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  • victoriaannehancox

The Citadel of Curtains?

I was really looking forward to playing The Citadel of Chaos again, as I had really good memories of it. Especially the one and only Ganjees. I remember being endlessly frustrated by getting to their room and not being able to get past it. Once you map it, you can see that all roads lead to the Ganjees, so it’s inevitable that you meet them, but it was actually quite simple to get past. Jar of ointment, anyone?

You start with three different routes to get across the courtyard. Some with death, courtesy of boiling oil. Note to self: don’t ask for help when trapped in a pit. Others with information and objects. So already, you feel a bit challenged and arrive at the door knowing that you may well have missed some important stuff but there’s no going back. FF should always give you a sense of FOMO!

The next part of note is the circular leprechaun room. Obviously, when the options are: “Do you go to the door or creep down the stairs?” – it’s a no-brainer! I defy anyone to not creep down to the cellar. That’s what stairs are for! So most people end up with the levitating and irritating O’Seamus, but it’s worth it for the bronze, brass and copper doors. Who doesn’t love having three doors to explore? And whilst the brass and bronze are a bit limited, there’re not dead-ends – I liked that all three had fully fleshed-out pathways, even though they were all the wrong choice.

Yep, should’ve saved your energy and just stuck with the ground floor corridor.

At the end of which, you take a left and prepare for a lot of ….politeness? That’s right. Ring for the butler instead of just barging in willy-nilly; apologise to the Gark for disturbing him; the Gark (and let me remind you here that the Gark is large, brutish and somewhat stupid) apologises back AND offers to take your tunic. It’s all very civilised. And because karma is a thing, you get the combination number in the library.

Balthus Dire - the hulk of home textiles

From here, it’s more or less a straight road to meet Balthus Dire. A handsome devil with swarthy good looks and a gravity-defying ponytail. Just what the ladies like! Although, I have to say, the curtain pelmet does spoil his whole butch persona.

Spell after spell is cast, with a bit of curtain action thrown in for good measure, and then you kill him. Job's a good 'un!

And what do you get for your troubles? The self-satisfaction of saving the Vale of Willow. Peachy!

#1 Tip for my own gamebooks: Now call me picky, but if the instructions are going to be all ‘Turn left’ and ‘Turn right’ then the map has to abide with those directions. Too many pathways end up at the great dining room with the staircases and I get that the player has to be funnelled through at some point but not at the expense of the map. As you might have gathered by now, I’m a bit precious about the maps.

Best Map Notation that I Wrote: ‘Angry woman – offer hairbrush’ I think most women can agree that when we’re really pissed off, the only thing that could possibly calm us down, is the opportunity to comb our tresses. Good advice from me!

Best illustration from the book: Behold the Wheelies! The least FF-looking combatants I’ve encountered. It’s like they escaped from Alice in Wonderland and roll up here wondering where Tweedle-dum is.

But more importantly about the Wheelies – just look at them and ask yourself – how? They have no elbows! How are they supposed to be hurling knives at people? By flicking their wrists? I don’t think so.

Get this from paragraph 220: “The other two reach for their belts and pull out small blowpipes.” No, they don’t. They can’t reach!! Their stubby arms would snap off!

And don’t be fooled by “…they can launch them at a rapid-fire pace, like large catherine wheels” NO, THEY CAN’T. IT’S A PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY.

*deep breath* Now where’s my hairbrush……?

Best Death: On the plus side, they’ve really upped the death count here. However, Citadel has two of the most pathetic deaths I’ve ever seen in FF. Which naturally make them the best.

Imagine it – you’ve made it all the way through to the end game; you’re facing Balthus Dire and if you die here, surely you’re going to go out in a blaze of glory.

Instead, you either get strangled by a curtain (these drapes are lethal; I can see why he has them now) or trapped underneath a table. Great. Let’s not put that on our epitaph.

End game rating: 8/10 Intriguing layout, nice characters and, despite feeling initially a bit let-down by the ultimate pointlessness of the cellar routes, I eventually appreciated the whole red-herring nature of it. I did not like the spells though. When your map just has the notations: Shielding, Weakness, ESP, Levitation… Levitation, you know that something’s not right. I like more of a puzzle at the end where different pieces collected throughout the game fall into place.

124 views2 comments


Mar 28, 2021

Great tips as usual. I'm going to carry a hairbrush around with me from now on. The ganjees are very memorable as are the wheelies. I think it's best to not think about the biology of most of these creatures!


Greg Allensworth
Greg Allensworth
Aug 08, 2019

Citadel of Chaos is a good one, even judging by the standards of later books. Some strange twists such as politeness, and lots of memorable, awful monsters that haunted my dreams for years. Spiders in jars, floating heads in darkness, disc creatures, a hydra, and a wizard who defies the power of any hairbrush. I liked the magic spells a lot. In Scorpion Swamp, there's a different mechanic but still somewhat similar outcomes, that if you have the right item you can Nope your way out of some traps and situations. I wish they had made more books with those sorts of mechanics.

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