The first idea is simply to go ahead playing through Joe Dever's Lone Wolf gamebook series. I also may sprinkle in read-throughs of the early 90s childrens magazine fantasy 'The Ancestral Trail', in keeping with the fantasy archetype. I may even throw in comic book reviews, to boot. Those are all ideas for the future, though. For now, I'm going to do a playthrough of Phantoms of Fear, the 28th of the Fighting Fantasy series.
The cover of this book is certainly noteworthy, because it shows a very vivid picture of my ex. No, seriously, I always thought that this was what the titular monsters in Spectral Stalkers should look like. This book is quite unlike Spectral Stalkers though, in that your playable character is an elf. As an elf, you have a Power stat, which you can use to cast a few spells. You also can tap into a special living realm when you dream, which basically turns the entire adventure into a drug-fuelled haze while your character sleeps on a tree branch for a while. Good thing to do while there's an evil death-god planning to destroy the world, right?
Oh yeah, and that's your quest. Go and stop the evil death-god. Somehow, I quickly come to suspect that the key to solving this adventure lies in the dreams that the character has, because the very first thing you're doing in the game is sleeping. You dream of your home forest being twisted and destroyed, and a statue of an old powerful and possibly goddess-type thing beckons you on, offering you puppies and swords. Yes, really. No, it doesn't make much sense to me either.
You're informed that, as a wood elf, you are confident that you don't need to take any food with you on your journey, and toddle off into the forest with only a pointed stick for safety. Ten minutes later you're starving to death and struggling to scavenge enough berries to survive. I'm so impressed with the skill of the wood elves so far. I manage to direct him into a small bush, where he gathers some berries, eats them, and promptly falls asleep. My sleep is then interrupted on account of being attacked by a giant hawk which is attempting to peck my eyes out.
|Fresh summer berries. Take them with you next time!!|
Without any real indication of where to go, I stumble cluelessly around the forest for a while, until I find a pathway leading to the west. Some distance along the pathway, I'm given a few chances to roll a test of luck, or the option to turn back. This is always a bit of a dead giveaway that there is some kind of horrible spiked trap tied to a tree or something, and no sooner have I confirmed that I want to press on in this direction am I confronted... with a horrible spiked trap tied to a tree. Because I'm not quite a total idiot, I avoid the trap, but I'm gradually losing faith in the character's preternatural woodland survival skills.
|Elves. Master of the trees.|
I hide under some leaves and have a dream about being beaten up by an ice monster. Upon killing it, I'm informed that I wake up feeling refreshed. The next paragraph tells me that I then rest for a while, which is confusing as I'd just finished sleeping. Now convinced that my inept beardless dwarf also has narcolepsy, I'm ready to pack up and continue on the journey when I am attacked by the strange mutated man-creature whose leaf-shelter I've slept in for the night. Slept in, I'll remind you, because my character couldn't climb a tree without falling out of it. I suspect that this is going to end up like one of those episodes of Star Trek, the kind in which the crew need to save themselves from their own stupidity.
The whole next day's journey is uneventful, it seems. But the book does give me a luck point simply for making it this far. Words are failing me at this point. Normally in these books, you're given a luck point if you kill an especially dangerous enemy or find a holy relic. In this one, I'm given a luck point simply for not tripping over my own shoelaces and hitting my head on a rock while moving from point A to point B. It's getting late at that point, so we decide to risk setting up camp in a cave on one of the nearby hills.
|Death holds no grip on the Green Lantern, yo.|
I continue to crawl through the cave until I eventually emerge from the other side, feeling as if I somehow didn't manage to acquire any of the hidden loot that I was sure would be hidden in a dark cave. In the distance I can see the weird twisted corruption of the evil dark-god thing, which has been tainting this region of the forest. As I approach, a strange gust of wind knocks me over. I'm assuming that it is actually meant to be some kind of radiating ageas of raw tainted evil, or something equally powerful enough to almost knock a heroic warrior of good from his feet. But frankly, at this stage in the adventure, I'm beginning to suspect that the elf just fell over from a strong breeze.
I can't really dislike this book, despite the main character's utter ineptitude. The descriptions are vivid, especially the dreams. The artwork is extremely good, bringing the imagery of the story to haunting life. It's certainly not one of the poorer Fighting Fantasy books, but it doesn't really do a whole lot to make itself stand out from the crowd. It reminds me a lot of Portal of Evil, in many ways, so if you enjoyed that one then I'd recommend giving this one a shot.
As I'm sure everyone out there is quite aware, the UK is slap-bang in the middle of a heatwave at the moment, so I'm going to head off and try to dunk my head into a bucket of ice for a while. Catch you all next time, when we'll be exploring.. uhh... I don't know which books I have left to cover. It'll be a surprise! See you then!