• victoriaannehancox

Choosing the right route? Interactive fiction vs gamebooks The Wandering - a (kind of) review.



There are times when I'm thinking of different puzzles to put into my gamebooks and I wonder: what if I just didn't. OK, to even dream about being designated a 'gamebook' it has to have some game-like devices, so having puzzles to work out and clues to find are integral and part of the challenge.

That said, it is all a bit forced, isn't it? Having to work out riddles to 'prove your worth'? Or knowing specific pieces of information because you just so happened to take a particular path? Sometimes the story has to be tweaked in order to justify the presence of a puzzle and that makes me question whether it's the right approach. Surely the story should reign supreme? Or am I just overthinking the whole thing and I should simply remember that it is fantasy fiction?

I was chewing over all of this when I heard about 'The Wandering' and decided to branch out into non-gamebook IF. Long story short and without spoilers, it's about a pact with the Devil and an exploration of life choices. On my first attempt, I took off to Berlin, enjoyed a well-written story and then... put the book back on the shelf. I will return to it and see what the other stories are about but, in the meanwhile, it shone a light on what I do love about gamebooks and that is they have a purpose, a goal. The whole 'turn to 400' and getting to the final chapter is the reason why you go back again and again to explore all the paths. Conversely, The Wandering didn't have a quest with an ultimate endgame; its purpose was to savour the journeys, not necessarily to reach a destination, but is that what I wanted? As the book sits there gathering dust, the answer to that question is quite clearly 'NO'.

Maybe I'm biased. Maybe I've just been brainwashed with Fighting Fantasy from my childhood but it made me realise that what's important for me in IF is resolution. I'm OK with taking all these different routes, but only if they have a purpose; if they add layers to the story and if they take you to a singular endpoint.

Once I've actually read all of The Wandering, I'll update this with an apology if it does all come together in one glorious final chapter, but the point is, that it didn't feel like it was going to do that and that's why I paused.

For me, all the strands of IF need to be tied up by the end and so for now, I guess my puzzles stay.

But I'm open to recommendations, so let me know if there are other IF stories that could give me a different perspective on it.

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