A battle with the legions of Hell,
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This review is from: House of Hell (Fighting Fantasy Gamebook 7) (Paperback)
`House of Hell' by Fighting Fantasy co-founder Steve Jackson marks another interesting and unusual entry in the franchise. Set on contemporary (1980s) Earth, presumably England, somewhere in the countryside, rather than the franchise's fantastical, Medieval/Arthurian Earth-esque home-world of Titan, `House of Hell' is a departure from the norm.
The reader assumes the role of an anonymous Everyman driving late at night on his way to an urgent business meeting in the morning. It's raining - there's a storm descending - and you're lost for directions. Your car breaks down, a couple of miles from an old mansion by the side of the road. You need to make a telephone call, and rush through the thunderstorm to the mansion, hoping to make use of their phone. What awaits you, however, can succinctly be described as a series of blood-curling, spine-chilling horrors, as you're forced to fight for your life to escape the clutches of demonic evil that has corrupted the mansion.
Determining your stats (SKILL, STAMINA, and LUCK) is the same as most entries in the franchise. However, seeing as you're not a warrior, you don't have a weapon to defend yourself. Fortunately, weapons are ridiculously easy to find as you navigate the maze of a mansion. Until then, Jackson introduces a special Starting Skill - your Initial Skill minus 3 points. Another new touch is a FEAR score, which is determined by rolling one die and adding 6 to the number. As you explore the mansion and battle monsters and will unavoidably be frightened (was that really a trick of the light, or something else?) you will accumulate a certain number of FEAR points depending on the encounter. If ever your FEAR reaches its total, you will die from fright. Doing so, adds a new layer of strategy within the gamebook, as the player must discover the 'one true path' precariously, leaning on the brink of a jump scare that could end you.
There is one encounter in particular that startled me: just try and leave the mansion by the front door, I dare you. Also, the word-game, if you find yourself down that route, is a fun little memory-test.
However, all is not lost. There are allies to be found, though not all that useful. They're simply ciphers to lead you on to crucial secrets to be learnt.
The book does come with its clichés of horror-fiction, which makes it wearisome and banal at times. But the Big Bad is a surprise, though when you think about, it was obvious. It made me chuckle though.
Also, the book features a predilection of sorts of Steve Jackson: death-traps. I remember unthinkingly walking into them, and hating myself for it (and that was the second time round).
Like all Steven Jackson adventures, it's very well-written and doesn't fail to leave some impression of his enthusiasm. One of his simpler books, it does make a refreshing change from the complexity associated with his bibliography. Not one of my favourites, but its uniqueness makes it worthwhile.