Sunday, 13 March 2016

House of Hell playthrough

Welcome to the house of fun,
now you've come of age...
Written by Steve Jackson, Artwork by Tim Sell

House of Hell was always one of my fave FF books. Almost certainly due to its horror roots, and I do love my horror genre, yes I do. So let's waste no more time and get stuck right in!

First up, my stat rolls were truly dreadful - skill was a passable 9, but I rolled a mere 16 stamina and 7 luck. My fear rating was far better, at 10. I'm hoping this will be enough to get me through at least a chunk of the game. I know I won't win, because this gamebook is insanely difficult. But at very least, we can have some fun in the meantime! Just remember - do NOT go into the ktichen!

The story starts with you driving through a forest en route to an important appointment, after having been given directions by a crazy old man in town. While you're driving, you accidentally run over the same old man - but his body is nowhere to be found! Clearly the old man is a ghost of some sort. Any way, your car won't start back up, probably because ghosts can really mess up your ignition. Stumbling through the forest, I found an old house, which surely has a telephone that I can use to call a garage.

I listened at the window for a while, and overheard two men in white robes discussing an impending visit. Yeah, not ominous at all. I'm greeted at the main door by the butler, who asks me to wait for the master of the house in the sitting room. While I wait there, I look at one of the room's paintings, and the painting of a young lady tells me not to drink the white wine. Rather than fleeing the house before Doctor Frank N Furter makes his big arrival, I stupidly decide to sit back in the room with this portrait of Nearly-Headless Nick's sister, until the lord of the manor turns up. He invites me to stay for the evening, and offers me some wine. Oh god, the wine! Damn right I choose the red wine - when a painting of a woman tells you to choose red wine with your night of carnage and horror, you choose the red wine!

A far less terrifying lord of the house, maybe?...
Let's be honest here, this blog wasn't going to get
written WITHOUT a Rocky Horror reference, okay?
Over some roast duck, the lord of the manor tells me of the history of the fall of his house, leading to himself as the last survivor of his family line. It's all very Edgar Allen Poe, which is just charming, so we retire for cheese and coffee in the study, where I anticipate meeting a raven perched on a pallid bust of Pallas just above the chamber door. Instead I meet a whole bucket of sedatives in the obviously drugged coffee, and collapse. When I awake, I am tied up in a bed, just like most Saturday nights.

I get up, managing to cut myself free, and sneak out of the room until I find my way into the Azazel Room. Sometimes I wish regular rooms had names like this - "No, it's not the bathroom, it's the Malachi Room". Anyway, inside the room I find a laboratory, and I arm myself with a sturdy letter opener. There's another interesting fact about this book - in order to fight at your full skill, you need a weapon. You don't start with one automatically.

I slip quickly past the Erasmus Room, and am confronted with the ghost of a young woman, who tells me that the lord of the manor is... evil! Y'know, given the way he drugged me over dinner and tied me up, I'd have never guessed he might be a bit shady. Either way, she tells me to find the Kris Knife, but is then ripped apart by ghost dogs before she can tell me where. Which is as strange as it sounds. Also, I need to rescue another hostage, before the lord of the manor can sacrifice her to the powers of nastiness. Off to the Mephisto Room, which is empty except for a piece of rope. I take the rope, and to the Balthus Room I go!

The truth is, he only wants
to borrow your fingernail clippers.
Balthus room contains some billowing curtains, behind which is a zombie. As a side-note, I love the art for the zombie here, its claws are very sharp and jump right out the page at you. The damn thing knocks me down to 10 stamina, though. Leaving the room, I stumble around until I get the choice to go into the Diabolus Room. Oh yeah, that sounds really safe. I avoid it entirely, and find a message written on the hallway window, "Mordana in Abaddon", and the instruction to turn to section 88 if that is ever useful. Great, all I need to do is find the Abaddon room, wherever that is.

The next room I open contains a dead body that falls on me. Oh how lovely. Now I definitely know that this book is just documenting a usual Saturday night for me. Either way, I run right past the Asmodius Room, the Elbis Room, the Mammon Room and the Shaitan Room (bloody hell! None of these sound dodgy much, eh?) and start searching for the Happy Puppies And Candy Room.

I avoid all the other rooms until I find the Abaddon Room, which is full of plants and contains a dead lady in a bed. Except that she's not quite as dead as she should be, and sets a pair of dogs on me. Amazingly, I kill both dogs, without sustaining damage. She refuses to answer my questions until I state her name, Mordana, upon which I choose to ask her who the 'man in grey' is. I have no idea who this person is, I've obviously missed any reference to him, but I figure he's important. She doesn't know, either. Oh, well isn't that just so very helpful! Anyway, to make things more difficult, the book then declares that I have explored enough of the upstairs rooms (NO I BLOODY HAVEN'T, let me go back to the other rooms I avoided!) and guides me downstairs.

I head into the drawing room, sensing the end of my adventure rapidly approaching. I fill a hip flask with brandy, and head into the study. Once there, my fear score skyrockets. I find a piece of paper which tells me to 'find Shekou' - but the words appear all by themselves! This bumps my fear score up to 9, and remember my maximum is ten. The book then asks if I want to check out the bookshelf. I decide that it would be a good idea to look at a book on hypnosis, in case the lord of the manor tries to put the mind-whammy on me. The book I choose has a massive eye on the cover. The pupil contains the faces of people screaming in terror - so basically, it's like what facebook would be if it were an actual book.

Could 'Manos: The Hands of Fate'
be the inspiration for this book? 
Either way, this sends my fear score right over the maximum, meaning that my character is so terrified that his head literally explodes all over the study.

I love House of Hell. Even with a relatively poor stamina and luck score, the real danger's in the fear score, which jumps by 3 points at several parts, and can be quite lethal. I know I spent far too much time chasing one clue that never quite paid off, so this may be one of those that is meant to be played several times in order to figure out the way through it.

Either way it's still a load of fun. Navigating around the house is much easier than in Vault of the Vampire, mostly due to the name labels on the doors, so although it's very difficult, it, it doesn't feel unfair. Definitely one that deserves high marks in... hey, hang on. This means that I've STILL not won a single one of these books!! Well, maybe we'll have better luck with the next book I'll be playing!



(If you've enjoyed this article, be sure to check out Justin MacCormack's two bestselling collections of horror stories - "Return to 'Return to Oz'", "Cthulhu Doesn't Dance" and the young adult coming-of-age comedy "Diary of a gay teenage zombie". His newest novel, "Twilight of the Faerie", is available now)

6 comments:

  1. I think the zombie behind the curtains in the Balthus room is a cheeky reference to the end of Citadel of Chaos.

    I don't think I've ever completed this one without cheating. I would always get stuck in an infinite loop under the stairs on the ground floor.

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    1. If I recall correctly you can only finish this in one read if you have a fear score of around 10. If you use previously gained hints (ie turn to 88) you can do it with less.

      There are a couple really tricky spots... selecting the path to attack the hunchback, picking the right password for the cellar (which is fraught with red herrings) and then getting the keys via the mirror portal while remembering to avoid the kitchen are all killers.

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  2. Unsurprisingly, I loved this book. I loved all UK Steve Jackson's books and this was no exception. Unlike certain other books which were dependent on finding about 30 trinkets, this book was a serious mind-twister maze that always kept you guessing.

    I've been inspired by you and a number of your cohorts to try my own gamebook playthrough page. I'm attempting to make my way through the awesome-ninja Way of the Tiger series. Have a look, if you like, at www.wayofthetigerblog.wordpress.com.

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    1. I love the Way of the Tiger books. I have the originals 1-4 but picked up the 2014 reprints as well. You might want to consider using the book 6 reprint, as I understand they cleaned up some continuity errors.

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  4. Generally, I don't worry too much about the books cover art but this one is an exception. The copy I have of this is the wizard edition which i absolutely hate! ! I've just ordered a copy of the green zigzag edition just so i have one with the creepy house on the cover

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