By James A Holme
Well, it started with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and ended with the games console but is anybody else still hankering for that long dispelled thrill of the choose your adventure / fighting fantasy style gamebook?
Well, with the advancement of mobile phone apps, they are making a big comeback and a new generation are enjoying the retro thrills of an adventure where there are the star of the show.
But that’s not what I want to talk about here. Yes, they were fun at the time, but they have had their day. Haven’t they?
Apparently not as there is a new explosion of writers out there who have re opened pandora’s box with the belief that despite new polygon pushing processors on our HD screens, there is yet to be a console with wiring as complex and capable of imagining palpable science fiction as our very own brains. Well, most of our brains.
I trawled the internet for a high scoring gamebook I could get my hands on (yes, my actual hands, not at the other end of a gamepad) and I found a wealth of choice. The best of which was from Sandboxer Books who are new to the game and boy oh boy was I happy I picked it up! The original Fighting Fantasy Books were an open pit in which I poured hours of my childhood, each spanning 400 ‘chapters’ but this one is 530 long passages. It is huge. I got a lot of enjoyment out of it. I spent a lot of time with it. Now I need more.
It is called RED DOG and is by author Chris Young, apparently his first forage into this genre (at least that I could find.) Now, this is a ‘choose your adventure’ with a difference. Ever snuck back under the cover of darkness to your childhood and had another bite of the Fighting Fantasy cherry? Well this adventure is written better, is longer and free roaming. You heard it here folks. You are not forced down the garden path this time on a linear adventure. You can go where you like. It really is like having another world in your pocket. That is if you have clowns pockets because if you want a copy you had better have a tall bookcase. Its 9 by 6 inches!
Here’s the specs:-
”This is not the Earth you remember. Dragged from the present and into this dark and dangerous future, you have total freedom to uncover the hidden secrets of Earth, space station ‘Eden’ and the mysterious Blackbird Facility. Uncover a determined threat to the freedom of mankind and take your part in the revolution. The future is in your hands. RED DOG: A complete Fantasy Role Playing Game. Free Roaming * A Huge 530 passages of Text * An Expansive Universe Set Over Three Worlds * Detailed Illustrations, Maps and Plans * No Dice — Rely On Your Wits and Courage * Search Every Corner of the RED DOG Universe * Deeper Interactions — Talk to Anyone You Meet * Get an Advantage and Upgrade With Bio Implant Technology * A New Generation of RPG For A New Generation of Gamers.”
Give it a blast and help me put pressure on these guys to write another! Here is my review on Amazon:
I bought this because I used to be into the Fighting Fantasy ‘Choose your adventure’ books and thought I’d try it out. The mecha on the front is cool. The book completely blew me away. I really wasn’t expecting to get so drawn into it, it’s a really deep sort of experience and I like the way you start off with no memory of how you got there and it all gets explained on the way.
Compared to the books I read as a kid, it’s much more challenging and a hell of a lot bigger too. Its a big book. The pictures are great though I would have liked to see more of them and the gameplay is quite different from the FF books but I think it’s for adults.
There are no dice. I never used dice anyway so I didn’t miss that. It uses a kind of code system so you will need a pencil to write them down. For example, at one point I got a ‘Stealth’ chip implanted in my brain so I could use it anywhere and basically disappear. The way you can go back to places you already visited and use it is cool. You add the code to the page to use ‘Stealth’ which means you are not limited in how or where you use it. This gives you plenty of freedom and means that you can do what you want.
There much more freedom rather than being linear. I just wandered around, searching for stuff. There are books hidden all over the place which are all one story and it’s fun to find them and read them. It’s all connected and makes it rewarding to look around. And another thing I liked was that I didn’t get killed off for something that wasn’t my fault. The mecha is cool. You have to learn how to control it which is a great idea but I don’t want to spoil it so I’ll just say give it a go.
Overall, I highly recommend it. Definitely a big leap from the old school books. I wanted to get another one but this is the only one I could find by these guys, hopefully they’ll release another one I’d definitely play it.”
So there you have it guys. I’ll be emailing Sandboxer if I can find them and petitioning a second book. Read this and you’ll be doing the same!
Keep on keeping on folks