• victoriaannehancox

Appointment with F.E.A.R.

Having only 3 TV channels when I was a child, I had no choice but to watch Batman (the Adam West version). I hated it, so the Silver Crusader didn’t really stand a chance.

Let’s start with the positives though. Depending on which of the 4 super-powers you choose at the beginning, your route through the adventure is different. You find out different clues from different villains and the eponymous meeting happens at different times and in different places. In other words, you’re getting 4 stories for the price of one. As a CYOA author, I take my hat off to Steve Jackson. I am über-impressed with the cleverness of the idea and the skill in getting it to work. I say the idea, because I have no clue if it actually does work. I’m sorry to say I didn’t play beyond the first run-through.

For me, it came down to the story and I simply wasn’t interested in my character and what he/she did. The criminals seemed random – a Devastator rock monster and Macro Brain, the experiment with the large cranium – and the place was a generic American city. There was nothing to invest in. Even the prospect of replaying so that I could improve my HERO score was a ‘meh’ concept.

The decisions often seemed to be incongruous and, as a result, stopped me from inhabiting my character and the story. For example, when you leave the amusement park, you can go shopping, home or watch the evening performance of ‘Rats’ at the theatre. The ‘home’ option clearly says that you’re spending the evening relaxing. However, if you choose to go shopping, it’s lunchtime and you’re eating a pizza.

On another occassion, after thawing a swimming pool, you’re given the option to relax and watch a football match or visit Colonel Saunders to see if he knows anything about the F.E.A.R. meeting. These 2 options just don’t go together – I’m trying to prevent a global calamity so why would I go ‘Nah, sod the Colonel, I’ll just watch the footie instead!’

I imagine that this was down to the logistics of fitting all 4 narratives into one book, but these illogical decisions really spoiled the story.

I can’t finish without an honorary mention of the names used throughout the book. Georgie Boy and the Vulture Club. Wisneyland. Verging Records. But the award has to go to: Michael Blackson. No, really!

#1 Tip for my own gamebooks:

I’m not brave enough for 4 independent routes but, so far I’ve played it safe with having a single successful outcome. It’s time to raise the stakes and in my third gamebook, I’m going to incorporate this strategy. I've no idea yet, how that's even vaguely going to work, but I'm up for the challenge!

Best Map Notation that I Wrote:

This didn’t produce a map as I like them, just a flowchart of moves. Hence, my notations ended up being short and to the point. Circus. Dwarves. Lion. Caravan. Owner. Arrest. You get the picture. Nothing remotely amusing, so no accolade given here!

Best illustration from the book:


I can't decide which boy band from the Eighties they remind me of. Right Said Fred, maybe?

The illustrations suit the theme of the book but were not my cup of tea at all. It’s got lots of muscly men in Lycra or skimpy shorts – even the Mummy has got a fine set of quads! My favourite one though is the Fountain Creature with the woman being held between its teeth. Seems a bit nightmarish but I like it, even though I’d have preferred sharper teeth. It would've been more realistic. You couldn’t cut through soft butter with those pearlies, never mind that poor woman's liver!


You don't expect THAT on your way to Asda!

Best Death:

Well, there were no stand-out ones for me. Getting thrown out of windows or strangled is rather mainstream, although being shot by a child thief was a bit harsh! What I did like though was the accidental deaths that I caused by blundering into situations. Lots of shaken fists and ‘Curse you, Silver Crusader’ as I slunk away, apologising profusely and leaving the corpses behind. And indeed, best death goes not to a human but the poor shark which I exploded with an Energy Blast and then everyone hated me, because they got covered in fish guts!

End game rating:

2/10. What can I say? Call me a curmudgeonly, stuck-in-the-mud, old git but I just couldn’t get into this one and I couldn’t give a monkey’s about the Titanium Cyborg.

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