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9797Reviews part 21: In Pracyverse, there are pictures of her heroes on the wall

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  • Per Jorner
    Feb 4, 2009
      I believe I never managed to get this through on the Gamebooks list.

      ---

      This time around we have reviews of Sky Lord (the archive-friendly
      version), Virtual Reality 3 (may contain traces of nuts and sarcasm),
      Pracyverse III, and Kill the Beast (in mini-Zero Punctuation mode).

      ---

      FF33: Sky Lord

      The one thing you can't fault Sky Lord for is the background. Although the
      quest superficially resembles the same old "slay the warlock before he can
      release his hordes" - all right, _is_ the same old premise - the
      particulars actually make the introduction one of the most worthwhile in
      the whole series, or so I thought. Pretty much everything else you _can_
      fault Sky Lord for. Brief initial attempts will reveal the vehicle combat
      system to be grotesquely unbalanced, with an experience feature that
      doesn't really have any effect. You will soon find that a substantial part
      of the book is made up by themed mini-games, pseudo-mazes and chase
      sequences, the reasons for which are not always very smoothly inserted;
      for instance, en route to saving the world you're ordered to stop and
      fight a space pirate, because that only has a 77% risk of utterly
      destroying you or something. As a rule of thumb, the more abstractly these
      sequences are presented, the less enjoyable they become. Whatever you
      happen to be doing, you will find that choices are uninformed and random
      and death awaits everywhere. Sky Lord apparently resembles Martin Allen's
      other creation Clash of the Princes in several ways, having more than a
      little Jack Vance make-up. Unfortunately, instead of successfully creating
      a zany and ironic space adventure, this just contributes to the vagueness
      and unpredictability. The main character is supposed to be a very capable
      space warrior, yet he blends perfectly into a world of randomness and
      incompetence and there isn't really anything you can do about it. Readers
      will tire of stumbling helplessly into indistinctly motivated instant
      deaths long before they near the end of the book and its amusing twist.
      Playing by the rules is entirely out of the question: no gamebook has this
      quickly and decisively made me give up on playing it properly, or even
      reading it semi-properly. Sky Lord is essentially bug-free and that's rare
      I suppose, but one could just as well say that the way it's constructed is
      a big bug in itself. To some extent I can see what Allen was going for,
      and two or three sequences are all right in themselves, but all the same
      this is easily the worst designed and least playable Fighting Fantasy
      gamebook I've read.

      Rating: 1/10

      ---

      VR3: The Coils of Hate

      Life in the decadent city of Godorno is not easy on the Judain minority. A
      shrewd people of mystics and merchants, they are often accused of usury
      and witchcraft and anything else that happens to be amiss. Now the ruler
      has declared them outlaws and mobs immediately form to go about waving
      pitchforks and smashing shop windows. The Judain, huddling in their
      underground congregations, just want to go and find the Promised Land
      where the Chosen People can live under the one true God. I have searched
      this premise long and hard for real-world parallels, but nothing seems to
      leap out.

      Judain champion that you are, you decide city life is no longer to your
      taste. With pitchforks at your back you steal out of town on a barge,
      happy to leave that "stinking cess-pit" behind, and head for the upriver
      town of Bagoe, arriving there the next day or possibly the day after. With
      the world now open to you, you consider your options and... catch a lift
      with some barge-polers down to Godorno, where you sneak into town and
      return "at last" to "the hub of civilization". Wait, what? Was there a
      reason for this little excursion? Maybe there's this awesome record store
      in Bagoe that you like to visit once a year, but, you know, it doesn't
      say.

      Upon returning, you are astounded to find that your people are not doing
      so well. A plague and an earthquake have struck Godorno during the few
      days you spent hiking, and there is the small matter of rampant
      persecution. "All right, so I had some tiny indications of trouble myself,
      if you must count being chased by a lynch mob. But I thought after a
      little window-smashing we'd all slap each other on the back and make up!
      Like we always do! I only went away because - here, look, this is a really
      rare bootleg! Look at it. LOOK AT THE BOOTLEG."

      I was honestly hoping that The Coils of Hate would surpass Green Blood,
      but if it does, it's not by a lot. Mark Smith's writing lacks for some
      editing and the sheer number of inconsistencies, within and between
      sections, does little to help. When you're attacked in the street you are
      told there's no time to draw your sword, but if you have Streetwise
      there's time to strike up a conversation. Your rabbi and old friend
      Caiaphas is introduced with his "rumbling basso voice" twice, but his wife
      refers to you as "stranger". The same Caiaphas chides you for your
      suggestion that one might offer resistance, then leaps up with a spear
      shouting that all must "go forth and die gloriously against the Overlord's
      men". The rest of the Judain club him like a seal and get on with making
      up some proper plans: to "stay hidden, strike only at night", because then
      no one can "say the Judain are cowards". In order to "free the city from
      the grip of hatred and unreason", you start a "campaign of
      assassinations". As leader of the resistance movement you are given the
      pick of hideouts and choose "the best option", but once in position you
      are told that "the other Judain have taken all the best bolt holes" and
      "you will find a better hideaway in time". Which possibly explains why
      your advisers were giggling strangely all through the meeting. Serves you
      right for sitting out the earthquake, I guess.

      One could go on. In 4 you can choose to "fling the trap door open", but
      once in 61 this option has turned into "fling up the door and jump down
      into the cellar", to which could be appended "like a moron". In 7 you have
      a choice whether to "wait and see" or "walk out into the street", but if
      you choose to remain in hiding, your first action in the next section is
      to "walk out into the street". Even characters without Swordplay are good
      enough fencers to square off momentarily against Tyutchev the DMPC, "one
      of the greatest living warriors", and Agility alone is enough to wound him
      a second time, but if you then go to 351, "he isn't even wounded". In 144
      you enter the Tower of the Sentinel and start climbing a staircase within,
      but in the next section you are climbing it on the outside. 180 starts
      with you outside the "topmost door" leading to the "topmost room", then
      has you "walk on up a narrower spiral of stairs /.../ and at last pause
      before the final door." I'm pretty sure this mangles the definition of
      "topmost".

      One could go on still, but that would take us, perhaps, too far into plot
      spoiler territory. It doesn't get better, though. There are repetitions,
      geographic and temporal confusion, bad continuity, missing exposition,
      unexplained reversals, shabby justifications, revisionist time hops,
      several stupid loops, outright lies about what courses of action certain
      options actually involve, and some very questionable moralities. In what
      is possibly the biggest continuity error, you can have the entire Judain
      rebellion called off, only for the book to proceed as if this had never
      happened. One of the loops is funny because you are able to regain any
      amount of Life Points by continually sacrificing some of your Judain
      brethren. "Hey guys, you go fight the good fight for a while and I'll be
      over here resting. I mean, guarding my bootleg. OUR bootleg. The great
      bootleg of the Judain! I'll always remember you for your sacrifice... er,
      you, and you, and you as well, whatever your names are."

      Two vermin-based challenges may serve to closer illustrate the mutable
      twilight world you find yourself inhabiting. The snake room is full of
      snakes, separating you from the exit as they are wont to do. Separating
      you from the snakes are five platforms, too far apart for you to jump from
      one to another. You may therefore be tempted to navigate the room using a
      vague arrangement of dangling ropes of doubtful physical properties, but
      apparently large parts of what actually happens during this acrobatic
      outing have been left out, and it's up to you to figure out what they are.
      It's easy to get the impression that ropes and platforms alike are moving
      around in some way when you're not looking, since only in retrospect can
      you work out what a denomination like "the rope" or "the next platform"
      must actually refer to. Moreover, if you happen to walk or run across the
      room, there's no reference to its special geometry, again making you
      wonder exactly how the platforms actually work. As a finishing touch, add
      in an uninformed life-or-death choice, because that clearly provides the
      excitement the room was otherwise lacking.

      The promise of delicious cake leads you on to the spider room, but again
      you are separated from your reward by something dangerous and icky. The
      spider room immediately turns into the spider _roof_ since the ceiling is
      disintegrated, allowing the spider - which actually spans the entire width
      of the room, roof, whatever - to descend from directly above. So far I
      have no problem with this. Once killed, the pest "hunches up against the
      ceiling". There. First problem. I'm not sure why being killed would cause
      anything to collapse up rather than down, but more to the point there is
      no ceiling. If there were any bit of ceiling left the spider would have
      had to pass directly through it to get to you; if it could do this the
      ceiling would presumably not need to be shattered in the first place; and
      if there's a second ceiling above the first ceiling initially sandwiching
      the spider (which would be an oddly intriguing arrangement), the book
      should not have said that there was just the one ceiling. There are other
      problems. If you use thrown weapons to kill the spider, they are said to
      be "out of reach high in the dead spider's web". It isn't said what this
      web, not mentioned at all before this point, is actually suspended from.
      It isn't said why your weapons would come anywhere near the web; the
      spider was explicitly resting on top of the ceiling and from there it only
      moved down towards you. Maybe, like the "topmost door" turned out not to
      actually be topmost, the structure that "tops the tower" does not in fact
      top the tower.

      There's no way to properly visualize this freakish double-exposure quantum
      reality because the information given simply doesn't add up. One might
      just as well shrug and assume that critical and extraordinary
      circumstances have been left out of the descriptions (greased rails,
      invisible flying gnomes, servo motors, portals). It seems to me that a
      mess such as this could only have been written by a person who a) was too
      detached from the scenario to pay any mind to details, and was content to
      simply turn out a number of likely words in succession, or b) knew
      perfectly well that things weren't adding up, but figured he was getting
      paid anyway, or c) suffered from a tragic lack of short-term memory but
      soldiered on bravely (and then got the result past the misty-eyed
      editors). It's as if every other paragraph Mark Smith came back from
      putting on a new kettle and went, "What was I on about? Oh, spiders or
      something. In a tower?" And this is what the entire book is like. Some
      books may struggle with details; this one can't even keep a grasp on the
      context, and either it doesn't notice, or it doesn't care. This just isn't
      how you do it.

      Separating readers from the end of this review (i.e. cake) are these
      bullet point notes:

      * Terry Oakes' internal art is a little more appropriate this time,
      varying in attractiveness from the sinister lepers and caged corpses to
      the unimpressive Jade Warriors. The pictures for 72 and 303 aren't visible
      from the paragraphs in question. The picture of the Tower of the Sentinel
      should probably be at 144, but has been placed opposite 235-236, which is
      not near any relevant paragraph. Also the tower is depicted as round, but
      according to 50 it has corners. In the art for 107, the representation of
      the application of the chains and that of the application of the jewel are
      both wrong (that the text subsequently gets it wrong too doesn't really
      help). The picture for 281 shows Skakshi having drawn two daggers from a
      belt across his chest, but in the text he draws them one at a time from
      his boots.

      * Further examples of remarkably bad transitions: 86 to 227, 100 to 153,
      27 to 75, 23 to 203 (which is odd no matter how you get there), 171 to 155
      (wtf), 166 to 152, 193 to anything and then anything to 316 (seriously,
      wtf), 191 to 250 (it would have worked as an option in 188), 207 to 362,
      197 to 43, 319 to 266, 415 to 413, 72 to 167 (I still can't believe how
      wtf this one is).

      * The end of 315 looks like there are missing options, unless the book is
      just daring you to put it away and do something else.

      * In 302 you are given the option to leave the trade road and go north
      ("through brigand territory"), and if you do so you are said to be heading
      towards Burg (with no single reference to brigands). But if the map in
      Green Blood is to be believed, the road in question goes straight east,
      and Burg is far to the west of Godorno, with Bagoe and the Palayal river
      in between. I suppose the road leading only to bag-end Burg might be
      termed "trade road" as well, but if this is what we're talking about I
      would have to wonder what's up with the crazy horse galloping in a
      straight eastward line out of Godorno and then doing an unmentioned
      hairpin turn before stopping, traversing two rivers in the meantime. And
      it still doesn't explain how leaving the road will take you closer to Burg
      than following it.

      * 228 uses the word "inflammable" oddly.

      * Why does 308 instruct you to go to 160 instead of 100 when it just told
      you to delete the Sunset codeword, the checking of which is all that goes
      on in 160? Not that it _should_ tell you to delete the codeword, since
      that's what creates one set of loops. 146 gets it right, even though it
      tosses the codeword idea overboard to do so.

      * 412 points to 413. 32, 163, 257, 319 and 355 point to sections across
      the page.

      * 148 presumably refers to the Satori codeword, so why doesn't it say so?
      As it is this doesn't have any actual effect.

      * Why are the chains treated as a possession, when you could obviously
      never carry them around? Except that when you do use them I must admit it
      does appear you run back and forth and toss them around at will all by
      your lonesome, but that's just another Death Star-sized plothole. 224
      seems to indicate the book has in fact forgotten completely what the
      chains are and where they came from. It's a little as if a plastic
      sword-shaped cocktail stick had turned into a giant troll-hewing claymore
      because the author's notes only read "sword" - no, wait, it is EXACTLY
      LIKE THAT.

      * In 147 you "cleave the great tentacle in two" even though you may not
      have a sword. And in 375, after you are crushed between a giant monster
      and a castle, the book still finds it prudent to point out that "you lose
      the sword", again though you may not have one.

      * Oh, and the monster that smashes the castle to pebbles and then goes on
      to _trample the entire city_ is the same monster that can't dislodge a
      single pillar from a temple portico. Maybe it's a holy pillar anchored
      with holy mortar and topped by a holy roof held down by holy gravity, it
      doesn't say though. I'm pretty sure the pillar doesn't still stand there
      once the whole city has been ground to rubble.

      * You can't have Agility in 44. Also it is somewhat ludicrous that half a
      day's walk from Godorno, when you get chased by horsemen at an initial
      distance of a quarter of a mile, and you are already "greatly weakened" by
      disease, you are still able to run on foot ahead of them all the way back
      to the city. In the final stage of the chase, "they are slowly running you
      down, urging their mounts to greater efforts". What kind of sensationally
      abysmal efforts were they putting in earlier in the day? I have difficulty
      reconciling on the one hand the image of horses thundering along with
      riders bent double and cracking their whips, and on the other hand the
      image of an exhausted cripple wheezing and shuffling at the roadside, and
      the distance between them getting only fractionally smaller.

      * In the fight in 283 you "get your back to a corner, making it difficult
      for the soldiers to press their advantage". How about the fairly adequate
      advantage of being able to poke all their swords straight into your
      unarmed ass? I mean, how _do_ you defeat three armed guards from a corner
      if you have no weapon and no martial skill? It doesn't say, there's just a
      cut and then you "step over the soldiers' bodies". I find this slightly
      unnerving, who is this guy?

      * In 345 it is explained that your amulet grows hot when danger threatens,
      but your leather jerkin "protects" you from this heat so that you don't
      even feel it. I'm sure there's a genius explanation for this arrangement
      but it doesn't say. The amulet is then ripped from your neck, "scattering
      the links of the fine gold chain across the cobbles". I'm no chain physics
      expert but it seems to me that it should be exceedingly difficult to pull
      a chain in such a way that more than one link breaks and falls off. Chain
      links aren't beads on a string. Maybe there's some kind of amazingly
      impractical "break one, break all" chain technology I am unaware of, but
      again it doesn't say. And then finally when you're ambushed it says that
      "if only you hadn't lost your charm amulet it might have warned you of the
      danger". Duhhh, no.

      * In 135 you must again touch the amulet before you can tell if it's
      trying to warn you of anything, but this time after it burns you, "you
      have dropped the pendant" and it is "too hot to pick up". But it was
      hanging around my neck? Help. I do find it very amusing though that you
      sustain injury trying to scan for danger; I can imagine the amulet piping
      up, "Told you."

      * The Charms option in 246 should read: "If not, but you have..."

      * In 282 an arrow fired at you while you're invisible turns invisible as
      well, but in 263 dust thrown at you while you're invisible remains
      visible.

      * In 40 you can hear "moans and screams" from Grond while inside the
      Overlord's Palace, which is separated from it by the width of the entire
      city. I don't think we know how big Godorno is, but we know it takes
      several minutes to ride a galloping horse along the street inside the city
      gates, and Grond is a stone fortress with "ten-foot thick walls". From
      this information I think we can deduce that the protagonist has ears the
      size of a cricket court.

      * 140 starts, "The leap was further than you thought", then goes on to
      give a completely unrelated and non-cumulative reason for your failure to
      make the leap. As if... someone was typing out leap-related sentences at
      random?

      * Why isn't the diamond among the things you can sell in 235?

      * In 244 Charms is used to create a frightening illusion, but in 341 this
      is done with Spells.

      * In 137 and 400 it is said that Hate "cannot abide to touch you, for your
      soul carries none of the taint on which it thrives. /../ It cannot
      tolerate the presence of goodness within its very being." But you can get
      to this point and still be responsible for your share of killings and
      betrayals and, oh, I don't know, A CAMPAIGN OF TERROR. But worse even than
      that is the implication that of all the countless people in the city who
      were arbitrarily snatched up by Hate, not one was "untainted" or innocent,
      or at least not nearly as good as you, the superhero.

      * Juvenile Review Humour 1: You can surprise Tarkamandor the Sage at his
      workbench busily polishing his staff. Tee hee hee snort snort.

      * Juvenile Review Humour 2: The case for a gender-neutral protagonist:
      "Lucie runs her hand over your chest." Giggle giggle giggle cough.

      There are a few things that The Coils of Fear does better than Green
      Blood. One is skill use: there are no longer long battle sequences,
      although there are still spell choices. These often kill you off based on
      some arbitrary logic, which may or may not square with logic invoked in
      similar situations elsewhere in the book. I'd rather the book didn't try
      to make you feel stupid for something that was entirely made up for you. I
      also don't like that it sets up "traps" for you, where using a skill will
      mean needing some other, specific skill in order to survive, but this is
      only done a couple of times. Only two skills are practically worthless
      this time around and this is quite possibly preferable to having
      convoluted reasons for including them (but then again Green Blood already
      set a precedent for excluding skills entirely).

      Another improvement is the general setting and mood. Green Blood had a
      very vague setting and conflict where things never really came together.
      Here the environment is a crumbling, darkening city and that in itself
      provides for a tighter and more characteristic backdrop (although there
      was room to breathe more life into it, for sure). It's a pity that your
      actual exploits in this setting are so erratic and sketchy and that
      friends and villains alike are so badly handled. The haphazard way that
      sections are connected means that everyone involved comes off as
      helplessly inconsistent and oblivious, and successfully dealing with them
      isn't rewarding so much as random. OK, so a lot of the people you meet are
      mad or at least half-mad. What's _your_ excuse?

      So as not to be guilty of holding back any two-edged praise, I'll mention
      that I eventually gained some equivocal appreciation for the portrayal of
      Lucie, the floozy. Her character, if you take an unfocused look at the
      entirety of your possible run-ins with her, will seem crafty, frail,
      double-dealing, selfish, flawed - that is to say, very human. Ironically
      this is not least because in this context, apparent inconsistencies are
      not necessarily a bad thing, but can instead serve an evocative function.
      However, in no single game will there be a proper "Lucie arc", but rather
      her behaviour (and yours) will be queer, ungrounded and annoying. Her
      depth is more of a meta-phenomenon that emerges when information is
      selectively freed from the book's structure and causality - or to put it
      cynically, when freed from the hands of the author.

      The diamond heist sub-adventure is all right. It's short and makes little
      sense, but... it's all right. Because sneaking is fun and everyone wants
      more thief adventures and likes to complain about Midnight Rogue not
      delivering. Remarkably this quest also sports the book's only blatant
      example of non-copy-and-paste: each approach has its own description of
      your arrival at the shop.

      For the most part, however, the things you see and do end up being rather
      lacklustre, and even when it looks like the book has managed to summon up
      some powerful image (like the march of the lepers), the sound of a ball
      dropping is always just around the corner and nothing ever really pays
      off. To my mind such a book cannot even rise to the level of half-decent;
      there are worse things than being just a piece of uninspired handiwork and
      here's an example. The Coils of Hate is akin to a jigsaw puzzle with a
      nice-looking picture on the box and pieces that on closer inspection lack
      the potential to interlock. Definitely there are books with less
      characteristic themes. Certainly there are books with more random victory
      conditions. Absolutely there are books with worse use of mechanics. Surely
      there are books with shorter attention spans... no, I really have my
      doubts about that. I don't think there's a book except possibly Green
      Blood which can approach the same level of pure concentrated being wrong
      as this one, and not even Green Blood made me want to shout, "No, it
      wasn't like that, you moved the &%#!@ goalposts for your &%#!@
      convenience, stupid &%#!@ amnesiac book!" The crimes of The Coils of Hate
      are those of its plot-powered nemesis - it threshes wildly, it is
      intrinsically offensive, and it drips purple goo onto your sofa.

      As for how it ends, I won't tell you that... oh, OK, I will. You play the
      bootleg back to Hate and it's a really rare bootleg and you get on a barge
      and discuss it and things. Roll credits over river sunset. Aww.

      ---

      Proteus 14: In Search of the Lost Land

      There you are, despondent victim of a mismatched backstory, sitting as
      usual with your friend Gether when suddenly out of his sleeve (literally)
      he produces a pre-packaged fetch quest to ease your troubled soul. Since
      just before that he had said, like so many times before, that he couldn't
      help you, this is a little like pretending you forgot someone's birthday
      and then a week later whipping out a surprise cake that you had all along
      but were holding back in case of a cake emergency or something. However, a
      true hero is not picky when it comes to quests. If you offer it, they will
      go.

      It turns out that having played either or both of the previous Pracyverse
      instalments is not a requirement, nor is it ultimately a lot of help.
      Sadly, neither is this anything like a final conclusion to the saga:
      though you do get to go on the quest described at the end of The Land of
      Changes, the "secret of the Universe" remains firmly unrevealed. The first
      part of the adventure is a brief corridor crawl with a lot of blocked
      passages and capitalized directions ("The stone slab in the East wall
      doesn't budge so you continue South, turn to 94"). After this you move on
      to locales with fewer physical barriers, though structurally this really
      makes no difference. You may gain a mostly false impression that the
      adventure is very expansive for its 200 sections. In reality there's a lot
      of dead weight, customary pointless transitions, and a lack of anything
      interesting going on outside the true path. As mentioned by Ed, several
      incongruous passages have been occasioned by pre-existing illustrations,
      and it almost seems like the author rebelled against editorial decree by
      integrating a lot of this content in the most superficial way possible. I
      can sympathize, but it doesn't really help.

      The inconclusive end to the series left me with something of a sour taste
      in my mouth. Perhaps it's partly that this time, being more familiar with
      the borrowed mythological elements, I don't think the way they have been
      applied makes a lot of sense or holds particularly true to the source
      material. Perhaps it's partly that, with the goal firmly out of sight,
      there's nothing else to do but look back at the journey itself and find
      there's little rhyme or reason to anything you do over the course of it.
      Perhaps it's partly that the adventure's dramatic high points and fine
      descriptive sequences (of which 111-104-165 stands out in particular) are
      lost in a somewhat contrived and tedious structure. Pracy's virtues,
      however, are the same as always: her mythical motifs, emphasis on
      non-violence and unceasing fascination with bravery - whatever those
      things happen to translate to at the moment - make her stand out as a
      distinctive voice in the FF annals. It's not too bad a legacy, I suppose.

      Funny stuff: Having fallen into a "large, circular cave" you find yourself
      in a "tiny cave". When slipping on a steep "glassy-smooth" floor you slide
      down in "a shower of small stones and rubble" - is that rubble that you
      had in your pockets, or rubble that gets ejected from hidden compartments
      when someone slips? Elsewhere you "slip and lose your lantern", but
      there's a "red glow" so you are not inconvenienced enough to bother to
      retrieve it - maybe you ate it. Additionally you can loop through
      183-170-145-183 and lose the lantern over and over again.
      20-28-12-115-64-16-94-17-72-20 is another loop, most of which just
      shuffles you ahead like a well-oiled PracyTech conveyor belt, though this
      one seems intentional. At one point you get down safely from a very high
      ledge by simply "stepping away from the edge". Paragraph 60 decides that
      the customary "Fool!" is too weak and goes for "Idiot!" instead. Surely
      "factory sirens" is an anachronism. Fun fact: the labour in 41 costs you
      on average 17.51 Strength points, which is possibly more than the author
      intended, or at least I very seldom read FF paragraphs that go: "You climb
      up some rocky chimney and chafe your knees a lot; deduct 18 Stamina
      points, and if you are still alive..." I would suggest you simply deduct
      four of your 5-point meals and call it even. (The procedure in 195 only
      slices off 9 Strength on average, in case anyone was wondering. Come to
      think of it, I don't see "Lose 9 Stamina points" very often either.) It
      took me a few moments to discover where Mark Dunn's "beautiful maiden"
      keeps her right arm. 40 asks if you have "a lantern and the means to light
      it", but in the spot where those means are (implicitly) to be found,
      you'll only have been told that you've made use of them (whatever they
      were) for your immediate needs, not that you could bring any such thing
      (whatever it was) with you; and why would you, given that you apparently
      didn't think that was a good idea originally? As an alternative to the
      lantern you can make use of your Wisdom score, but you are never told what
      that involves. 36 should perhaps say you cannot use the chain if you've
      already found a use for it; then again, who knows, it's magical and maybe
      you _can_ use it again - and if so, does the implication in 152 that you
      leave it behind satisfy the trigger from 69? Interestingly, there's an
      ending where you manage to bring about the end of the world, and I'm proud
      to say I found it. 133 should say "emerald ring", not just "emerald". If
      you go with Skrymir far into the mountains from the ice plain, when you
      part with him you are inexplicably back on the plain. The code presented
      in 6 is really a meta-puzzle to be solved by the reader, but I assumed it
      should be interpreted using knowledge from some unvisited paragraph;
      fortunately it's not necessary to solve it in order to finish the
      adventure. Also, 6 points to 7. 181 is badly phrased: you shouldn't "add"
      the number of letters to anything.

      In the PDF version, 173 should say 68, not 66; 78 should say 162, not 182.
      There are also some small text mishaps, for instance in 90 "leave" has
      become "cave", "by" has become "icy" and "sunlight" has become the
      strangely suggestive "unlight" because of clipping.

      ---

      Ama: Kill the Beast

      The long-awaited sequel to Stab It with Your Steely Knife, Kill the Beast
      is a fairly lightweight thing centred on the idea of casting the player as
      an impudent peasant who needs to go and get help rather than dish out
      penultimate peasant punishment, which is not to say there's a complete
      lack of that. This leads to a momentary perspective shift, or series of
      shifts, roughly halfway into the adventure. It's a neat idea, but the
      execution is a bit rough and hasty; it's not that you'll miss it if you
      blink, but it does leave a bit of untapped potential. Fortunately, thought
      and balance has gone into the peasant side of things; for instance, it's
      nice to see Escaping being treated as a rational option for once, as a
      mild-mannered farmer isn't really supposed to deliver the smackdown to two
      weather-beaten bandits in a midnight brawl, and I'm also glad that when
      you choose between making camp or pressing on after nightfall, the latter
      option doesn't just chip off a few Stamina points and send you to the
      exact same camp-making paragraph anyway, which is what happens in about
      97% of all other books that do this. Rough edges aside, Kill the Beast is
      fair but somewhat forgettable and I think an extended version (60
      paragraphs, perhaps) would have benefited from a) an actual adventurer
      mini-quest with choices and special character options just like in the
      peasant part, and b) touching on the mystery of the origin and nature of
      the Beast, which is initially played somewhat like the Lost monster but
      ends up going down much like any anonymous ORC or SKELETON might.

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------
      Per Jorner aka Finster aka Coffee Dragon (pel@...)
      Hoompage at http://user.tninet.se/~wcw454p

      Dragons are like cats, only bigger, and sometimes they drink coffee.
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