavement. They decide to join you in escaping from the snow witchís mountain, which apparently is now the third part of the adventure.

The journey out of the mountain isnít much easier. Thereís also going to be certain items youíll need to find along the way if you want your escape to be successful.

If you manage to escape, thatís still not the end! Without giving too much more away, youíll be traveling with your new buddies for awhile and from there youíll go on a fourth, fifth and even SIXTH part of an adventure! You might not even make it to the fifth leg of the adventure if you didnít get a certain item.

Freaking Ian and his unknown item hunts.

Also hope you rolled high stats because you are certainly going to need them for the last steps of the journey, but then again if you didnít roll high stats, I doubt if you would have even made it past the Yeti.

This game probably has the most direct calls backs to other FF books than the rest. Deathtrap Dungeon, Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and Forest of Doom. In fact this one almost acts a prequel to Forest of Doom since it mentions the dwarf hammer being gone.

So thatís it for this book. Itís interesting I suppose since it doesnít just stick to one thing, but this one really wears out its welcome. The fact that this book was originally a much shorter adventure at one time and they just shoved more stuff in to it to pad it out really shows.

Why this one gets more attention than some others in the series I donít know. Itís still good enough for a play through, but itís one of the more mediocre entries I think.

Island of the Lizard King, by Ian Livingstone

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
No One Here Gets Out Alive, January 27, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

While Tinman Games hasnít gotten around to transferring books 5 (City of Thieves) and 6 (Deathtrap Dungeon) yet, those two books along with this one could be linked together as the same adventurer because the intro of 6 and 7 always starts you off in the previous city. 6 mentions that youíve travelled from Port Blacksand to Fang and this one mentions youíre travelling from Fang to visit your old adventuring buddy Mungo in Oyster Bay. Probably the beginning of interconnecting the greater FF world later called Titan.

When you meet your buddy Mungo he tells you that the people here are getting regularly raided. The place itself is normally safe such things because itís poor, but someone has just been straight up taking the people. The one behind these raids are lizard folk from the nearby island called Fire Island.

The island itself has an interesting history since it was used as a dumping ground for prisoners at one point and the native lizard folk were paid as guards. They stopped getting paid though when the ruler just abandoned the idea because most of the people he was ruling over were a bunch of jerks and it would have been easier to just send his law-abiding folk to the island instead.

Naturally the lizard folk were sort of ticked about this and they took out the anger on the prisoners left to rot there. Since they liked doing this so much they then decided to go capture more people and continue doing it. At some point one of the lizards got the bright idea to get really organized and now heís building an army and using slave labor to work the mines on the island.

Yep, itís back to the kill the overlord because the classics never die.

So you and Mungo take his sailboat to Fire Island to stop this stuff. Mungo is generally a cool dude and is telling you about how tough guy his dad was and even drops a call back to Deathtrap Dungeon saying his dad died while attempting to compete in it years ago.

When you get to the island, you get a couple of options to start your journey. Either way, I hope you didnít get too attached to Mungo, because heís dying either way. Go left and he gets killed by a giant crab that crushes him. Go right and he gets killed by a group of pirates that were burying some treasure.

Both battles arenít easy and the adventure has just begun! (Yep, itís another Ian creation) After hacking up whatever felled poor Mungo, he tells you some dying words of getting the lizard king for him. Well now you HAVE to complete the adventure what with it being the dying wish of your friend and all.

So now youíre generally wandering about on Fire Island, which unsurprisingly is a tropical environment for the most part. You encounter a lot hostile beasts in your travels and eventually youíll learn that the lizard folk and the occasional escaped prisoner arenít the only intelligent inhabitants on the island since there are groups like pygmies and headhunters living there too.

Why the lizard folk havenít completely enslaved these other inhabitants too is a bit of a mystery since youíd think theyíd start with them first, but maybe its easier to capture unsuspecting fishermen rather than other hardened natives (with a little vooddo magic too) on the island.

One other thing is that is a bit different in this game is there are a few times where something bad can actually help you. The big one is an item which messes up your stats a bit, but has a hidden benefit for a couple situations. It makes for a nice change of something not being totally useful or totally cursed.

So despite just wandering about, you first half of the adventure involves trying to get to the slave mines so you can at least free everyone. When you finally get there youíre having more encounters with the lizard folk and apparently theyíve got some goblinoids like hobgoblins and orcs helping them as second-class underlings. Humans, dwarves and elves of course are all slave workers. It is after freeing the slaves that you learn more about the lizard king.

Not content on just enslaving non-lizard folk and doing experiments on his own people to make them into tougher mutants, heís also got an overgrown parasite attached to his brain. No really, there is this thing called a Gonchong attached to his head which is sort of why heís a little more organized and intelligent than the average lizard man. The parasite is giving him the extra power boost and itís also granting him semi-immortality since normal weapons wonít hurt him now.

So it wonít be a simple matter of just storming the prison, which heís turned into his ďpalaceĒ with your slave army. You need to find a shaman who might know how to kill the lizard king, so you now have a separate journey and tell your slave army to wait for you and youíll see them in a few days.

Finding the shaman isnít hard since youíre told where he lives, but when you get to him, youíll have to convince him to help and pass some tests. You can still win without his help, but you just donít get the direct info you need to beat the lizard king.

Youíll then travel a bit more to meet with your slave army and finally commence with the first part of the final battle and then eventually the show down with the lizard king. Hope youíve got the right stuff with you to fight him.

Once again the digital version doesnít change much other than adding colorized pictures and an auto map which honestly you donít really need for this one

And thatís it for this book. Lot of difficult combat in this one as to be expected from Ian, though less item hunting. Hell, you only need one of the two major items to win the game. The rest of the items in the book are very useful, but you can win without them.

This one probably doesnít get mentioned as much as some of the others, but I always found it to be an all right book in the series and worth playing.

Starship Traveller, by Steve Jackson (U.K.)

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Star Trek in FF form, January 27, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This was the first attempt as a scifi FF book. If you ever read most reviews about these, youíll generally get a lot of mentions of disappointment and how the scifi setting never seems to really ďworkĒ for the gamebooks.

There does seem to be something to that theory since personally Iíve also found most of the scifi related books to be lacking a bit compared to the fantasy counterparts. Not sure why exactly. Maybe the combat system doesnít tend to work as well, but that canít be the case because they often tend to overhaul the simple system for such settings as Iíll go into later. (Though perhaps that's the problem, don't fix what isn't broken.)

Starship Traveller puts you in the role of a space ship captain and you get sucked into a black hole into an unknown part of the galaxy and you have to try to find another black hole to get back home. Yeah, itís basically ďStar Trek Voyager the CYOAĒ except you arenít subjected to the awful characters.

You also donít just roll stats for yourself either. You also roll stats for your top crew which includes your science (Spock), medical (McCoy/Crusher), engineer (Scotty/LaForge) and security (Worf) officers. You also get two security guards (Red shirts) All the crew save for the security dudes have to subtract 3 from their combat rolls since they arenít fighters. The digital version goes a step further and allows you to name your ship and such to make it even more personalized.

Whenever you beam to a planet you usually get the option to take two other members with you. These members CAN die in combat (or in other ways). If that happens you get one replacement, but you have to subtract 3 from their stat rolls because theyíre a second rate replacement (Ezra Dax). Lose the replacement and you donít get another one.

This being a scifi setting with starships and stuff, there are more ways to kill people than just beating them to death with piece of shaped metal in your hand. You also have ship combat (Yeah you have to roll stats for your ship in the form of SHIELDS and FIREPOWER) Losing all your shields in ship combat and obviously you and everyone under your command explodes spectacularly.

There are also the rarer phaser combat encounters. You can get the option to Stun or Kill, but thatís one of those situational things. Typically any aliens you encounter ALWAYS have theirs set to kill. Generally these are resolved with skill roll tests and if you succeed then you hit, if not then you fail and the attackers get their chance. Since any hit means instant death (or instant stun) phaser combat is over pretty quickly.

With all that out of the way, we can get on with the actual adventure.

Well, thereís not much to it. As I said, youíre basically trying to locate coordinates to another black hole that can possibly take you back to your own galaxy. This means exploring planets and such. Along the way youíll encounter different aliens and have to deal with them.

Honestly though, despite the open space travel and planet hopping, none of the encounters are all that memorable. Itís all sort of a little dull despite all the extra stuff going on in this one. The only thing I can think of that stands out is eventually when the book starts nearing the end and it mentions how a lot of the crew are getting ďantsyĒ and stressed about the situation and how there have already been reports of a few suicides. Keep in mind you havenít even been traveling unknown space a year (probably not even close to it) and already you got folks killing themselves. Apparently youíve got a lot of fragile folks aboard your ship.

So it is at this point if youíve collected any info on black hole coordinates, youíre supposed to add up some numbers and turn to that page where most of the time itíll tell you that you approach one of these black holes at a particular speed and everyone blacks out and you turn to another page.

Since this is another Steve Jackson gamebook, thereís only one correct number combo. If you didnít get it right, then you get a failed ending of how nobody on the ship wakes up because you all died. The same thing happens if you didnít find anything on your journey, you just get a report of a black hole and you try to go through it anyway. (And die)

If you got the right coordinates though, then you win of course.

Yeah, thatís basically it. This was probably the first FF book that I never bothered to keep playing until I won.

Besides the customization that the digital version adds, it also adds auto mapping and new artwork. The rest is similar to the original.

There were a lot of cool ideas with this one, but just never grabbed me. The book sort of feels shorter as well since it just sort of arbitrarily ends despite the fact that youíve got literally an entire galaxy you could explore. I get limitations, but they could have come up with something better.

They could have at least tried to have the situation that your fuel or something was running low and if you didnít risk a black hole soon, youíd be adrift and have hostile aliens destroy the helpless ship rather than your suicidal snowflake crew members forcing you to risk a black hole.

Still as with most FF books itís worth at least a play through.

The Forest of Doom, by Ian Livingstone

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
The first one I ever read, January 27, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Now this was the first FF book I ever read. Other reviews Iíve seen have said itís one of the weaker or even duller FF books, but again since it was the first one I ever played, I probably enjoy it a bit more than most did I guess.

This one is another where youíre a wandering adventurer and you sort of ďstumbleĒ into the quest thanks to a dying dwarf. He basically tells you that he traveled all the way from his village of Stonebridge on the other side of the Darkwood Forest to get the hammer of his people which was stolen by a death hawk which it dropped and then broken in two pieces by a pair of goblins. (Not sure HOW they know that bit though)

They need this hammer so that they can rally and go fight the trolls because apparently there morale is so crap thatís what they need in their life. Obviously surface life has made these dwarves a bunch of sissies if they canít fight a bunch of trolls without a rallying symbol, let alone getting it stolen in the first place.

In any case you were in the neighborhood anyway, so you decide to take up the dwarfís dying request. You also take his thirty gold pieces.

So the first stop isnít Darkwood Forest, but instead itís the wizard Yaztromo who lives right on the outskirts of it. The dwarf was supposed to get his help anyway, but when you arrive, the most help heís going to give you is sell you some magic items to help you on quest. There goes your 30 gold and you canít buy all of it either so choose wisely.

The magic items themselves usually pop up as an option to use in various later parts of the adventure. Typically they allow you to bypass combat or avoid damage.

After dealing with him, youíre on your way. One funny bit is you actually get the option to attack him and if you do so, heíll actually warn you first not to try it. If you proceed anyway, he turns you into a toad and throws you outside. The end!

Darkwood Forest is sort of just dungeon crawl outside for the most part. I can see why its considered a bit dull since youíre just sort of wandering the forest with the occasional battle to break things up. Granted youíre supposed to be looking for two pieces of the hammer, but since you donít even know where these are in a giant fucking forest, itís a lot of wandering and hoping for the best. This one was written by Ian, so of course he liked more combat and item collecting.

Still there are a few bits of interest that stick out, namely thereís whole section where you might go explore some underground caves which is almost like a mini-side quest you can discover. It can also lead to a non-traditional ending if youíre not careful, though itís a fun one.

The ending of this game is probably a little lack luster too when compared to the final battles in other FF books. The last battle before getting out of Darkwood forest? Itís a group of bandits. You have to fight five of them and itís more of a tedious battle than a difficult one since they arenít particularly very powerful, you just have to roll the dice more since youíre defending against multiple attacks.

Interestingly though, you do get the option to by pass them if you have at least five gold or items to give them. Though I never seemed to have enough after going through the damn forest and never like giving into bandits so I always lopped their heads off.

After the bandit encounter you reach Stonebridge where you either have both pieces of the hammer or you donít. If you do, then you win and get the appropriate accolades, but what happens if you donít have the complete hammer? Do you get a fail ending?

Why no you donít, strangely enough.

You get a message saying you have failed in your quest, but you can make your way around Darkwood forest and start all over again at Yaztromoís tower! There is a potential instant death encounter as youíre attacked by wild hillmen raining arrows at you during your trek back, but survive that and you get to do the adventure all over again.

One problem with that though which is the ďloopĒ problem that was similar in Warlock of Firetop Mountain, except in this case itís the whole damn adventure. Every encounter is basically reset which makes little sense obviously. Again, nice idea, but they still hadnít figured out a good way to make it so you could revisit old locations without it being the same thing.

The digital version doesnít change much except you get an auto-mapping feature which is useful. Thereís also colorized artwork and achievements if you care about that sort of thing.

And thatís it for this book. It isnít as deep or complex as some of the other FFs, but itís still worth going through.

Warlock of Firetop Mountain, by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson (U.K.)

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
The one that started it all, January 27, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

The one that started it all wasnít actually the first one I played, but I still got it fairly early during the collection of these. Iíll get into some of the digital version differences towards the end, but I'll start with some background on the original and Fighting Fantasy books in general.

The basic premise is youíre an adventurer type, youíre in a village that exists near this warlock that lives in a mountain and you decide to go kill him. While it sort of implies that you might be doing this for the greater good of ridding the world of an evil overlord, thereís nothing really saying that you arenít just doing it for the glory and giggles of it.

So the original book was written by Ian and Steve who worked on different parts of the book. The two authors have different styles and it shows in the book.

Ian was the author that usually liked throwing a boatload of battles at you and make you collect a bunch of stuff in order to win. This typically meant you needed to take everything that wasnít bolted down and explore everything you could. It also meant you better have rolled fairly high stats because he loved throwing monsters with skill levels of 12 at you as well.

Steve on the other hand tended more towards puzzle stuff like figuring out passwords or something similar. He relied less on throwing difficult combat at you and actually provided better ways to face a situation without the need for tough fight.

What this all means is you got a bunch of tough battles mixed in with a good amount of necessary item collecting along with trying to figure out a damn MAZE. Itís the first book, and theyíre already playing mindgames with me. As I said though, wasnít the first one I played though so fortunately I was already hooked on the series to not get frustrated.

Really, itís not too bad though. The maze however is towards the end of the journey so itís sort of frustrating or at least it was for me at the time and I still hate mazes to this day. (Iíve probably mentioned that in my reviews before and will continue to do so)

The vital item collection bit is mainly in the form of keys with numbers on them. You sort of donít get any indication of what all these keys are for though except in a couple places. The setting itself is a classic dungeon crawl. You go around encountering the various denizens of Firetop mountain who are all presumably employed or under control by Zagor the Warlock.

Some of the encounters of note that stand out where you get several options on how to deal with them include stuff like encountering an orc chieftain whipping his subordinate, another group of orcs torturing a dwarf or a group of skeletons building ships. (Convincing them youíre the new overseer and they should get back to work is hilarious)

Dealing with crossing the river is sort of the turning point in the book which also sort of marks the change in the writing style of the book. I think thatís probably where Steve took over. There are also a couple passages that go into minor nightmare mode which is always fun when things get a little creepy.

As for the warlock himself there are a couple ways to deal with him and one is an instant kill with a specific item. Which might seem anti-climatic, but hey whatever gets the job done. Fighting him directly is a lot more difficult as you might expect.

However, killing Zagor is just the second to last step. You still have to get into his treasure chest of goodies. Hope youíve been collecting keys, because this is where theyíre going to come in handy and as an added bonus you have to figure out the combination of numbers via trial and error. Wrong combos can result in severe injury and even death, so yep you can still die after beating the main guy. You can also get a non-standard ending if you exhaust all your combos saying you weep at your failure.

So changes in the digital version, well thereís quite a bit of expansion as far as new encounters and rooms. This is pretty welcome for people that have played the original a lot. You also get different adventurers to take into the mountain which will change things up a bit too.

I feel like the combat changes were a little TOO different, but at least they were turn based.

Still, it keeps with the spirit of the original while injecting new life into a venerable series. I liked it well enough.

Sorcery! 4, by Steve Jackson and inkle

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Final step in a long journey, January 26, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

With the fourth game in the Sorcery! series, the digital version continues to be very different than the original book. Though the changes are mixed and in typical fashion are a bit convoluted.

This game can be basically divided into two parts. Before you get into Mampang Fortress and after you enter the fortress. The game plays more or less like the original book before the fortress in that itís a straight march forward with no backtracking. Still some big changes like encountering Flanker before reaching the fortress if heís still alive.

I really donít think a potential ďromanceĒ inclusion with him was necessary. Itís optional of course, but it just seems pretty pointless to throw in anyway as there really isnít even much build from the past encounters. For some reason todayís IFs seem to need them shoehorned in no matter how much sense it makes because an overwhelming amount of people need to have their waifus (or husbandos).

In any case, when you eventually reach the fortress, the gameplay changes a bit in that youíll get a bit more non-linear freedom to move about the fortress, but the most major one is you will not be able to use the rewind function while in the fortress. This means if you die in the fortress, you canít just rewind back to a previous part in there. You have to rewind ALL the way back to before you entered the fortress, making this last leg of the adventure a bit tougher. This sort of emulates how in the original book how you couldnít call upon Libra to help you after you entered the fortress.

There is one exception in the fortress where you can rewind back to, but you have to find it, and it only works to how far along youíve gotten up to that point.

When youíre in the fortress thereís going to be a wide variety of characters youíll have to deal with. Most of the same ones from the original show up (Hope you remembered to prepare for the Sleepless Ram!), though a couple have been gender swapped for some reason. Not sure what the point of that was either given that one was male to female and another was female to male, so it wasnít even like doing it to have more female characters. Jann shows up again just as she did before though it can end up a bit different than it does in the original.

The archmage himself is different and I believe the change in this case was for the better. I never really understood having the way they did it in the original book other than having a twist which I didnít care for anyway. Getting to him is a bit more complicated and youíll still be using the infamous ZED spell. Just like in the original, it would be best to know how to control it lest you potentially suffer a non-standard ending.

Finally, there are a few different winning endings available, so that was a nice change from the original books too.

My final verdict on this one is similar to my final verdict of the original book. I liked it and I was glad to play through it, but for whatever reason I just didnít enjoy it was much as the rest of the series. Itís funny, I probably enjoy parts 1 and 2 over 3 and especially 4. Had the same issue with the originals though.

Still, if youíve made it this far in the series, you might as well finish it and itís still worth playing through.

Sorcery! 3, by Steve Jackson and inkle

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Wait, that didnít happen in the original version, January 26, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

And now with the third part of the series is where the changes not only become larger, but almost to the point where itís a completely different game with only the basic plot in play. Just like the original, you have to make your way across the Baklands and along the way try to take down the seven serpents which are the Archmageís spies.

This part of the journey probably has the most freedom of all of the games. You can travel back to places you already visited, in fact youíll probably have to several times. This is different from the original which as is typical of most 80s gamebooks, you always went forward and if you missed something important well you were just out of luck.

Another part that is severely different than the original is the time travel element. Again, this isnít the usual gameplay thing where you can reverse to a previous point, this is actual time travel woven into the story. Youíll likely be traveling many times into the Baklandís past when it wasnít as barren and more inhabited. As a result of this, youíll be interacting with a more characters than you did in the original which was a little more spartan on that front.

Given that you can travel back and forth pretty much everywhere and there isnít really a time limit, there really isnít any reason why you shouldnít be able to seek out and kill all seven serpents. Itís much easier to do so in this version, though that doesnít necessarily mean the game isnít without its problems.

It may be just me, but I wasnít all enamored with most of the time travel stuff that was incorporated into the game (or the series in general). I found it tedious to be constantly messing about with the ďtime beaconsĒ in the game. Now of course I found out later that there is a way to complete it without using the beacons at all, but naturally I wasnít aware or trying for some optimal run-through on my first try. However, apparently completing the game this way, does change some of the story a bit, which is nice that Inkle incorporated that difference.

Of course the original potential story change is still here too, which is whether or not you defeat all seven serpents. Doing so still makes the last bit of the journey a little easier since the Archmage doesnít know youíre coming so his guards wonít immediately recognize you. Changes dialog as well.

Oh and Flanker shows up again if you still havenít killed him by now.

Despite me disliking the increase in time travel business, there was more for me to like than dislike about this part of the adventure.

Sorcery! 2, by Steve Jackson and inkle

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Hive of scum and villainy, January 26, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

The second part of this series is where the changes of the digital and book versions really start becoming larger. First off, there is a mini-game introduced called Swindle stones. Itís basically a gambling dice game that you can play with various characters in certain locations. Itís an opportunity to win more gold and even information so itís worth playing it from time to time.

The goal of this step of the journey is to get through the city port to get to the Baklands. This isnít easy, not only because Khare has a higher crime rate than Detroit, but because you have to learn four spell lines which are each held by a different noble in the city. Of course youíll have to figure out who these nobles are and where to find them in this big city.

This is made a little easier than it was in the original books since thereís a bit more backtrack allowance around the city. One particular large area you have a lot of freedom to move around at is the festival area of the city. Still, even if you somehow miss spell lines during your march towards the north gates of the city, youíll get another chance, but more on that later.

Besides the nobles youíre supposed to seek out, thereís a wide variety of characters to interact with as is fitting of an urban setting. The most notable one youíll hear about or even meet is Vik. You might have even heard of him in during the Shamutanti Hills chapter. In the original book, he doesnít play as much of a role, but name dropping him can help in a lot of situations as everyone seems to like him. In this version however heís a bit more of a sinister figure. You can certainly still gain him as an ally, but itís a little tougher.

Flanker also pops up again if you spared him (As he does in the original book). Flankerís a bit more directly helpful in this book as well.

Most of the locations you can go to are the same, with a few extras. One major location in the original which was nothing but a time wasting stamina drain were the sewers if you should be unfortunate enough to fall or get thrown into them. This maze area of the game was really tedious though it could be avoided. Same thing here though the mapping system at least allows for you to see more readily where youíre going. Still something you probably want to avoid though. You can also lose your spirit animal here and it be replaced by one of the gods or even an angry spirit.

So as you get closer to the north gate, youíll discover one major thing which wasnít in the original book. One of two things is going to happen and it all depends on if you have the four spell lines. If you donít then you get the option of going back in time to find the lines you didnít learn. This isnít like the traditional ďrewindĒ that you can automatically do within the game. This is built into the story itself. Whether you have to go back in time or you got it right the first time around, having all four lines allows you to go through the gates and get the more traditional ending.

Of course you could just ignore all that and exit the city without the four spell lines. Doing this however changes the ending. Quite a bit to the point where it follows you into the next part of the journey.

Regardless of what you do, the situation with the north gate is a lot more forgiving than the original book which gave you a non-standard ending if you didnít have the lines. (And a death ending if you said them in the wrong order)

Overall, the changes to this one in comparison to the original werenít bad and for the most part welcome. While some of these changes made the game easier, there might have been a couple parts where the changes actually made the game harder than the original, but then again it isnít considered one of the most dangerous cities for nothing.

Sorcery!, by Steve Jackson and inkle

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
The start of an updated classic series, January 26, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

I played the Sorcery! series when it only existed in book form. Not the reissued books either, I mean the original version that actually came with a separate spell book the game encouraged you to memorize and never look at ever again once you started your journey. Well it was the old days and they had to come up with ideas on how to be immersive.

Anyway when I heard they were remaking the series I thought this one was going to just be a straight digitized remake like they did with the Fighting Fantasy series. I was pleasantly surprised to see however they did something a little different with it. Not so much because I dislike the old unforgiving style of the books, but more because the update added some twists and new things on the original books which I played so much I pretty much still remember all the encounters.

The combat changes are interesting I suppose. I still would have rather had virtual dice rather than the slider thing. Being able to go back to a previous point is probably the best way they could have catered to the whole anti-frustration crowd complaining about death around every corner while still not completely alienating the fans of such things. The major change the game implemented was Libra not being your patron deity, instead you get a personal spirit animal, but it works fairly the same way in that you get options to call upon its help in certain situations. Thereís also times when your spirit animal can get replaced by another ďpresence.Ē This usually isnít a good thing though. Thereís even a couple spells that arenít in the magic book that you can discover in the game.

I liked that they used most of the old artwork in the game. Always enjoyed the ďuglierĒ look these books had in comparison to the other Fighting Fantasy books since it technically took place in the same world (Titan) as their fantasy setting did. The new artwork that was added was fine even if it doesnít quite have the same exact look.

But enough about some of the basic game changes, letís get on with the game itself. The story is pretty simple, youíre on a quest for the king to get a magic crown from the Archmage of Mampang Fortress so that the kingdom doesnít fall into chaos. However, youíve got a long journey ahead of you and the first step of that journey is the Shamutani Hills. You can play as a wizard or warrior, but itís pretty dull playing as a warrior since it feels like youíre missing half the fun of the series in the first place. The combat penalty is negligible compared to being able to cast spells.

The first part of this adventure is pretty traditional in that you are more or less always moving forward. There is no backtracking unless youíre using the rewind function. This one sticks the closest to the original book as well so if youíre familiar with it, youíll have an advantage of whatís coming for the most part (Like I did). Some changes in characters you meet in this version, it was nice for example to not have to fight Aliannaís wooden golem after helping her out.

Two notable NPCs show up again. Jann the anti-magic minimite and Flanker the Assassin. Jann is pretty much the same as she was in the book. Hangs around preventing you from casting spells and generally being annoying. Youíll want to get rid of her as soon as possible. Flanker, just as in the first game you can spare his life and heíll pop up again in the second book. In fact in this version heíll pop up in all of them so itís worth sparing him just for some extra storyline stuff and help.

Thereís another bit added where you can discover a goblin invasion plan of Khare. You can even hamper their efforts a bit, but it doesnít really do much and thereís more on that invasion plot line in the second book.

This adventure ends the same way the original book did, with a dangerous cave crawl and tough fight against a manticore to save a chieftainís daughter before moving on to Khare, the cityport of traps.

I enjoyed this updated version of the series and found no major fault with any of it.

Sexual Service Act: Going To Work, by Broken Arrow (MasterLoveHurts)

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
Was this supposed to be serious?, January 24, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This is a classic case of controversy bringing more attention to a story than it otherwise would have received. Only heard about this one thanks to all the fuss made about it, and a couple of upstanding CYStians reviewing it. Figured I might as well throw my opinion of it into the mix.

So itís porn. Well, thatís nothing new in the IF world. It also doesnít have much of a plot, which also isnít anything new in the IF world (Unfortunately).

As for the content, well whether this did anything for you in the lower regions area I guess thatís between you and whatever higher powers you believe in (or don't believe in). If you were offended well you probably shouldnít have been reading it in the first place based on the title alone and if the title didnít deter you, the graphic intro most certainly would.

The whole premise of the story is pretty absurd since it pretty much hit the ground running right from the start. No build up, no foreplay, just right to the sex. Well I guess if youíve got a vision, no reason to mess about right?

That being said, this type of story really isnít my thing. I laughed a few times at how dumb the concept is and the intro, but thatís about it. I donít care about any of the characters or the ďplotĒ. Hell, the sex act law that this game seems to be built around isnít even really addressed much which is arguably one of the more interesting concepts of the piece. This is basically a severely condensed ďHandmaidís TaleĒ CYOA but with willing participants, minus the religion and ramping up the focus on the sex.

Itís a little hard to tell if this game was written in a way to be serious or if it was written to be over the top. If it was supposed to be serious, then it failed because the game is so over the top with its scenarios that it really crosses the line from offensive to humorous. Well not like those two things are mutually exclusive I suppose. Which is the only reason why itís getting two stars rather than one since it at least wasnít boring for me to slog through.

Does it accomplish what it set out to do as far as the sex content? Well yeah I imagine it did for people into this sort of stuff. It gets right to whatever humiliation fetish (and other types) the reader might be into in an efficient manner. Itís not long so I imagine that also helps with peopleÖum ďusingĒ the game. Nothing is bogged down by virtually anything that might normally be considered important in the writing world.

I imagine this review is going to get rated down by its fans, but before they do, keep in mind Iím not attacking anyone. The fans and the author can enjoy their weird water sports and pseudo-bestality fetishes all they like. Not judging the content, but rather the lack of ambition.

Sunless Sea, by Failbetter Games

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
A much better sequel, January 22, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

When I first heard about Sunless Sea, I figured it was just Fallen London, but on the water, which is basically is, however this one took everything good from Fallen London and took out all the things I really hated from it, resulting in a game I liked a whole lot better. I could buy the full game and never have to interact with other people!

Much like Fallen London, it doesnít really hold your hand on what youíre exactly supposed to be doing, but you can choose a long term goal for yourself. Whether you bother to try to achieve it or not is up to you. Itís definitely a sandbox you have a lot of room to mess about in.

The game is a mix of several different genres. From RPG to even action given how the combat works. Early game is tough going since youíre sort of stumbling about at first and your ship isnít very fast or powerful. Youíve got to resource manage your food, fuel and crew too. As you start unlocking new things though, it gets a bit easier, but youíre definitely never completely safe since thereís a lot in this game trying to kill you. Of course Iím a big fan of grimdark settings.

Sticking with the IF bits of the game, the writing in this was just as good as it was in Fallen London. I always found the lore interesting in that game, so it worked in this one as well. I also had the Zubmarine DLC which added some more content and the ability to go under the water. Made an already Lovecraftian toned game even more so with the new locations to discover.

Thereís a lot of choices to make and most of them change things quite a bit in the game. Companions you can bring with you all have their own stories which you can participate in to determine their fate. (Sometimes resulting in them leaving forever) Doing stuff like helping governments being overthrown or putting intrusive creatures in harbors can have dire permanent effects on those places. Choices definitely have consequences.

As unforgiving as the game can be, the funny thing is there are even times when a game will outright warn you NOT to do something, claiming itís a very bad idea (Like eating your crew and going insane) but youíre free to choose it anyway!

Death via the Zee is just one common ending to your character, you can certain choose to just retire or even get a different type of non-standard ending. This doesnít end the game as you can just pick things up with a successor who can inherit some of your stuff. If you bothered to get married and have a child, that successor can be from your direct bloodline.

The only complaint I have with the game is it didnít get rid of the grinding aspect which slows down the exploration process more than Iíd like. Iíve played the game quite a bit and I know I still havenít discovered everything. I probably wonít either given how massive the game is.

If you donít mind the traditional ďgameyĒ elements in your interactive fiction, then this one is worth playing.

Fallen London, by Failbetter Games

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Fun at first, then falls short, January 22, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

I sought out Fallen London after years of hearing a few others on other writing forums mentioning it and saying that it was fun to play and there was all sorts of things to discover. Some were even saying it was the greatest thing ever if you were into choice based RPGs.

When I eventually sat down to play it, I definitely was captivated by the setting, the lore, and the general writing. There was certainly no shortage of things to explore or do. The game doesnít really tell you what your goal is, but I didnít mind that since I figured finding your own path was part of the game. With as much stuff is packed in the game, I probably would have spent a lot more time on it, however two major things stopped me from enjoying it as much as I would have.

The first one being you only get a limited amount of turns to do stuff and then you have to with wait until your turns fill up again or pay to play. Yep, not going that route. I can be convinced of buying a game with a one time expensive price. Hell, I can even be convinced to shell out another twenty or so for sizable DLC for a game that probably should have came with it in the first place. What Iím not doing though is paying real money for more play time.

Okay so Iíll have to wait. Thatís not ideal, but Iíve certainly played games with that sort of system before, and played them for a few years in my rare dabbling of online games. This makes grinding a lot more unfun since not only do you have to do it (Staple of a lot of online games) but you canít even do it consistently to maybe get it out of the way to achieve whatever goal you were going for.

Okay, well I can sort of deal with that aspect to some degree too. But then the final nail in the coffin is in order to advance in some of the storylines, you have to actually interact with other people on some level and when Iím playing something with IF trappings, Iím just not looking for that aspect.

So yeah, with all those things working against it, the game just wasnít for me, even if I found the setting very interesting. I donít see myself ever going back to it, but I was glad to at least give it a few plays.

Reigns, by FranÁois Alliot, Nerial, Devolver Digital

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
The king is dead, long live the king, January 22, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Reigns has you take the role of a king dealing with the kingdomís day to day operations based on what various problems people come to you with. Most of these are royal advisors, but they can range from mad prophets to your queen (if you should marry).

The game primarily uses a binary choice system to move the narrative along. Swipe left or right like one of those new fangled dating apps Iíve heard so much about and usually something happens to the four stats that you have to keep an eye on as the game moves along. The four stats are religion, people, military and money. Let one of these stats go completely to the bottom and your king will suffer some sort of bad end. Itís equally important to not let the stat reach all the way to the top either though or else youíll still reach a bad end! The type of death is a bit different though, so for example, if you let the military run out, you get overthrown by the peasants. If you let the military reach the top, you suffer a coup. Nice of the game to have variation like that. The gameís dedication on insisting on balance probably helps in making sure you donít just keep picking things that will top out any of the stats.

Death however isnít the end, far from it. You just continue with a new king and pick up where the predecessor left off. This inevitably can result in repetition of choices, however based on some of the choices your predecessors made, future kings can potentially get new ones opened up to them and new characters to interactive with. Thereís plenty of hidden stuff and bonuses to discover such as certain things that can render a stat ďsafeĒ meaning you donít have to ever worry about it going up or down anymore. There are few conditions which will slowly increase a stat over time without you even doing anything. This is a double edged sword since while you never really have to worry about it going down, you definitely have to keep picking choices that make it go down on a regular basis.

Another one that occurs is when your king has managed to survive many years which makes everything everyone says appear jumbled as a result of your king going deaf. This of course makes the game a lot harder to make choices since you canít exactly tell what youíre agreeing or not agreeing to. Iíve yet to have a king die peacefully of old age. Besides all the hidden stuff to find, the game has a lot of achievements to unlock which adds to a reply value with a game like this.

Itís very quick to play through a few kingís lives while youíre waiting somewhere so itís nice in that regard. Even with as many times as Iíve replayed it, I still havenít unlocked everything so itís definitely one Iíll come back to every now and then.

Out There, by FibreTigre

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
John and Buck had it easy, January 22, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

If youíre familiar with the old scifi show Farscape or the even older Buck Rogers, Out There combines both of being a frozen astronaut being flung very far from known space several centuries later and you trying to find your way back home. Itís certainly a premise that sets itself up for plenty of adventure.

At itís core, itís a CYOA style graphic IF with a lot of resource management. The background visuals themselves are nice and have a comic book style look about them. Youíll have to visit planets constantly to get the elements you need for your ship to keep it running while along the way youíll get events popping up where you have to make a choice which can have good or bad results. Youíll also encounter aliens which you can eventually learn to communicate with more clearly as you learn certain words with each passing encounter. You donít need to ever have to worry about any sort of combat stat since there isnít really any fighting in the game. Thereís a couple of choices which might involve references to combat, but those are rare and just dependent on randomness. And you never fight with any of the aliens you might encounter on planets.

Your survival is highly luck dependent at times, which to some extent is fitting with the overall theme which has a nihilistic tone even if it is wrapped up in colorful exploration. You really are just one lone human in the deep reaches of space, your existence is pretty meaningless in the scheme of things.

And youíll find out more about that if you even manage to survive that long. From that point, youíll sort of have new branches opening up as far as endings go. Itís still a difficult journey even if you go for the easiest one, and most of the endings arenít sunny ones. Even the added endings with the new content updates are still a bit bleak.

Itís a pretty tough game to win with any of the endings given the high luck factor involved, but if you donít mind that sort of thing or a narrative that takes a more grim tone, the game is worth playing through multiple times.

80 DAYS, by inkle, Meg Jayanth

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Definitely more about the journey than the destination, January 22, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Basing an IF game off of an already established book is always a bit challenging since you have to make it entertaining while still adhering to the source. Make it too similar to the source and youíll get complaints about it feeling too confined. Make it too different than the source and you get complaints about it not being anything like the book.

80 Days is one of the few that managed to maintain that balance and be a fun game. Though the choice to go the completely steampunk direction is sort of a no brainer given the time period and the fact that the original was a Jules Verne work in the first place. Most of the existing views here cover a lot of the positives of the game, Iíll probably go over those a bit briefly before going into the few negatives.

First, the writing and branching are well done. While thereís some places where it has a ďfake choiceĒ not really mattering too much which choice you pick, most of the time there is at least a bit of a consequence for it even if itís a minor change in your characterís hidden stats or something similar. Besides all that, there are enough events and locations to explore that itís hardly noticeable.

The resource management portion of the game is implemented very well too. Not just determining what might be directly useful on your trip at any given time, but also a bit of a trader mini-game since some items arenít really useful directly but you can sell them for a large profit at certain locations which is somewhat important as youíll definitely need a good supply of money on this journey

Plenty of variety of events, ways to travel and secrets to uncover so replay value is high. Itís worth derailing from the original goal just to uncover new things.

If I had any complaints about the game it would be the lack of danger or rather the lack of genuine danger since the game does a good enough job of making you feel like youíre in danger a lot of times. But itís almost impossible to actually DIE in this game. Fogg has a heart meter which can go up or down, but other than one place, it doesnít really effect much. Itís sort of a ďfake statĒ which is a bit disappointing really. There are many instances where I think the adventure of the game could have been better with some risk involved.

Itís not a deal breaker, indeed several video games like the old SCUMM point and click adventure games eliminated death and were still very enjoyable, but Iíll always appreciate a game that has genuine risk involved a little more. In fact, this one could have done the deaths very well given the one main example of it occurring and the writing in general.

Other than that, the game is excellent (especially with the added content) in just about every other way.

AI Dungeon, by Nick Walton

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
EndMaster fanfiction generator, January 19, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

At CYS, weíve long been aware of this little experiment and even more amused that the creator used popular CYS stories at the time as the foundation to create the monster. We even spoke directly with the creator who popped up on our forums and discord, everything was generally civil.

I know some folks were going on about some stuff about monetary compensation for using our works without at least even asking first. Not sure how likely that is to happen, however Iíve never really written ďfor the money.Ē If I did, Iíd surely grow to hate writing altogether. I canít enjoy a hobby if it becomes work. I primarily write for my own enjoyment and if others like it, thatís fine. If they donít well thatís fine too.

However over the years as Iíve done this hobby of mine Iíll be the first to admit, I donít mind my influence being spread to far reaching corners of the internet. Surprising more than one would think considering I virtually use no social media at all and my name or stories still pop up in some of the oddest places on the web.

So what does this exercise in pontificating about my own ego have to do with AI Dungeon? Quite a lot since most of the stories used to help build the foundation were mine. As a result various names of characters, places, monsters and other things pop up enough in AI Dungeon stories that people on its Reddit and Discord have lists of them, asking who they are, what they are and ultimately linking to the original sources of said things, which is as you guessed it, to most of my stories.

Iíve played through AI Dungeon myself on more than one occasion and I feel like Iím playing fan fiction of my own stories at times. Iíve spoken to some of the players of AI Dungeon on their discord given them a bit of background on the origins various names they keep wondering about which was probably more fun than actually playing the game itself since the AI is very ďforgetfulĒ and inconsistent. I know programming something like this probably difficult and I can appreciate the ambition, but it just really doesnít work excessively well as a game. Boredom inevitably ensues as the AI generations get repetitive.

I know theyíve updated and reworked it a bit to try to curb some of the ďCYS referencesĒ but apparently they keep popping up since people still keep mentioning them (or complaining about them). Well maybe you should have thought twice about building your mansion on top of an underground necropolis. Youíre stuck with the undead roaming about now pal.

Other changes I know theyíve made is ďcleaning it upĒ so certain words canít be used or they get altered. Pretty sure thatís drawn complaints too since Iím fairly certain at least more than half of the users are just creating weird sex fetishes on the stuff. Take some of that away and youíre eliminating most of the fanbase right there. I think they recently added a ďpaymentĒ plan too so you can only take so many actions before you have to wait to play some more unless you pay money. I definitely know that is causing some ire from the fans (or soon to be ex-fans) of the game.

Still, this game is basically like a monument to CYS. So even if I feel like it falls short of what it tries to actually accomplish, I canít help but like it on some level since its helped in spreading our glorious influence. (And mine in particular)

To sum up, as a game it has several flaws and isnít that great. As an indirect advertising tool for CYS on a mass scale, itís actually pretty good considering we got someone else to do for us without even asking.

Questionnaire, by Stephen Lavelle

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Missed opportunity, January 19, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

So now weíve come to the last of the four games and given that the questionnaire ďstoryĒ is the best of the bunch really says it all on how bad the other were.

Now donít get me wrong, this is probably the worst story and worst game of the four since it fails to do either that the other three at least attempted. This one is just a questionnaire which leads me to wonder why the hell itís on here in the first place.

However, there is a certain ďcreepyĒ vibe to this one that I thought MAYBE the author was leading up to midway through it, but that was misplaced hope I suppose.

A few of the questions towards the end start to ask if youíd rather murder people or if you fear being murdered and similar questions like that. I feel like this would have been a good jumping off point for the questionnaire to start going into horror territory. I have seen stories done in ďquizĒ format before and done successfully. Itís difficult to do, but itís possible.

Not saying it would have even been a five star story or even three, but it might have at least gotten a two.

As I said though, if the author was attempting to do this then they failed in such an endeavor. I suppose the whole sudden ďThank you for your submissionĒ at the very end could be considered a little creepy as it may make the reader briefly wonder if the data is actually being collected and what exactly for.

But more than likely, the reader is going to just wonder why the hell they wasted their time and not dwell on whatever this was supposed to be as soon as they finish.

Detective Clean, by Stephen Lavelle

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Tragically dull, January 19, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

So moving on to the second game, this one is about playing as a detective trying to catch murderer. The beginning claims that itís neither a tragedy or comedy which may depend on how amusing or tragic you find wasting your time.

Though perhaps itís comedy for the author and tragedy for the reader in that case, but even in an ďauthor trolls the readerĒ sort of way it doesnít really do a good job since itís short enough that it wouldnít really annoy a reader that much.

There isnít much here in general, thereís like two choices in a mostly linear game and only one of which changes the ending. The odder thing is the killer changes gender mid way through the story. In the beginning they are referred to as she, then later as he. Not sure if that was intentional or just the author getting so bored with the story that they couldnít be bothered with consistency.

If it hadnít been for the sudden sex changed murderer, the story would have had even less for me to write about in the review.

Place and Time, by Stephen Lavelle

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Success equals sex, but not this game, January 19, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

So four short twine games suddenly showed up on the IFDB and everyone seemed to be saying how bad they were so I decided to see for myself starting with this one.

Itís not a very promising start.

The ďgameĒ basically boils down to judging how successful your life is based on how much sex youíve had. Have sex in more rooms than you cried in and congrats youíve won! Do the the opposite and youíve lost. Not sure why constantly picking neither is considered the ďworstĒ life of all since Iím fairly certain that would still be way better than crying all the time, but I guess the author had his own world view of things.

In any case there isnít much sense to this one and the title makes even less sense. Could have been called Chad and incel and it would have made just as much sense (And been a little more amusing)

If there was supposed to be any deeper meaning behind it then the author failed in conveying it and Iím not exactly motivated in analyzing it further to discover such a hidden meaning.

The Lurking Horror II: The Lurkening, by Ryan Veeder

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Didnít even know there was a sequel, January 16, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

So Iíve been starting to look for IFs in this very database that might be of interest to me and to my surprise when I was doing my review of Lurking Horror, I found out there was a sequel. Granted not an official one, but a sequel nevertheless. I made a note to check it out later.

I sort of went in a little skeptical based on the reviews since having played the original, this one just didnít sound like anything like it.

And it isnít, but that turned out to be just fine. Probably the best comparison is how the original Evil Dead movie was played a lot more serious than the second movie, but the second movie was good in its own way. A humor approach probably was the best way to go with a sequel even though humor can be a bit of a roll of the dice on appealing, but it rolled a natural 20 for me.

The ďGroundhog DayĒ death gimmick was also incorporated well, though the time limit is a bit too tight at times since thereís a few places where you have to make every move count before instadeath and you have to start all over again (Donít bother picking up those books/notes/papers just read and wait to die)

I still like the original better, but this was fun to play through and a whole lot quicker to restart when I died. The game has an amusing subtitle too.

Personal Nightmare, by Alan Bridgman, Alan Cox, Michael Woodroffe, Keith Wadhamsa

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Underrated creepy horror game, January 16, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This is one of those games that starts straddling the fence of graphic IF, however if something like Tass Times in Tonetown is on here, then this one still qualifies.

I bought this one for the Amiga 500 and saw Elvira on the cover. Now at the time I already had the Elvira Mistress of the Dark adventure game, so I actually thought this would be similar, but unlike that one, the gameplay was severely different. (And Elvira had very little to do with the game, she was just on the cover as eye candy as usual) Also learned that this one actually came out before the first ďofficialĒ Elvira game, so it could potentially be considered a predecessor to the companyís more well known horror based games.

Gameplay is a mix of text based commands and clickable objects and verbs. However, if you wanted to you could play the entire game using nothing but text based commands. In fact in some cases typing in commands is necessary for the sake of precision, but most of the time youíre probably using both.

You do not control a character on the screen, you see everything in a first person view and when you move to a new location, the screen changes to that particular location (No moving camera) There are several NPCs to interact with and they will go about their business and be in different locations at different times. Youíll even see them walking around on screen when theyíre moving to different locations so itís a living world with a day and night cycle.

Okay so now letís get on with the storyline. Youíve returned to the small English town that you grew up in to figure out whatís happened to your father who was the pastor of the church. The opening scene of the game pretty much gives that mystery away, so it isnít really a spoiler, but the Devil has killed your father, replaced him and is trying to take over the town. It isnít really spelled out, but youíve got a time limit of four days to stop the evil from taking over completely.

First off let me say that the game has a creepy mood to it all throughout. Even when itís broad daylight and there are people around, thereís always an underlining sense of danger. Especially since some of the villagers are already under the influence of the Devil or are outright monsters. There arenít too many locations to go to, but most locations are detailed so youíll probably be searching every drawer, cabinet and the like you can.

There are a lot of items you can take (and a lot you can even carry at the same time) but most arenít going to be useful. In fact you somewhat have to be careful with just taking things too. In some cases, people wonít let you in the first place while theyíre present. And in the major case, the local constable WILL arrest you for having stolen items on your person or even in your room at the Inn where you stay. He doesnít know immediately, but linger about a day or so with stolen items and heíll suddenly arrest you if you have them which will lead to a premature ending of you going to jail. (One of the kinder endings) Also keep in mind, that breaking and entering into peopleís homes to snoop around is another great way to getting arrested if they happen to be home. You canít just go around being a normal ďadventurerĒ going everywhere you please taking things!

Youíll definitely be saving and replaying portions of the game a bit, because besides the overall time limit, there are missable events as well. One major event occurs right near the beginning of the game and if you donít investigate immediately, youíll miss out and you wonít be able to complete the game. Certain areas are dangerous at certain times unless you have the right item too.

Which brings me to the wonderful death scenes, if you mess up, youíll be treated to a cool close up of your dead face with various wounds of how you died. (Bite marks, burns, etc). Apparently there was a first run version of this game which had death face of you after being garroted with your eyes bugged out and your tongue hanging out, but this got axed in later versions of the game for being too gruesome. Sort of amusing considering Horror Softís later Elvira games had way more gory death scenes than anything in this game. (Hell, Jack the Ripper had a gory picture of a naked woman in it and that came out two years earlier)

The game is of course firmly in the horror genre, but there is more than a bit of mystery going on as well since you have to uncover which townspeople are evil and either report them to the constable with evidence so he can take care of them, or deal with them yourself. Walking around the town at night can be pretty dangerous, so itís odd that the constable is safe from these same dangers. Oversight on the developers part or is he in on the satanic conspiracy?

Well youíll have to play the game and find out. As far as I know itís available on GoG.

I enjoyed this game a lot and would come back to it again and again. Highly recommended for anyone that likes horror IFs.

Zork III, by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Darker and edgier, January 15, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

So here we are at the end of the trilogy and honestly Iím glad to be done with writing the reviews of these Zork games as I was when I was playing them.

Pretty sure this one I got out of a sake of completeness (Much like Iím doing this review!) and I hadnít even beaten the second one at the time when I got it. But hey, the 80s had just ended, C64 games were becoming a little harder to find and the games you could find in stores were a lot cheaper so why not right?

Now if the second game has been said to be the more humorous one of the trio, the third one is generally considered to be the serious business one of the three. Iíd definitely agree with that assessment. It also feels like it has more of a storyline as well since it isnít just a simple treasure hunt.

As with the last two installments thereís a timer which will make the game impossible if you donít do something within that limit. In this case a fairly severe one that definitely increases the difficulty since you wonít necessarily realize it. Though this isnít really new in Infocom games in general. Just chalk it up to the game insisting on messing with you. Thereís a maze-puzzle which is probably the worst of the torment, but considering this is the last of the trilogy, it makes sense that everything should be a lot harder.

I canít really add too much more other than itís a solid ending to the trilogy and thereís nothing really wrong with it. The writing is even better in conveying the tone of this one, indeed it probably helped keep my interest longer than if it had been more like the last two games. However, itís just a case that by that point I lost complete interest in Zork!

I wonder if the writing had been like this from the start of the first game, I would have cared more about the series as a whole. Oh well, no use in looking too much into it, since Iím already set in my ways.

Of course as always though, if youíre into these older style IFs and enjoyed the Zork setting up to this point then youíd want to give this one a try.

Zork II, by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Off to see the wizard, January 15, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

A few years after beating Zork 1, I got Zork 2 figuring I liked the first one well enough to beat it, the second one would probably entertain as well. I suppose it did to some degree, but it really didnít hold my attention like the first one did for some reason.

Itís been suggested that Zork 2 was the more humorous one of the original trilogy, which Iíd agree with since I do remember more amusing bits in it. Even a simple description of the dragon being annoyed by your attempt to kill him were worth a chuckle. Might not have been Hitchhikerís, but there was definitely more personality in this one compared to the first.

One major bit of the game which kept me engaged was the wizard who continues to pop up to troll you. Sometimes resulting in your death if he cast certain spells that really hampered you in a particular location. One example I can think of that happened to me was him causing me to float in the topiary which resulted in the hedge monsters there eventually kill me. It worked in your favor on a rare occasion though as sometimes the wizardís spells would fail and nothing would happen.

The wizard and his actions would probably considered grossly unfair and random nowadays (Actually it was back then too) but it provided more entertainment for me. Another plus was the lack of a huge pointless maze though a few of the more frustrating puzzles probably made up for that.

Itís still a solid game in most ways, but I think this was the one where I started to realize that I wasnít really into the whole Zork setting.

Zork I, by Marc Blank and Dave Lebling

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
The most memorable, January 15, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Iíve never really been heavily into the Zork series. The lore of it has never particularly captivated me either, but I always enjoyed the concept of the grue. A lot has already been said about Zork so thereís little more I can add, but Iíll add my opinion anyway because thatís what this place is for.

Honestly, thereís no reason why I should even like the first game as much as I did (and still do to some extent). Itís a bare bones treasure hunt with no real direction on what to do, a semi-hidden timer involving the lamp, lots of chances of getting into a walking dead scenario and worst of all thereís a maze.

Still, something about it kept me coming back. I could chalk this up to a simple ďIt was the old days and you just played the games you had no matter what.Ē or the fact that I couldnít get very far in Hitchhikerís at the time, but there was a genuine sense of wonder with the exploration given the different locations you could go to.

While Iím sure some of this is nostalgia, but at the time when I played, it really did feel like playing a dungeon crawler in text form with an emphasis on puzzles. I might have liked it even more if there had been a few more foes to kill other than the troll and the thief. (Not sure if you could ever kill the cyclops, I always got past him by saying the name he feared) The underground complex always felt a bit empty compared to more traditional dungeons, then again most Infocom games were always a bit spartan when it came to NPC interactions.

Other than the god awful maze, I never felt too frustrated by it despite some of the more convoluted puzzles. I think thatís due though to feeling like I had a lot of freedom to move about and explore. So I never felt like I was confined at least.

I would have to agree with a few of the other reviews already here that the Zork ďstyleĒ of IF isnít so much outdated as it was pretty common for its day so naturally people eventually got sick of it. Same with most things that are overdone. Today there are a lot more folks doing IFs so there is more variety of finding what you might be into.

So for those that might not have played this game and are interested in the ďold styleĒ of what IFs used to go for, you canít really go wrong with the first Zork game.

Seedship, by John Ayliff

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
Bah, beat me to it!, January 14, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Ever have a great idea only to find out itís been done already? Well thatís Seedship for me.

I once had a concept to do a CYOA very similar to Seedship, but ended up putting it on the back burner to work on other projects. Honestly not sure if I ever would have gotten around to it given my backlog of story ideas, but when I randomly discovered Seedship one day and played through it multiple times I was like ďWell I guess I can focus on other projects.Ē

Yet at the same time my idea of the story of an AI controlling a space ark would have been very different (Specifically very story driven as far as choice and not stat based), and it isnít like itís a brand new concept entirely. (Indeed I got my idea originally from various movies Iíve watched) So who knows I may return to the concept of a Space Ark CYOA one day.

For now though, we have Seedship. And I really enjoyed this game.

The different random events and planets give it a lot of replay value. While this one is definitely a bit more on the technical side with the stats taking center stage, for me there is enough ongoing ďstoryĒ there to keep me more engaged. (Unlike say Suspended). Plus I also like to see outcomes of less than optimal runs. Seeing the remains of the human race colonize a new planet only to blow it all up and exist in a post apocalyptic hell world is always amusing.

Probably the only disappointment I have is you lose points if you encounter another alien race and you end up genociding or enslaving them. Why? As the AI your main goal was to ensure the survival of the human race, xeno lives donít matter. Iím guessing the game though was encouraging more of a Star Trek society rather than a Warhammer 40K one.

Despite that one glaring issue, itís definitely one Iíll go back to every now and then.

Suspended, by Michael Berlyn

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Cool concept, January 14, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Suspended is another one I played through the Lost Treasures compilation. I actually do remember seeing the alternate box version with the neat cryo ďmaskĒ in stores, but once again was never one I bothered with.

Just as well since I doubt I would have gotten into the actual game that much as a younger child.

Now entire concept itself of being a meat popsicle that acts as a sort of integrated brain for a greater computer system that runs vital aspects of a planet is pretty intriguing. Add in the whole fact that the system is severely damaged due to disasters and you have to fix it before more people die is also a good plot motivator. In fact it reminds me a bit of another game called Seedship except more complex in terms of the challenges you have to accomplish to make sure more people donít die.

Which brings me to the actual gameplay, which is, well another review said it best that itís more like a simulation than anything else. Controlling various damaged robots to fix various things before they send someone from above to shut you down believing youíve gone mad and are the one trying to destroy the world rather than save it.

I think thatís one of the plot holes of the game, of why if they could send in techs, why donít they just do that to fix things themselves. I know thereís some stuff in the feelies that implies the government is just very inefficient to think that far ahead, but I think it could have been handled a bit better.

For example I could see some of the puzzles including trying to help the actual human techs that get down there to reach places that even you wouldnít normally be able to (Or even fix the multi-purpose bot!) and if you did something wrong, the human techs die during the ongoing disasters eventually all leading up to all life on the surface being wiped out or destroyed to such a degree that nobody is coming down to do anything for a very long time leaving you to linger in cryo until the systems completely fail resulting in your death.

In any case, wasnít exactly my thing, but like I said it was a good idea. Endings on how efficiently you saved lives I suppose adds replay value for some into more technical games like this.

However, I enjoyed the addition of ďimpossible modeĒ where the game just has the planetís sun explode killing everyone anyway. (I mean impossible doesnít mean ďvery hardĒ it means canít be done!)

Infidel, by Michael Berlyn

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Infamous, January 14, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This is one of those Infocom games I didnít play until the Lost Treasures collection came out for the iPad. I remember it sort of catching my eye a couple times with the box, but just never pulled the trigger on it.

I sort of already knew the infamous ending to this one that made more than a few folk rage about, but thatís never stopped me from watching or playing something before. As they say, itís about the journey.

So the journey then, well it reminded me of those simpler text adventures like Revenge of the Moon Goddess or Perils of Darkest Africa, with the exception of the writing and parser being better in every way. Plus in this one thereís absolutely no other NPCs to interact with (Even Perils had pygmies). Just you struggling against survival (water and food needed) and ancient traps.

I know a lot has been made of how youíre actually playing a villain protagonist in this one, but you donít really get that impression necessarily from the game itself. Itís more in the feelies that came with the game (Or digitized versions of the feelies in the case of the Lost Treasures collection) so the ďmorality taleĒ that the game tries to convey at the end doesnít really quite work like it should.

Once again, I think this is a game that could have benefited from having more interactions with NPCs. If the game started off with you having to screw people over, be a bad boss, etc in order to achieve your goals, then had a shorter last stretch after everyone has abandoned you and you have to enter the pyramid alone, I think from a story point of view this would have worked a lot better. Would have been a lot more fun too, to actually BE the bad guy as opposed to just getting told you were in passing.

The game itself is still solid in every other way though.

Cutthroats, by Michael Berlyn, Jerry Wolper

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Complete shipwreck, January 12, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This was the last Infocom game I bought by itself in stores. Or rather I ordered it with a bunch of other games from a catalog that sold mostly C64 and Amiga games during the waning years of the company. A lot of good low prices and at that time I was just trying to buy as many C64 and Amiga 500 games I could since I certainly couldnít find the stuff in actual stores anymore.

Yep, it was increasingly looking like Iíd have to finally buy a PC with this Windows 95 that everyone seemed to be talking about. (Civ 2 pretty much was the main motivator)

But getting back to the game, I got this one thinking that with a name like Cutthroats surely it would entertain. I suppose I should have learned my lesson with Moonmist.

As usual the feelies were cool and necessary for parts of the game. And thatís about one of the few good things I can say about it. Much like Moonmist, they experimented with the concept of different endings which gives some replay value, but much like Moonmist, I wasnít particularly enticed to play it again.

A ďliving worldĒ that the game tries to create with NPCs going about their business rather than standing around for you was a good idea in theory, though the problem is because youíve only got limited time to do what you have to do, you can miss a lot of things if you arenít where you need to be. Worse though is everything involving the actual finding of the shipwreck, diving and such was just sort of dull in general.

I feel like with a name like Cutthroats there should have been more emphasis on dealing with the NPCs. Like having a puzzle to deal with each of them at specific times that theyíre going to betray you. (And of course theyíre also all trying to backstab each other for sunken treasure as well so it isnít a case that they all just mob you instantly)

Perhaps more of psychological approach to this game would have worked better. I can just imagine having to take an entire crew (Not just avoiding taking the traitors because they ALL will be traitors, yet you need everyoneís skill at some point or else you canít get the treasure). Scenarios could involve having to deal with someone just before you leave, during the dive, having to deal with one guy that went with you trying to off you with a spear gun, another trying to poison your food, perhaps manipulating another character so that they remain loyal to help you later at the end, etc.

Well just one aspect I think it would have been better anyway.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Definitely not harmless, January 11, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

This was one of the first Infocom games I got along with Zork I. While I went back to each one about equally, the writing in this one is what kept drawing me back in. Good thing it was so funny because I never got very far in it until I finally bought the hint booklet a few years later.

Up until this point, I had only really been familiar with Hitchhikerís thanks to a mini-series of it that was on PBS. I remember enjoying it with my parents when we watched it, so it made sense that they bought it for me at some point.

While this doesnít have nearly the same issues as the IFs based on Dracula or Frankenstein, there is still a bit of a confined feeling since youíre essentially playing ďthe book.Ē In the gameís defense though, it does deviate quite a bit from the book in many ways even if still follows the general plot line of the first part of it. Generally the further you get in the game, the more it starts to deviate.

The feelies that originally came with the game were pretty fun. Ranging from an empty plastic bag (supposedly containing a microscopic invasion fleet.) to a pair of cardboard glasses (Peril Sensitive Sunglasses).

Funny writing aside and getting back to the puzzles, yeah this one was pretty unforgiving. The babble fish one is the most infamous, but that wasnít really the only one. Itís just one of the ďworstĒ since it comes pretty early in the game so you get stuck pretty quickly. In fact most of the beginning of the game until you get to the Heart of Gold is difficult mainly because of timers. You only have so many turns to escape before earth gets destroyed. You escape to the Vogon ship and you only have so many turns before they find you. So you really have to make sure you do everything necessary in those situations before moving on. Lots of times if you didnít take a certain item, you wonít be able to get it again and without it, you wonít be able to win.

The game will outright lie to you in a few instances, thereís also at least one time you can end up in a literal walking dead situation via randomness. (The game will actually tell you, you'll die in a few turns, but you can still play up until then) Add the fact the game will often outright mock you when you die and itís definitely a case of the game creator trolling the player.

Not that Iím against trolling the player of course. But given how much the game stacks the deck against you, I canít imagine most completed the game without a guide. Which sort of defeats the purpose to some degree because it gets to the point where youíre not really ďplayingĒ so much as youíre just reading a book every once in awhile you type commands to move the story along. (Unless the point was all a cunning plan by Infocom to sell more hint booklets!)

Still, I canít say I didnít enjoy the game, even if I was doing more reading than playing.

Leather Goddesses of Phobos, by Steve Meretzky

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Say Kweepa!, January 10, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

I remember my parents getting this one for me for Christmas and Iím fairly certain nobody in my elementary school had anything like it. Probably was the most ďsexualĒ game I had before I later acquired Farmerís Daughter a few years later.

Played on lewd mode obviously, but itís not really excessively sexual even on lewd mode though. Thereís a few places where your protagonist actually sexes up another character, but itís not really pornographic in detail. Itís mostly going for humor right from the start.

For example, the way you choose your gender in the beginning is pretty funny and inventive as far as keeping the choice ďin gameĒ by picking which bathroom you need to use. More amusing is failing to even choose a bathroom within the short time you have to solidify which gender you are (and remaining ďgenderlessĒ), results in you peeing yourself just as the aliens arrive and upon seeing this lack of self control they decide to just blow up the planet, ending the game.

The game also came with a scratch and sniff feelie which various numbers would come up in the game urging of when you should sniff the scents on the card provided. One way of being immersive I suppose.

After the initial beginnings of the game, using the bathroom, getting captured and getting your bearings. Youíll soon meet a NPC (Always the same sex as you) that also got captured. The NPC follows you around and sort of starts off the main mission by giving you a list of what items you need to gather to defeat the Leather Goddesses. Itís a running joke that this follower will always die in certain situations and youíll travel alone for awhile, but the follower always comes back usually with a quip about how lucky they were to avoid whatever death at the last moment.

The majority of the game involves running around and teleporting to different locations in an interplanetary scavenger hunt. Mars is just one of the locations, Venus and even back to Earth are some others.

I generally hate mazes on principle, but there is a really annoying maze at one point which really wasnít necessary. You need the feelies to get through it. Though itís an Infocom game so using feelies to solve a puzzle is pretty par for course. There really could have been a less frustrating forum of copy protection though. A simple password where you have to say ďKweepa!Ē at a security door in the game (Found in one of the booklet feelies) would have sufficed just as well than a damn maze.

The writing and humor are what really make this game shine. While itís definitely supposed to be a parody of old B-scifi movies, this game feels like a ďB-versionĒ of the Hitchhikerís Guide game also by Infocom since it feels fairly similar to it with how the layout is (Scifi setting, emphasis on humor, random scavenger hunt for seemingly useless items, non-linear ways a of travel etc). I had more fun with this one though probably because it was a more ďoriginalĒ setting.

Not that the concept itself is unique, but as much as I liked Hitchhikerís, it was based on a book and drew heavily from it. So you always felt like you were knew which jokes were already coming if you even has passing knowledge of the book. Leather Goddess was a more original creation. Not to mention the puzzles in this one are at least somewhat more reasonable. Thereís isnít anything nearly as ridiculous as the babble fish puzzle here and even the tougher puzzles donít come that early in the game.

Certain bits of this one stuck with me more too, even the minor stuff from saying ďKweepa!Ē to your follower answering a riddle with complete confidence ďThatís easy! A grapefruit!Ē which lead to their death (And then them showing up later of course).

Definitely one I kept coming back to.

Moonmist, by Stu Galley, Jim Lawrence

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Infocomís Version of Clue, January 8, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Iím pretty sure I just got this one out of the sense of not wanting to come away with nothing from Electronic Boutique at the time. Didnít really read what it was about. The word ďghostĒ caught my eye, just looked at the cover and the name and figured, yeah this looks like horror, maybe this will be like The Lurking Horror.

Yeah, it wasnít as I soon learned.

Of course thatís my own fault, so I canít get too disappointed about that, well I can, but thatís not the only thing I didnít care for.

I will point out a positive which is the fact of how they did four variations of the game. Doing it by your favorite color was an odd choice, but it was as good of way as any I suppose. About the only problem with this is I wasnít really engaged in the game the first time around to want to replay it.

Time passes in the game so you only have a limited time with figuring out the mystery. There are also certain events that are scheduled, like dinner, gathering in the drawing room, bedtime, etc, but of course youíre not really bound to be present for things like this. Itís more of a flavor thing and probably during your first play through to gather information.

Amusingly you can by pass the formalities and solve the mystery as soon as you get in the castle assuming you know where all the needed items are and arresting the culprit. Pretty sure if youíre fast enough you can confront the killer with everything before dinner even starts.

You just donít get involved with the other characters too much other than some brief talking. As I remember in my play through, I kept flirting and kissing with one of the female characters who seemed to be into it quite a bit based on her reactions. I tried visiting her in her bedroom later at night (through the secret passage) and doing more, but you donít get much further. In fact the game says something to the degree of ďHey this is an nice game, not a video nasty.Ē

Yeah, that was more entertaining.

The thing about arresting/confronting the culprit should have been dangerous as well. Like maybe youíd need at least some sort of weapon on you to make sure you didnít get shot or something similar. Seems sort of laughable they would just give up so easily.

All in all the game just rather dull regardless of what color you played as (Just like the boardgame!), but at least it came with some nice feelies.

The Lurking Horror, by Dave Lebling

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Get rid of the mass, January 8, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

One of the issues of writing reviews for the old Infocom games as opposed to other old text adventures is they were popular enough to stand the test of time so more people even to this day have gone over them quite a bit already. Still, no reason to not try to to say a few things about them even if one is probably treading old ground.

Lurking Horror honestly is probably my favorite out of all the Infocom games mainly due to the genre. Funny thing is I had no real idea of what I was supposed to be doing in it for quite awhile. I probably wandered the halls of the university several times wondering what to do never realizing the ďplotĒ didnít actually start until I turned on and logged on to the computer I started out sitting in front of.

Might have helped if Iíd read some of the feelies that came with the game immediately since thereís clues about in game elements in some of the booklets (like a needed password for the game). I guess I was more fascinated by the little rubber centipede instead.

While I liked this one a lot, there are more than few problems with the game as far as the storyline.

The plot that sort of drives you to be wandering university in the first place doesnít really inspire. I canít say losing my term paper in the system would be a big motivator for me to suddenly wander the universityís steam tunnels and forgotten basements. Might have been better if your character had a friend that was one of those that had gone missing which caused you to start your search. At least more of a motivator.

Another thing that would have increased the horror aspect would have been a more pro-active ďlurking horror.Ē As it stands most of the hostiles you encounter are stationary. Youíll encounter them in one area, deal with them once and then theyíre gone. The semi-exceptions being the rats and maintenance man who even then still only move around in a particular area until you figure out how to get past them.

I could have seen maintenance man continually popping up randomly nearly anywhere (Because, yíknow heís a maintenance man) a lot more as a constant threat much like how the thief would move about in Zork I. Being occasionally being harassed by an undead janitor would have at least made wandering empty corridors a little more interesting.

The timer aspect and the way it was integrated into the game was fine and at least there was a way to extend it (up to four times)

As far as the parser and puzzles go, well itís an 80s Infocom game so itís pretty good for itís time, though there is ONE very infuriating area involving a ladder where the game really needed to be able to recognize more commands. I swear getting stuck just because I didnít know I had to specifically use ďLower ladderĒ as opposed to several other more obvious phrases was the most frustrating thing about the game. Even the maze wasnít as bad since there was an easy alternate way around it.

Despite the problems though, it doesnít change the fact that this is the Infocom game I kept coming back to the most.

Uninvited, by Craig Erickson, Jay Zipnick, Billy Wolfe, David Griffith

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Not all horror reboots are bad, January 6, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

I played the original Uninvited on the C64. I enjoyed it quite a bit even if it was on the unforgiving side. The original doesnít really use a parser though so it probably doesn't qualify as an IF in the traditional sense. I guess it could be considered sort of a ďstaticĒ point and click adventure since youíre using a cursor to click on verbs and objects on the graphics display and only reading text at the bottom as opposed to typing anything in like you would for even something like say Tass Times in Tone Town.

This reboot of the game does a really good job of turning the original into a pure text game. Had to make a few adjustments of course, but thatís to be expected.

The general horror feel isnít lost, though I canít say it necessarily does a better job so much as itís just different. While I do agree that the imagination from pure text can often come up with stronger images in oneís mind, thereís also the idea that what has been seen, cannot be unseen.

The picture of the southern bell ghost for example is fairly iconic for anyone that played the original. Her image is burned into my mind to this day. So I sort of missed seeing her again and the impact of the encounter wasnít as great. Of course it could just be that horror in general doesnít really scare me so much as I enjoy more it on a visual level. Probably depends on what you played first too, but I know what I like.

In any case, I have no problems with this update not making the game less lethal for todayís players who seem to squawk at the mere hint of any sort of death outcome in IFs. Itís a farking haunted house filled with ghosts and demons, not a pre-school ball pit. Death should be stalking you around every corner. Even the time limit makes sense in the setting of the game.

Could have gotten rid of the maze though.

Knight Orc, by Pete Austin

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Ahead of itís time in concept, January 6, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Back in the 80s there werenít many games that let you play as the ďbad guyĒ so seeing something like Knight Orc where you get to play as an orc was enough to interest me. (Hey this was long before playing as an orc was mainstream) This technically qualifies as a graphic text adventure, but not everywhere is accompanied by a picture. In fact, I typically turned them off since it just made the load time longer. This game was nowhere near Corruption level of long load times though.

So Knight Orc is another one of those odd games that had some interesting ideas, but itís questionable if it shouldnít have just stuck with one thing. I say this because thereís a big reveal later on in the game which would be considered a major spoiler, so I wonít go too much into it and Iíll just address the first part.

Yes, this another game that divided itself into three parts. First bit involves you being an orc and going about your orc life which mostly involves you getting attacked nearly at every turn by just about every other character walking about the game.

ďHey look an orc! Letís kill it!Ē or ďIím fighting a filthy orc!Ē are words youíre going to be hearing a lot by NPCs. You can somewhat curb this by ďdisguisingĒ yourself with cloak you can get near the beginning, but it isnít foolproof. Linger around the other NPCs too long and inevitably one is going to realize youíre an orc. Youíre a terrible fighter for the most part too so youíre unlikely to win. Not impossible though.

Getting killed by any of these NPCs isnít a big deal anyway. You literally just respawn elsewhere in the forest area which is more or less nondescript. You can wander a lot in it and never really get anywhere.

In fact wandering the forests in any direction is rather pointless. There are key locations that you can instantly go to by typing something like RUN TO GIBBET. Thatís actually the preferred way to travel. (The game understands a sizable vocabulary) Of course itís not really readily apparent what all the unique locations are if youíre playing the game for the first time. Thereís sort of clues though in the instruction book that came with the game and there actually is one location which allows you to see all of the places you could instantly run to.

Which brings about what it is youíre exactly trying to do in the first place. Well, thatís not really spelled out either. Youíre just sort of dropped in the game with no real instructions. Through trial and error (and wandering) I sort of got the idea that I was supposed to figure out how to get back home but the bridge is destroyed.

So you basically have to build a new way to get across which involves rope. However, there is no rope so you have to make a rope which hilariously involves going to all these unique locations and trying to get bits to make a long one. (Halyards, cords, belts, hair, etc)

Thereís a few more items you need too, but bits of ďropeĒ are the main things. Youíll also come across a lot of items made of gold which seem like youíre supposed to gather, but most you donít really need and just act as a distraction.

Manage to accomplish all the goals you need to and get across to your home and youíll be heading to part two which is where the big reveal happens. Parts two and three both deal with it so theyíre more or less played together.

As mentioned earlier and in the title, while this reveal is certainly a concept that makes the game a bit ahead of itís time, I honestly would have rather been playing a more ďmundaneĒ text adventure as a looting and pillaging orc. As it stands, youíre hardly even a ďbad guyĒ given how everyone is just sort of picking on you without provocation most of the time. Iím sure that might have even been the joke of exploring how adventurers generally do just sort of barge into orc lairs and slaughter them all even if they havenít been doing anything particularly evil and keeping to themselves.

Oh well, I canít fault the game for what it did do though even if it didnít live up to my own expectations.

Night of the Walking Dead, by John Olsen

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Thrilling Tales 3: The Dead Walk!, January 5, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

I saved the ďbestĒ for last, or at least the one I kept coming back to the most which is Night of the Walking Dead.

The goal of this one unfortunately isnít about fighting the hordes of undead, itís just you trying to find your Auntís locket so you can prove your claim to the inheritance. So naturally the logical course of action is to go dig her up and bring it back.

Wandering about a graveyard digging up your dead relatives isnít quite as glamorous as seeking out King Solomonís Mines or a lost temple with a golden moon goddess statue, but youíre not the fortunate son.

While you may not be fighting off hordes of undead, there are certainly are zombies walking about. They go for your head quite a bit too, though not to eat your brains, they just wallop you in the back of the skull from time to time and steal your items, making things a lot more inconvenient for you.

While not quite as bad as constantly backtracking to gather water to survive, this ongoing event just stretches the game out longer than it needs to be. Thereís actually a few places the zombies will outright kill you, but most of the time itís a punch to the back of the head, waking up and finding a vital item like your flashlight is missing and you finding it elsewhere later. Funny thing is the zombies in this tend to only move about when youíre not looking directly at them. Theyíre like Dr. Whoís Weeping Angels in this aspect.

Youíll be doing a lot of backtracking and running between a graveyard and an island. More than a few places you can find yourself among the walking dead if you drop certain items in the wrong place, forget to do something before doing something else, etc. making the game unwinnable. Lot of juggling items around too due to limited inventory space.

Iím almost certain that it was the setting that kept me coming back despite a lot of the frustration tactics employed in this game. The version I had used a light gray background which for a game filled with text sort of made it a bit immersive for the time (Foggy graveyard).

Could have been much better, but for the time it was definitely one that kept my attention.

Revenge of the Moon Goddess, by John Olsen

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Thrilling Tales 2: Temple of Doom!, January 5, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Moving on to the second game of this collection is Revenge of the Moon Goddess.

The goal of this one is to find a lost city and get the idol of the Moon Goddess. Despite taking place in another hot environment (South America) thereís none of the gathering water every five turns nonsense of which I was very glad about.

This adventure is a very straight forward one compared to the other two games in this bundle. Just a simple search for an idol in a jungle setting and solving puzzles along the way type thing. The stuff you have to solve all feels natural seeing as youíre exploring a lot of temples with traps and such.

While this makes for an adequate adventure, it didnít really stand out too much to me.

Perils of Darkest Africa, by John Olsen

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Thrilling Tales 1: Heart of Darkness!, January 5, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

And once again I will be doing this next group of reviews like a mini-series since I got them all packaged together in a box called ďThe Thriller SeriesĒ from CodeWriter. Not quite an ominous black box with ďTerrorĒ written in big capital letters, but it had an interesting (and misleading) picture on the cover.

As I remember my mom got this from a local corner store of all places off a rack. I have no idea if these were ever sold separately, but they were small enough to all fit on one disk (Unlike the Terror games) so itís just as well there were three.

It looks like some of these were re-released later in the 90s with different games bundled in MS-DOS, but the collection I had was for the C64 in the 80s.

One interesting side bit with all three games is they have a note you can find somewhere near the beginning of them that acts as a minor advertisement. It basically asks if you need help beating the game and gives you a mailing address of where you can send money to get a hint sheet, map or complete solution (One dollar for the first two and three or five dollars for the last). In game relic of a time when you couldnít just look things up on the internet!

This first review will focus on Perils of Darkest Africa. The goal is to get the treasure of King Solomonís Mines.

This one was my least favorite of the three mainly because it had a survival element that made the game longer and more annoying than it really needed to be. You had a thirst meter of sorts and the game would mention when you needed water and to take a drink.

Some problems. First, you donít even start with a canteen of any sort. So you have to get something to gather water with first, granted itís pretty close by, but itís still annoying and the plastic bag you find and end up using throughout the game is your ďcanteen.Ē

Really? I prepared for a trip to Africa to seek King Solomonís Mines and Iím drinking water out of a ziplock bag? Itís pretty silly that it wasnít just a regular canteen.

Oh and you have to keep refilling this bag of water from time to time from various sources. So be prepared for a lot of backtracking. Granted a lot of early text adventures involve backtracking to a degree, but in this case itís really just a time waster. Though youíll be using the plastic bag for stuff other than water in places, but that just makes this even sillier.

If it seems like Iím complaining about this aspect a lot, well itís because it really annoyed the hell out of me. Never mind the fact you really need to carry this vital item with you most of the time and your inventory space is limited as it is.

In fact youíll be doing a lot of dropping and picking up items due to the limited inventory space.

As for the puzzles and parser, theyíre probably fine for a game of this era. Itís the above issues mentioned that are the problem to the point where I would have rated the game higher otherwise.

Wolfman, by Rod Pike, Jared Derrett, HO

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Tales of Terror 3: Bark At The Moon!, January 3, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

The third entry in this series is Wolfman. Once again this game has been divided into three parts. Parts one and three deal with you playing as the man infected with lycanthropy. Fighting the curse and eventually finding the cure. The second involves playing as a woman that falls in love with him.

First, Iíll say that out of the three games involving the classic monsters, I found this one to be the best one. It did come out after the other two, so again there is more polish all around, but I just liked playing as the protagonists better. It might have been because unlike Dracula or Frankenstein, there isnít a proper ďwerewolf novelĒ to draw off of and it had to be a little more creative just using the traditional folklore.

This one also has the infamous bloody pictures from time to time that the box warned everyone about. These seem a bit more gruesome in that theyíre in the beginning stages of approaching one of the Elvria games (Most notably Personal Nightmare). Still, nothing to shriek in terror about.

The second part of the game is probably the most unusual mainly because the female protagonistís motivations since it seems a little silly. She takes home some stranger whoís already a bit suspicious and her goal is to spend a night with him without getting ripped apart, but also fall in love (and bed) with him. Oh wait, thatís the plot of 90% of todayís urban horror romance novels. Inserting a romantic angle wasnít very common in IFs at the time either, now theyíre over saturated with the stuff.

Never mind, this game was obviously ahead of its time!

Still, as I said, this one feels a lot more engaging as it dipped into multiple genres, a bit of mystery, drama, the already mentioned romance, and even some action as you even fight another monster in werewolf form and deal with hunters chasing you.

Third time was definitely the charm.

Jack the Ripper, by Priscilla Langridge,Jared Derrett

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Tales of Terror 4: Jackís Back!, January 3, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

The final terror box entry is Jack the Ripper. While this one was published by the same company, it wasnít created by the same person as the other three. Though the style certainly feels like it was one of Rodís works. (This one came out after Drac and Frank, but before Wolf)

Interestingly this one was created by a short lived religious movement at the time called the Silver Sisterhood. (It created a school called St. Brides which is listed as the creator of Jack the Ripper) They mainly believed God was female and returning to matriarchy which they said was true norm. Despite these beliefs or perhaps because of them, they did a game about one of the most infamous serial killers of all time that went around killing women.

The game is also divided into three parts and with this one you really do have to play them in sequence because you have to get a name at the end of each part to proceed at the beginning of the next one. Much more structured in that regard which isnít a bad thing.

This one out of all the games is probably the bloodiest and for the time I can certain see why this one got the warning on the box. At least one of the pictures not only has a bloody body, but the dead girl also has her breasts exposed. I applaud the ladies of St. Brides for going all out.

The main concept is youíve been framed as Jack the Ripper and youíre trying to clear your name and find the real Jack. Funny enough this isnít the only game Iíve played with this theme. A game that would come out later in the 90s called Waxworks had a section like this except it wasnít a text game of course. Still, canít help wonder if this game hadnít influenced a designer on that game.

As far as the descriptiveness and feel, it follows the Dracula style a bit more in that you get a lot of colorful descriptions but it feels like youíre a bit confined. Some of the parts are on a pretty unforgiving timer to solve the puzzles which detracted from what I thought might be the best of the lot.

Iíd rank it better than Dracula, but not as good as Wolfman. Itís certainly not as dull as Frankenstein, but itís about on par with that one for some of the already mentioned reasons.

Frankenstein, by Rod Pike

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Tales of Terror 2: It's Alive!, January 3, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Moving on to the next game in the Terror box, Frankenstein has the same lay out as Dracula in that itís divided into three parts, however unlike Dracula, you canít just immediately jump to part three until you beat the first two parts. You basically have to learn the monsterís name in order to proceed at the start of the third chapter.

The first two parts involve you playing as Dr. Frankenstein. In these youíre basically involved in creating the monster and then later on hunting it down to destroy it. The third part has you playing as the monster, which is a nice change of pace. Starts you off when you are first created and the goal in that one is to raise your IQ and do the whole self discovery thing. This is probably the best part of the game.

Like Dracula thereís pictures from time to time, but nothing really that bad. This one feels a bit more polished with the puzzles and slightly less confining than Dracula did, but youíll still be fighting with the parser more than necessary.

Other than the third part though, this one is just sort of meh. Something about playing as Dr. Frankenstein just wasnít really engaging to me. Still, I spent more time with it than I did Dracula.

Dracula, by Rod Pike

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Tales of Terror 1: Enter The Impaler!, January 3, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Okay, so this review is going to be done like part of a greater series. One reason is because I bought this game packaged with three other horror related games.

This boxed compilation was just called ďTerrorĒ in white text and came in a jet black box with no picture and more white text on the back saying how these games had been restricted or outright banned in other countries (UK, Australia and Germany I believe were the three mentioned) due to all the graphic bloody content.

Well sounded pretty metal to me and combined with ominous black box, there was no reason to not add these to the C64 collection.

Iím guessing these games came out seperately in those countries and eventually were repackaged in the Terror box for US release. All of the games were originally from the company CRL. Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman and Jack the Ripper. Iím guessing they specialized in horror games because I donít think they did anything else. Iíll be doing reviews on those as well, but for this one Iíll focus on Dracula.

Though Iím not sure what more I can add given the one very thorough review of it already up here! I guess Iíll just add some general thoughts.

One thing Iíll agree with is the font isnít fun to look at. I mean sure itís fitting for the setting, but itís hard to read at times.

Also this is yet another case of the sensation being much greater than the actual content. Sure thereís some bloody pictures at times, but really nothing worse than your average Friday the 13th movie. Much tamer in fact. Hell, the old Cosmi game Forbidden Forest would have been considered a torture porn blood bath in comparison to this one. I guess all the shock warnings might have improved sales though so canít fault them for that. The extended music that plays for these pictures though gets old.

The game is divided into three parts. First two parts youíre playing as Harker and your travels to the castle and what you do when you get there. The third part has you playing as Dr. Seward. You donít even need to play these parts in sequence if you donít like being a slave to order.

Thereís more fighting with the parser than there needed to be, timed actions are annoying, but itís pretty descriptive with the rooms and atmosphere overall. Itís obvious it was going more for trying to capture the feel of literally ďplaying the book.Ē

I still didnít care for it that much, just wasnít really that into playing as Harker or Seward. However, I can see if you were a big fan of the book, you might get into this game a bit more.

Amnesia, by Thomas M. Disch and Kevin Bentley

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
I certainly didnít forget this one, January 1, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

I sometimes wonder if I missed out on a lot of IFs that actually use an amnesia suffering protagonist in their game as a plot device. I know thereís a whole amnesia cliche trope that people tend to groan about whenever it comes up, but itís just never come up enough in anything Iíve played for me to rage about.

Of course maybe I have played a lot of such games and just forgot about them.(Planescape Torment and Sanitarium come to mind, but I greatly enjoyed those games and those weren't text adventure anyway)

Well like the review title says, I certainly didnít forget this game. It is literally called Amnesia, so it would be pretty strange if it didnít have it as the main focus.

This one was written by science fiction writer Thomas Disch and published by EA (Back when they published cool and unique games as opposed to the mess they churn out for profit now). Canít say Iím too familiar with Thomasí writing in general, but the game really showed the high quality of writing that a professional in that field would produce. Especially during the time it came out when only Infocom was really doing the bigger text adventures.

From some of what I read about the author and his involvement in the game besides the writing, it was sort of his idea to have practically minute details of the entirety of freaking Manhattan. I can just imagine the programmers tearing their hair out at his demands. Sort of impressive they could even fit all of that on 5 1/4 floppies, but it was probably a waste of space that could have been spent on better things like other characters to interact with and less but much better detailed locations you could visit and actually interact with as opposed to ďOh you canít go in there.Ē

The parser is pretty complex and understands a lot of commands though you just canít do a lot of things without something bad happening. Itís an illusion of freedom I suppose, but itís at least somewhat better implemented than most games today where you get four choices worded slightly differently and picking one just leads to the same result anyway.

Again, this wouldnít have needed to be the case though if all of Manhattan hadnít been shoved into it. Speaking of which the game came with a map which you definitely needed because you were going to get hopelessly lost. Descriptions of the hundreds of boring streets and buildings were practically all the same.

There was also a survival element involved later on in the game when you had access to Manhattan. You had to eat and sleep regularly. So now youíre wandering around a huge map with streets that all look the same AND now you have to eat and sleep too.

Failing to do either resulted in collapsing and bad things happening.
You can only sleep in certain areas or else bad things happen.
You get caught outside after midnight, bad things happen.

Oh and how exactly are getting this food? Youíll need money. Except you donít exactly have a job in this game and youíre just literally bumming around town. You can beg, but if you get caught by the cops (Which is a roll of the dice at anytime) doing that twice? You guessed it. Bad things happen.

Now Iím all for survival elements in a lot of games. I actually enjoy the survival genre, but in this regard it just really gets in the way of things. I donít think the survival aspect really works well in text games or at least it didnít in this one.

One of the descriptions at the top is ďsurrealĒ and thatís an understatement at times. The game might be set in the real world 80s era, but there is a lot of weirdness going on. Which was a point in its favor since it kept me coming back to it despite all the other things that would have made me shut it off. (Like most of the stuff I just mentioned above)

This game was one of the few text adventures back then that allowed a degree of character appearance. In the beginning the game asks you what your eye color is, facial hair, hair color, etc. After you answer though, the game basically gives you the exact opposite of what your character in the game looks like in the mirror. Gotta love how itís trolling you right from the start.

And thatís how it starts, you waking up naked in a hotel room. Honestly the beginning part sort of lures you into thinking about ďWow, I have so much freedom of what to do!Ē at first. You can do quite a bit of things. Of course it doesnít mention youíre on a timer. Linger about too long enjoying your hotel room and bad things happen.

Iím not going to get into too much about the actual game since it is supposed to be a mystery. So going on about anything at great length is going to give away stuff, however Iím going to say thereís a pretty early way to ďwinĒ which after everything else you have had to deal with so far at that point in the game, Iím not sure why you just wouldnít go with it and call it a day.

Iíll also mention some of the other odd bits that stuck out that gave me more reason to like it.

First off, there are interactive ďdeath scenes.Ē I mean in one instance after a series of long trial descriptions (due to bad things happening) you actually get the option to choose how to die, your last meal and later on last words. In another instance, you go on some odd trip to the underworld.

Itís completely meaningless, but I like it. Iíve always felt more games in general should do stuff like this. Iíve often said about how much cooler it would have been in a game like Dragon Age to have your character turn down the Wardens and then rather than railroading you into becoming one anyway, it just continued on with your character inevitably getting killed in an impossible battle later on. (Or whatever your origin characterís fate was at the time)

I do also remember encountering a very strange bit involving entering a church. It doesnít happen right away to you, but you can get a non-standard ending this way as well (not death) and itís very weird and unexpected.

Later on as youíre making progress in the game, youíll see Thomasí scifi writing background coming a bit into play. As Iíve seen some other say, I do agree that the plot is pretty convoluted. The situation could have been solved a lot easier.

The game has a lot of problems, but itís mainly due to ambition that couldnít be reached with the level of technology at the time. Itís definitely still worth a look.

Corruption, by Rob Steggles, Hugh Steers

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Not sure why I got this one, January 1, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

In my ongoing quest to collect more C64 games to play, Iím almost certain that getting this one was not my idea. Probably was my parents that thought it looked a little unusual from the typical selection of game themes and so got it for me. It worked many times before (Like with Tass Times) after all.

Yeah, didnít really work this time, though this really isnít the gameís fault. The theme and setting is what it is. I just learned early that I typically preferred less realistic settings.

The game actually came with a cassette tape which had some of the characters having a conversation on it. This provided a little more back story I suppose if you were interested in listening to it. Also contained a blue chip which I believe had a number on it. Not sure what that was for. Just a feelie they threw in I guess. Old games in general were good for those.

So the setting was going for that Wall Street style crime thriller what with all the double dealing, set ups, and well corruption going on. Only difference was this was taking it was place in the UK rather than having the usual US background.

I should point out that this game was technically a graphic adventure, but you could turn off the pictures and if you actually wanted to play a few turns without wasting an hour, Iíd highly suggest doing so because the load times were horrible. If the game had to load up a new area with a different picture, you were in for a long wait. Even back in those days when we were more patient about that sort of thing, it made the whole process unfun.

As for the graphics themselves, they were certainly a much higher caliber than most graphic text adventures had back then, but werenít really necessary in the first place. Honestly I found even with the graphics turned off, the gameís load times could still be on the long side.

Okay so thatís another thing that isnít really the gameís fault. Thatís a software/hardware issue that just happened back then, what about the actual game itself?

Well yeah, I didnít care for that either. I kept dying a lot and not really knowing what the hell I was supposed to be doing. Someone mentioned that the game is pretty unforgiving and that would be a correct statement. The timer on this one of the more ruthless ones. You could have missed doing something obscure within the first fifteen turns of the game and lose later. You really did need to lose a lot to gather an idea of how to proceed

I could chalk some of this up to youthful impatience and not being into the setting, but thereís other games where the setting wasnít really grabbing me (and dying just as much) and I still stuck with them longer.

The version I got even came with a mini hint book complete with solutions. (Donít know if this book came with all of them) The book had questions to certain things and an alphabetical code. You had to type in a code and after a long load time, you got an answer to the question.

Guess what? Even with all the answers readily available to me, I still couldnít be motivated to finish this one. The load time, the setting, just everything bored the hell out of me about it.

Still, it would be unfair to just give the game one star and throw it in the trash. Obviously by other ratings other people liked it quite a bit, and the one good thing I can say is you can type in a lot of different commands in the parser and the game understands which is probably one of the most important things for the IF genre.

I can see why others liked it, but it just wasn't for me.

Ulysses and the Golden Fleece, by Bob Davis and Ken Williams

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Early Sierra On Line Graphic Text Adventure, January 1, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

While Sierra was a major player in the late 80s to mid 90s with their adventure games (along with a few traditional action video games) everyone has to start somewhere and this game was an example of one of their first attempts in the genre.

Like with all these old games I played this on the C64 and got it because hey it was about Greek mythology and I liked Greek mythology and it was pretty cheap. Never realized it was part of a series of these adventure games, not that it matters since they look like they were self contained.

The graphics in this are sort of amusing due to their REALLY bad kindergarten quality to them. This isnít like the ďsimpleĒ graphics like say found in Transylvania. It really looks like a grade school kid drew everything. (The ďhurricaneĒ looks like pre-school scribble) Iíd have to say even their minimalist vector like graphics for their Mystery House game look better.

Again though, Iím looking at it now with todayís eyes. Back thenÖ well I still thought the graphics were goofy, but it didnít matter too much since back then you played the game you bought and you liked it (Or didnít, but played it anyway)

Start of the game involves a lot of running about the first town and nearby wilderness to get the stuff you need for the journey. Eventually when you get everything you think youíll need, you have to get sailing where upon you will have to deal with various challenges involving sirens, skeletons, cyclops, yíknow all the usual Greek mythology stuff.

Besides the usual fighting with the parser of this era, the game really liked screwing you over to create walking dead scenarios. Such as going to certain areas with certain items and losing them, making it impossible to complete the game. In one instance if you buy a certain item, you wonít be able to complete the game.

It wasnít one that really kept my attention for too long, but I did come back to it every now and then.

I suppose one main question is, wasnít Jason the hero that got the Fleece? Whoops, guess with the mixed up mythology, this one could have been a predecessor to Sierraís Mixed Up Fairy Tales game.

Transylvania, by Antonio Antiochia

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
It had its moments, January 1, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Another graphic text adventure I played on the C64 back in the day. I remember just picking it up out of a sake of not really finding anything else that caught my attention in the store that day and something about an adventure in Transylvania seemed as good as any setting to waste time in.

As far as the plot of the game is concerned, you have to save a princess, which is pretty common in video games in general and even more common in this era. Itís a simple game with a simple parser so it really doesnít need to be complex in terms of plot anyway. The game came with a newspaper mentioning Princess Sabrina and some other related things about Transylvania.

While the graphics at the time probably helped in keeping my attention since there isnít much in the way of text description, but the game also kept me alert in the sense that itís actively trying to kill you nearly right from the start.

I donít mean in the sense of ďGo left and die.Ē but as youíre traveling around outside, youíre going to inevitably bump into a werewolf from time to time and unless youíve got the right weapon (Take a guess) you need to immediately get the hell out of the location or he kills you.

Something similar happens when you enter a castle. Youíre safe from the werewolf, but now youíve got a vampire running around trying to kill you, unless youíve got the right item to fend him off.

To top it all off, the game has a timer on it, (A note says: ďSabrina dies at Dawn!Ē) so you only have so many turns to find the princess or you lose.

Thereís other monsters besides the vampire and werewolf too, but not quite as pro-active in doing you in.

Apparently this was the first in a series, but I never got around to playing the other two. I donít remember ever seeing them for the C64, though I probably wouldnít have bothered since the first one didnít exactly wow me enough to buy the other two.

Still I do remember coming back to it more than a few times so it wasnít a complete waste.

I-0, by Anonymous

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
I think I played this wrong, December 31, 2020
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

So I actually stumbled on this game by pure random chance years after it had long been out already. I remember when I played it, it was in a browser and it was called by the whole name, ďI-0 Jailbait on the Interstate.Ē

Seems like I-69 Jailbait on the Interstate would have been an even better name, but I guess Adam, erm, I mean Anonymous wanted to keep it subtle.

Anyway as I said in the title, Iím fairly certain I played this ďwrongĒ the first time around in the sense that I was playing it like I would a ďnormalĒ IF of just trying to get home without getting killed or worse. It never even occurred to me to do anything sexual like say take off my top to get a ride or something similar. So I missed out on all the sexual stuff during my first attempts at beating the game.

About the only time I actually encountered something to that degree during my first play through was when I got in the car with the creepy dude. I figured attempts at aggressive breeding strategies with my character were going to occur given the name of game. In fact I figured most of the game was going to be me trying to actually keep my virtue while trying to get home rather than acting like a common thot. (Guess I succeed in staying pure in that first playthrough)

Later, I went back and played through a couple times and appreciated that there were multiple paths to victory even if they werenít readily apparent. Fighting with the parser on some things was a bit annoying (Iím just trying to leave the damn car and the game is already putting up a fight with the wording, sheesh!), but such is the way with these games.

I didnít mind the game, but itís no Farmerís Daughter.

The Farmer's Daughter, by R. W. Fisher and D. W. J. Sarhan

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Inspirational!, December 30, 2020
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

I played the original game on the C64. Got it from some dude that mentioned it in passing at middle school and he ended up lending it to me along with some other pirated games on disk and I just sort of wound up in permanent possession of it. While the giggles of playing some ďdirtyĒ game were there, I was playing a lot of text adventure games by this point anyway, so I was probably more focused on fighting with the parser and trying to figure out the puzzles to win.

The goal of course is obvious. Youíre trying to sex up the Farmerís Daughter, but of course it isnít as simple as all that. You have to find her and of course a fine lady like this you have to woo properly first, so you have to find out how to do that, gather the appropriate items before you can get to it.

Naturally you have dangers to avoid like her father, the pet guard dog and her two brothers. (You REALLY want to avoid bumping into her brothers.) Thereís a few other ways to lose besides these dangers too.

Also there is a timer on this game. You have to achieve your goal in so many turns before the tow truck guy gets to the house or else you lose. There IS a way to get more time which was a nice hidden feature.

The puzzles arenít really difficult, but as usual with games of this era, sometimes things arenít readily apparent due to the parser not recognizing some words. Nothing really troublesome though. Descriptions of things range from being amusing to being functional. Usually if something is somehow sex related it tends to be a little more detailed and humorous.

Honestly, the game is really only porn in the Andrew Dice Clay stand up routine sense (An 80s reference for an 80s era game). The game isnít excessively descriptive with any particular sex act and when it bothers to be, it always goes for the comedic tone more than anything else. Even when you manage to achieve the main goal, you basically just get told ďYou won!Ē as opposed to any long drawn out sexual description of intercourse between you and the daughter.

However, there was an alternate winning ending if you were the sort to think outside the ďboxĒ a bit. It wasnít any more descriptive, but you did get a different amusing bit of text before you won. Not sure if this is in the modified version since I didnít play that one, but it was in the original C64 one.

The game was obviously more designed with the laughs in mind first and foremost rather than a true attempt at porn which was fine by me since that was going to keep my attention longer.

Which brings me to the title of this review. While I hadnít played this game in years by the time I was actually writing CYOAs, this one probably inspired more than a few of my earlier stories in places at least as far as tone is concerned.

The fact that you play as a traveling lightning rod salesman is perhaps the funniest thing to me in the whole game. So much so that Iíve directly referenced it a few times in my writing.

Itís not the best IF, but itís definitely one that inspired me more than most.

Mindshadow, by Bill Heineman, Allen Adham

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
It was okay, December 29, 2020
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

One of Mindshadowís major advantages is it had pictures to accompany the text at the time it came out. It probably wouldnít have gotten as much attention had that not been the case.

Waking up on a deserted island and trying to figure out who you are and how you got there is the main goal of the game. This bit plays out sort of as a normal short wilderness adventure would.

After getting off the island, the game in general is a bit strange. In fact Iím surprised whenever I see write ups of this game, nobody bothers to point out this obvious characteristic of the game, which is the game is a complete anachronistic stew.

Seriously, youíve got 17th century style pirate ships being chased by the royal navy and modern planes (Or least 80s era planes) right next to each other. Thereís a few other examples of this time warp weirdness as well. I really donít know anything about the novel it was based on, but the game feels like it wasnít sure which time period it was supposed to be set in. However, this was sort of what made the game stand out a bit more for me.

The game mentions how ďRememberĒ is an important command to help you regain your memory so you have to use it from time to time involving certain items and info youíve learned. The game sort of assumes that by the time you reach the ďendĒ you will have remembered all the vital information you need save for the last piece, at which point you remember that bit and it leads to the game ending.

This could lead to more weirdness in the game where you might have very well completed everything you needed to do in the game and still not know who you are so youíre just doomed to wander in an amnesiac limbo. The game doesnít actually end saying this of course, so you could just shrug your shoulders, turn the game off and come back to it later to wander looking to see if you missed something (Like I did initially)

Amusingly you could also win by ďrememberingĒ all the info you needed to right at the start of the game on the island. Presumably you might try this after you already beat it and knew what key words to remember. You get the same winning text screen, but oh wait, youíre still stuck on a deserted island! Well I guess the devs didnít think of everything.

Oh there was also a condor that gave you hints or something. I didnít like that feature and hated that stupid condor.

Anyway as I said in the title, it was okay.

Tass Times in Tonetown, by Michael Berlyn and Muffy Berlyn

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
I smell Snarl Meat!, December 29, 2020
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)

Tass Times in Tone Town was just one of the many wonderfully weird games from the 80s era. This one just happened to be a graphic text adventure. I canít really think of another game quite like it in terms of the setting and theme, so itís pretty unique in that regard and I played it quite a bit back in the day on my Commodore 64.

Like most text adventure based games of that era, they donít really explain too much directly as far as what youíre exactly supposed to be doing or at least they donít in the game itself. You sort of get most of the backstory from the instruction booklet or better yet, the Tass Times newspaper that came in the box.

Beside being sort of an enjoyable read, the newspaper provided clues to certain puzzles in the game if you paid attention. Iím reminded of the two point and click adventure games Maniac Mansion and especially Zak Mckraken which did something similar later.

First thing you have to figure out is even getting to Tonetown, but thatís fairly easy enough to figure out, then you NEED to blend in quickly when you get there otherwise itíll end badly for you. Thereís a bit of a timer on this, but more on that later.

Once youíve blended in, youíve got a lot more freedom to roam about to look for your lost grandpa, though not everywhere is safe when you leave the actual town and go exploring the wilderness. Youíll also have your dog Spot traveling with you, but he turns into ďEnnio the LegendĒ when he enters Tonetown and he can talk. He can act as a warning in a few places when he says ďI smell Snarl Meat!Ē (You also got a button in the game box with that phrase)

Which brings us to the closest thing to a villain in the game. There is an alligator type creature called Franklin Snarl who runs the pet shop. For whatever reason, heís the only one of his kind there and nobody seems to question it too much. While a few people will mention him being a jerk, nobody is actively trying to get rid of him, but then the citizens of Town Town are vaguely hippyish and laid back in their personalities despite their punk/new wave appearance.

Since this is an early era game youíll find the usual odd puzzles that youíll have to figure out through just messing about with stuff. Due to this being a graphical text game, there are times when things arenít readily described to you in the text, and youíll need to pay close attention to what it is youíre actually seeing in the picture provided. Besides the puzzle of blending in, there is at least one other puzzle on a ďtimerĒ and the item you need isnít readily apparent. You also only have a limited amount of time to use that item before you canít anymore. This can lead to being trapped if you arenít careful, with death being the only escape.

More than a few opportunities to achieve a ďwalking deadĒ situation, but thatís pretty standard for the era it came out.

For whatever reason the way the lay out of the game was set up never really bothered me, though it probably would have been a lot better without the lazy icons you could just click on for various actions and just expanded the picture and had the text at the bottom as normal.

Definitely would have liked a bit more of Tonetown and its general New Wave weirdness actually in the game, but it feels like you get a lot more of that aspect from the newspaper that came with the box. Quite a bit of area in the game is dedicated to the wilderness north of the town, most of which probably wasnít really needed.

Still, despite all this, it certainly kept me entertained enough to keep going back to it, even after I eventually beat it.

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