“Asuria Awakens”, by @TinManGames

http://international.librojuegos.orgAsuria Awakens” is the last offering in the Gamebook Adventure series by Tin Man Games. Written by the well known gamebook blogger Stuart Lloyd and beautifully illustrated by Tony Hough, it tells the story of an investigator from Orlandes city hired by the Grand Duke to investigate the whereabouts of an emissary in the remote Orlandrian coastal town of Casporur.

Stuart Lloyd, as I mentioned, is a pretty well known member of the gamebook community. He is not only the main contributor to the “Lloyd of Gamebooks” blog, one of the best known gamebook blogs there are, but also the author of quite a lot of free gamebooks, either as entries of the Windhammer Gamebook Competition (his entry for this year is the interestingly named “Isaac Newton: Badass Ninja Crimefighter“), as mini-gamebooks for Fighting Fantazine, as entries in his Legend of the Wayfarer” series, and so on and so forth. In fact, his works are so numerous that it’s hard to follow their track.

http://international.librojuegos.orgI have read a lot of Stuart’s articles in his blog, and I respect a lot his opinions as a blogger. But, since I played the first entries in his “Legend of the Wayfarer” series, I must confess that I didn’t like him as much as a fiction writer. It probably wasn’t the best place to start reading Stuart’s work; after all, “Legend of the Wayfarer” is conciously designed as a “beer-and-pretzels” kind of gamebook (if such a thing can exist), with very little in the way of background story or character development.

“Asuria Awakens”, on the contrary, oozes background story. What starts as a simple investigation, gets more sinister the more we delve in. We discover Casporur, a city that hides awful and dark secrets, where people are scared and superstitious, awaiting – and fearing at the same time – the return of a lost god called Asuria. We finally discover the true nature of that “awakening of Asuria”, and the story turns into a mix of lovecraftian horror and “invasion of the body snatchers”. I don’t want to say much more about the story to avoid spoiling it, but I can only say that I am truly impressed. After reading this gamebook, I have a much higher opinion of Stuart Lloyd as a writer, and I will certanly read his other gamebooks with much more attention.

Asuria_Awakens_by_@TinManGamesStructurally, this gamebook has some other interesting things to it. I liked the way in which Stuart mixes the traditional “convergent” structure with a “free roaming” structure in several places, like the castle or the streets in Casporur. Also, the length of this gamebook is quite impressive as well; I felt it could easily be twice the size of any other Gamebook Adventure I’ve played.

Asuria Awakens” is not without its problems, though. I feel that the very particular kind of humor of this author (refreshing in many places) felt out of place at some points, when the story was getting darker and more sinister. Also, the ending section of the gamebook, when the “ultimate evil” was destroyed and we only had to return with this information to the Duke, felt a little bit over-stretched. I think the story could have ended before that and this gamebook wouldn’t have suffered for it.

In any case, this is a fantastic gamebook, one of the best I’ve played in the Gamebook Adventures series. For those who love their fantasy gamebooks with a hint of horror, I cannot recomend it highly enough.

You can find this gamebook HERE.

Published: 28/09/2015 | Comments: 3

I Interactive Fiction Meeting of “DÉDALO”

http://international.librojuegos.orgAs many of you may know, Librojuegos.org is not only a gamebook blog. It is also the central hub of a spanish gamebook association called Dédalo.

These days, we have been frantically working on the first meeting ever for professionals and lovers of gamebooks in Spain, the first (and hopefully not last) Dédalo Meetup.

It will take place in the Generación X shop in Puebla (Madrid), and yours truly will give one of the speeches. If any of you guys happen to be in Madrid this weekend, and want to have a taste of what’s being done in Spain for all things Interactive Fiction, now’s a good opportunity!

This is a very important moment in our association, and it culminates the work of several years of many people. Now it’s the time to enjoy the fruits of that work, to get to know each other, and above all, to have fun with interactive literature!

The timetable for the meeting is full of interesting subjects, just take a look:

10:00 to 10:10 Presentation: Jacobo Feijóo
10:10 to 10:40 Fernando Lafuente: Librojuegos.org and Dédalo: Genesis of a dream
10:40 to 11:10 Juan Pablo Fernández del Río: Microdédalos
11:10 to 11:40 Santiago Eximeno: “Twine: minimalist and experimental interactive fiction”

11:40 COFFEE 12:00

12:00 to 12:30 Iván Sánchez (Nosolorol Editions) : From the fingers between the pages to the screen
12:30 to 13:00 Pablo Martínez (Lavyr Interactive): Gamebooks as educational and social awareness tools
13:00 to 13:30 Gaia Tempesta and José Lomo: From CYOA to erotic gamebooks (video)

13:30 LUNCH 15:00

15:00 to 15:30 Pedro Belushi (Saco de Huesos): Illustrating gamebooks.
15:30 to 16:00 José Luis Pastor (Editorial Suseya): Noir novel vs noir gamebook
16:00 to 16:30 Víctor Lopez, Pablo Arroyo and José Valverde (Calipso Studios): Interactive reading in Apps: Unexplored ground (video)

16:30 COFFEE 16:50

16:10 to 16:40 Alberto Oliván: Narrative design in graphic adventures
16:40 to 17:10 Ruber Eaglenest (Lavyr Interactive): From gamebooks to digital apps. Designing Interactive Fiction on the 21st century
17:10 to 17:50 Josué Monchán: How to kill the writer, or the videoplay double narrative
17:50 to 18:00 Jacobo Feijóo: Closure

Published: 16/09/2015 | Comments: 0

“The Big Adventure of the Little Gremlin”, by Nikola Raykov

international.librojuegos.orgToday I’m going to talk about a very different kind of gamebook to the ones I am used to. It’s “The Big Adventure of the Little Gremlin“, by Nikola Raykov a gamebook written for children ages 3 to 8. There have been gamebooks written for young children, but this is one of the first I see for children this young.

The story talks about a small gremling who lives in the forest, and suddenly discovers that the winter is going to arrive and… there won’t be that much food to eat! So this little guy starts a big quest in search of, you’ve guessed it, lots and lots of things to eat during the winter. And there he must go, travelling to one of several places in his magic world: the Big Mountain, the Deep River, the Dark Cave, the Enchanted Forest or even the Houses of Humans.

international.librojuegos.orgAnd each path he takes, leading to twenty different endings, is a complete joy to read. Playfully written, full of word plays and humour, the book is not only enjoyable to kids, but even I was able to enjoy reading these stories enormously. And each and every one of these pages is illustrated beautifully by a lot of different artists (Including the author!). Every page of this book speaks of a work of love.

If you have kids, and want to find a different way to play together that allows them to take choices and see their consequences, think no more. If you are a gamebook fan, and want to share with your children what makes interactive literature so special, this is a good chance.

Also, surprisingly for a product this good, you can download it COMPLETELY FOR FREE from its website.

Published: 08/09/2015 | Comments: 2

The Well – from “Hero, The Calling!”

We arrive to the last article in the series from our guest bulgarian contributor Borislav Traykov, where he reviews the last of the three gamebooks that compose the third volume of “Hero: The Calling!”. “The well“, as it is called, seems also a very interesting (and sadly untraslated) offering from the bulgarian community.


The_Well_from_"Hero,_The_Calling!"I would like to feature The Well – the third short gamebook from the 3rd “Hero: The Calling!” collection of short gamebooks. It is also the debut gamebook of Branimir Sabev – he is an active member of the Bulgarian gamebook forum as well as an author of mostly horror fiction – a detail that will play its part in the flavor of his work, The Well.

The back cover teaser messages for each gamebook – in the blog post dedicated to “Hero: The Calling!” #3.

For this post I wish to translate the reviews on The Well from the book’s page on GoodReads.com.

A fragment of Slavy Ganev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only):

Style-wise the best effort was put by Branimir Sabev with his short gamebook The Well. The plot is not complicated: a cursed well which leads to a network of tunnels filled to the brim with evil monsters. A fourteen-year old boy must go through all sorts of nastiness in this hellhole in order to save his little sister before she gets eaten.

The pace and the game mechanics remind me of an old-school first-person shooter like Duke Nukem, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, etc. in which you make your way through narrow spaces and you take turns in endless labyrinths while fragging hordes of monsters. There are even two boss battles.

I really enjoyed it because it reminded me of some PC fun from my childhood. Great fun!

A fragment of Branimir Sabev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only):

Sometimes Evil is closer to us than we expect. A thirteen-old boy will have to go through a literal Hell filled with traps and nightmarish creatures in order to save his little sister.

So, here I am! My first gamebook – a short one, compared to the other two in the collection, but I must say it turned out good, very good even thanks to the editors.

You play as a youngster who needs to go down the well at the end of the yard in order to save his little sister who has been kidnapped by Evil. You will find yourselves in a labyrinth filled with all manner of foul creatures and deadly traps which you must overcome using your skills – Strength, Dexterity, Accuracy and Psyche (translator’s note: “Resolve” may be more appropriate) – and the items you find. I strongly hope that you like it!

A fragment of Borislav Traykov’s (that’s me!) review:

The feeling I got when I read The Well was that the author’s attitude was way too enforced on me as a reader, as if I had to be having fun with it like a 12-14 year old kid who is a growing thrash metal fan, for the likes of which Metalica and the urban/sub-urban horror of Stephen King goes hand in hand with shooter games like Quake and Doom. Frankly, I think that the author wanted to share his passion for all those things, but I felt too pushed to share that passion.

As for the literary aspect, I really liked the fact that the plot takes place in Bulgaria – there were a few words, mostly old, borrowed from Turkish, which I had not encountered before! As a reader I was pleasantly surprised and enriched by this fact.

For me the descriptions of the horrific situations were strongly reminiscent of Stephen King’s style – disgusting and 90s-like, rather than blood-chilling terror in the style of Lovecraft. Not that this is a bad thing – I got used to the style and I kind of liked it. Especially the encounters with the brood queen and the end baddie.

Since you are fighting against the clock to save your sister, you have to track your time, but counting 5 minutes on almost every paragraph became a bore, along with the labyrinthine main part of the story. It was a lot like Livingstone’s FF favorite tunnel/corridor traversal.

HOWEVER! At the end of the gamebook I saw that there is a speed run challenge for the reader and I liked that idea immediately – the more ambitious readers will really have a reason to do time tracking and to try to optimize the traversal of the labyrinth so that they can prove they are the best. The presence of an actual prize – a copy of one of the other new Bulgarian gamebooks – was also nice. I hope that some young reader will be able to grab it!

Please let me know what you think in the comments below – I would love to hear your questions and comments!

Disclaimers:

  • The image of cover photo of the book is taken from the publically available feature article on knigi-igri.bg
  • All translations of names – book, story, author, etc. – are purely my own interpretation – I am not in collaboration with the people who published the book.

Published: 07/09/2015 | Comments: 0

Lords of Nurroth by @TinManGames

Lords_of_Nurroth_by_@TinManGames«Lords of Nurroth», by the Australian publisher Tin Man Games, written by Dylan Birtolo and wonderfully illustrated by Simon Lissaman, is the latest offering in their «Gamebook Adventures» series, set in the world of Orlandes. In it, we take the role of a thief stealing an important document for a mysterious member of one of the powerful ruling families in Nurroth.

A lot has been said about the way in which Tin Man Games try to replicate the exact same experience as the old gamebooks of the eighties. And there is a lot of reason to that statement. For instance, in every one of our choices we are told to go to «page 86» (when there is, of course, no need to number the virtual pages). We roll dice to calculate our physical capabilities, and to pass combats and obstacles, and those dice are shown rolling over the pages. In this sense, Tin Man Games’ gamebooks are always reminding us of their source inspiration.

Lords_of_Nurroth_by_@TinManGamesBut it would be unfair to consider these stories «clones» of the Fighting Fantasy books just because of that. There are several important differences. The setting, the world of Orlandes, is a much darker fantasy world than the Titan of Fighting Fantasy. Those were stories of high adventure, and usually – except for some interesting exceptions like «Seas of Blood» – we played the part of the «good guy» defeating an «ultimate evil». In the world of Orlandes, not everything is black or white. Our characters are not as good, the world is a world of corruption, there are no «good kings» or «wise magicians» sending us to missions. Also, I feel that the «Gamebook Adventures» series is much more coherent as a whole. Where gamebooks like «Island of the Lizard King» felt more like a collection of encounters and situations with a «final boss», the stories of Tin Man Games have a much more developed world, and the encounters and locations always make a sense in the overall story.

Lords_of_Nurroth_by_@TinManGames«Lords of Nurroth» is set in a moment of great political turmoil in the city of Nurroth. Our character is a competent thief, who gets paid by the rich to retrieve important objects from the house of their enemies. So it was a matter of time that he would get involved in some very important affairs. The document he is hired to retrieve, and the decisions he takes, can change the political landscape of Nurroth forever.

One of the things I liked most in “Lords of Nurroth” was the several different “good” endings. Usually, in Tin Man gamebooks, there’s just one way to “win” and several horrible deaths. Here, the decisions we take about the document we have to retrieve – if we give it to our first contractor, or send it to the original addressee, or even if we destroy it – will have deep consequences on the story. I detected a slight influence of “Game of Thrones”, with the background story of powerful families making alliances and plotting to take control over the city.

Apart from that, it doesn’t change the formula of Gamebook Adventures that much. It is an enjoyable gamebook, competently written and beautifully illustrated, that will not win new fans to the genre, but will surely satisfy those who want a bit more of Orlandes.

You can find the game HERE.

Published: 05/09/2015 | Comments: 1

The Enslaved Princess – from “Hero: The Calling!”

We continue with the series from our guest bulgarian contributor Borislav Traykov, where he continues reviewing the three gamebooks that compose the third volume of “Hero: The Calling!”, an untranslated (and very interesting, by the looks of it) bulgarian gamebook series.


The_Enslaved_Princess,_from_"Hero,_the_Calling!"I would like to feature The Enslaved Princess – the second short gamebook from the 3rd “Hero: The Calling!” collection of short gamebooks. It is also the 2nd gamebook in the cycle that started with “Blaze over Cordoba” – one of the three gamebooks from the 1st edition of “Hero: The Calling!”

The back cover teaser synopsis for each gamebook can be found in the blog post dedicated to “Hero: The Calling!” #3.

For this post I wish to translate the reviews on The Enslaved Princess from the book’s page on GoodReads.com.

A fragment of Slavy Ganev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only):

The Enslaved Princess emphasizes on a much more elaborate plot than the rest of the gamebooks in the collection. In this aspect perhaps, it has no rival among the rest of them.

An Arabian princess is captured by a group of French knights during the Reconquista in Spain. One of those knights turns the heroine into his sex-slave and when he becomes bored with her, throws her away into his castle to be a servant-girl. Deprived of all of the luxury she once lived with, the princess must find a way out of her prison and get back to her homeland.

Each day the reader chooses in which part of the castle to send the heroine – the stables, the jail, the kitchen and so forth. In that way she will uncover various items and information about the castle which can aid her escape. The gameplay system is quite complex and it’s related to a lot of note-taking (for a moment there, I felt like a clerk). At the end of some paragraphs – fragments of the story – code numbers are given for the current part of the castle being visited. These code numbers can be used in certain combinations that lead to other paragraphs where possible escape plans are outlined. It’s a good idea, but I did some mistakes in the calculations and I couldn’t progress further … in the end I gave up on the combinations and continued from whichever paragraph I wanted. After all, it’s all for the sake of fun and it really turned out that way :).

A fragment of Branimir Sabev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only)

(Branimir is also the author of the third short story in this collection – The Well)

The story is tightly related to Blaze over Cordoba from the first Hero: The Calling! It was interesting for me to see the continuation of the story – written by only one of the authors of the original – would change for the worst, but I was pleasantly surprised – everything was in place. The story, the literary aspect, the gameplay and mechanics – it was all top notch. I admit that I was skeptical – in the first story/gamebook you had to flee (from the city – Cordoba) whereas this time you have to escape a fortress and you’re also a teen Arabian girl – things like fights are out of the question; I didn’t think it was going to get my attention. Quite on the contrary – it’s surprisingly good, well-put together and competently created gamebook. I am waiting for the next installment.

A fragment of Borislav Traykov’s (that’s me!) review:

I am going to share some spoilers by saying that this gamebook has a very high degree of parallelism. By that I mean that the ways of going about in “the first act” are akin to Robert Blonde’s The Magical Harp. Apart from the standard rewards and penalties on the heroine’s stats while exploring, I also really liked that I got to know the castle and its inhabitants – I genuinely cared about the setting! I forgot to note the very start of the gamebook – the prelude can appear a bit dragged out, but it gives a very good motive for the very first choice of the princess – what is she going to be like as a person after the tragedy and trauma that has happened to her.

“The final act” of the story is also made parallel because of the multiple escape plans you can uncover – I am very happy that each one of them can play out in more than one way. Hell, I did all the code number combinations for those escape plans like a boss and I got rewarded and satisfied by that effort.

Last, but not least I would like to mention the bad endings – although they are relatively hard to come by, they do exist and they emphasize the skill of the author of blending a captivating tale and a challenging game.

As an addendum to my original review, I would like to point out that not only does The Enslaved Princess have a female protagonist, it actually has a competently fleshed-out female protagonist. A girl, to be more precise. In a medieval setting with all of the nastiness that comes with that: fear, prejudice, rape, but also courage, a fighting spirit and a will to pull through.

I also would like to mention the little side quest that the reader can undertake for one of the other girls in the castle – help her get out and have a future. There is no benefit to accomplishing this quest other than the sheer pleasure of reading about how another girl, stuck with a similar fate – scarred not only physically, but mentally as well, can receive a second chance.

Please let me know what you think in the comments below – I would love to hear your questions and comments!

Disclaimers:

  • The image of cover photo of the book is taken from the publically available feature article on knigi-igri.bg
  • All translations of names – book, story, author, etc. – are purely my own interpretation – I am not in collaboration with the people who published the book.

Published: 10/08/2015 | Comments: 2

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