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on 22 September 2015
Nice adventure through ancient cultures through a jungle, fighting whirlwinds, guards and monsters. You meet priests who want to sacrifice you. You have to play a bizarre 'squash like' game in order to meet the evil wizard at the end. The ball game is tough to win and the wizard is virtually impossible to defeat. He deals crippling blows which can kill you instantly. It is hard to know which skills are most important to use as your enemies are so powerful sometimes.
So this only gets a 3 star rating despite being a great adventure, due to the difficulty level.
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on 31 March 2014

REVIEW FOR GREEN BLOOD - Rescuing the forest from a steampunk invasion 3/5

Virtual Reality Adventures attempt to differentiate themselves from other gamebooks by proclaiming that they do not use dice or any `lengthy rules'. Of course there have been other series of role playing books that haven't used dice and have very few rules. To be honest, they are generally never as good as those that do use dice or the equivalent. The question is more one of balance. Rules and the use of dice should not be so complicated that they spoil the enjoyment of the adventure nor should they be so basic that the interactive element is lost.

Despite their claims Virtual Reality Adventures do possess a set of rules, which, ironically, are more complicated than those for some gamebooks. The practicalities of their game system don't really manifest themselves too much within the first book of the series. Your limit of how many items of equipment you can carry can increase the playability (and enjoyment and/or frustration) of some of the later books in the series but it isn't really very relevant to this first book. There aren't that many items involved in the story and it would be extremely unlikely in this adventure if your total of eight was ever reached.

The lack of dice, or something similar, is replaced by choosing a selection of abilities or making use of items that can be found. Unfortunately you don't use your abilities to a large degree in this adventure and thus selecting what type of character to play out of the multitude to choose from feels a little pointless. There is also a distinct lack of items to be utilised. Thus the lack of dice results in having far fewer opponents to face or ordeals to be overcome than the average adventure gamebook.

All of the above probably contribute in making this a relatively easy gamebook to complete. There isn't much of a challenge with few foes to overcome, not that many routes and many choices being fairly obvious what you should or shouldn't do. Despite the 500 reference total this is also a very short adventure. There isn't a great deal to do and it won't take very long to read. Once you have completed it there really isn't much scope for replays either.

On the plus side though it is a decent, if not that original, story and it is quite well written. Certain sequences/scenarios are very enjoyable and there are some reasonably good characters. A pleasant atmosphere also pervades it. However, this sometimes ruins any sense of tension.

Therefore if you want a pleasant read for a couple of hours that isn't too taxing on the adventurer this book would suit you. However, if you want a challenge or something to engross you for a few days or so then this isn't the gamebook.

REVIEW FOR HEART OF ICE - The best science fiction gamebook? 5/5

This is quite a rarity amongst adventure gamebooks in that it is actually a good science fiction one. At best I have found most science fiction gamebooks to be more than a little disappointing. Not so with `Heart of Ice'. It well written and atmospheric; possessing a good structure and some stunning characterisation.

The initial storyline isn't immediately particularly exciting or original seeing as superficially your quest is to travel across a landscape to seek out a magical artefact; a mission common in adventure gamebooks. However, there is much more to it than this. Slowly over the course of the adventure more is revealed about the nature of the Heart, the cult that surrounds it and those that covet it. This involves a piecemeal gathering of information as the adventurer progresses. There are a variety of different theories that surround the origins and possibilities of the Heart, most of which are certainly interesting. But even by the close of the book the exact nature of the Heart is not entirely confirmed and/or explained; and the adventure is probably better off with this obscurity. There is certainly a moral sense within the book that humans are better off not knowing too much about it.

There is also a wealth of historical detail concerning the collapse of world civilisation in the background to your quest. All the rumours and snippets of information about Gaia, Paradox Wars, mutations and the environment help to create a very believable and in depth post-apocalyptic world. The exploration of this altered world is engrossing for the reader. Such images as the overgrown ruins of Marseilles or the snow covered Pyramids of Giza are quite memorable. It all forms a very atmospheric adventure.

One of the greatest strengths of this adventure is the array of interesting characters that compete for the object of the reader's quest. Depending upon your choices of routes and destinations it is quite possible to interact with several of these throughout the course of the adventure. They also give the adventure another level as you compete against them. The final stages of the adventure thus become a dangerous mix of alliances and betrayals in which the reader is given quite a substantial choice.

It is a fairly challenging gamebook. The initial stages are relatively simple enough if you opt for the right skill set. The game mechanism of using various skills is more unbalanced than the previous books of the series. Certain skills are far more useful than others. Thus your selection is more important to your success. The real tricky section of the adventure is the traversing of the ices wastes of the Sahara. The limit of eight items makes this extremely difficult as a quite extensive list of survival equipment and supplies are needed. Managing this correctly is quite difficult and requires a certain amount of trial and error.

There are actually several possible endings where the reader technically `wins'. This provides a fair scope for re-playing. The actual final paragraph is effectively the moral and ethical choice. As there has been a general moral aspect to the conclusions of the other books in the series it can be assumed that this is intended as the ultimate victory. However, some of the other endings are more entertaining and worth reaching.

REVIEW FOR TWIST OF FATE - An Arabian Adventure 4/5

Originally supposed to be part of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series before its cancellation, `Twist of Fate' (re-named `Once Upon a Time in Arabia' with its republication) is perhaps more historical than previous Virtual Reality gamebooks which have frequently featured quasi-historical settings. It provides an adventure in the ilk of the stories of Sinbad or Arabian Nights, and these are clearly an influence upon it. This explains the change of title for the re-release. It is strong in atmosphere and creates a convincing environment that should enthral the reader.

The adventure has an interesting construction. It maintains a solid main plot whilst offering the reader a vast selection of methods of how to achieve the overall objective. In some ways it feels like a collection of mini adventures and side quests in the vein of the `Fabled Lands' series, co-written by Dave Morris. This allows the adventure to dip into many aspects of Arabian mythology and folklore. It also makes it a lot of fun and allows for plenty of scope for replaying the book even after completion. Which is a good thing seeing as this isn't a particularly difficult gamebook to complete. There are multiple methods to reach the end and a well-balanced mix of using abilities and items. The various skills/abilities to be chosen from are utilised very well, perhaps the best out of the Virtual Reality gamebooks. Some of the items are quite creative and are perfectly in line with the themes of the adventure.

The evil vizier, Jafar, isn't perhaps the most exciting or memorable of major antagonists but the reader is able to encounter him several times during the course of the adventure and he thus feels an active and integral part of it. Outwitting and defeating him feels quite rewarding. There is a large and varied selection of opponents, although mainly human rather than monstrous, many of which require out thinking rather than fighting. There are also plenty of allies spread throughout the course of the reader's adventures, some of whom are very colourful characters.

This is a well written and cleverly constructed gamebook with a lot to be enjoyed in it. It offers a believable, engrossing world filled with well-drawn characters. It is also a worthy conclusion to the Virtual Reality Adventures series.
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on 7 January 2013
This gamebook is considered to be, in gamebook aficionados circles, one of the best ever written.
The experience of reading it is in itself something special.
So, why?

* the setting of the gamebook is original, exotic and attractive. It is rarely used in gamebook: a post-apocalyptic setting where the author did try to distinguish his universe from the classical mad max one, not using cliches and out-of-the-box characters and situations.

* the book is well written, and original too! The characters are very well described (I have never seen such a level of character personality description, for a gamebook). The hero talks a lot with them, and you can really feel their different personalities, and reckon, or try to guess, their particular objectives. This is a psychological gamebook!! The book conveys very well an ambiance of dying world, where human race is on the verge of disappearing. Laws and customs doent mean anything anymore, survival is, for most men and women, the only concern.

* the book uses no dices or others randomizing elements. Before starting the books, the reader must choose 4 skills, and these skills can be used during the course of the adventure. Of course, a lot of times, the reader has the choice between different actions. Even if these actions may deeply affect the story, they do not always trigger the exploration of a different story arc, because the author has designed the gamebook wirth the aid of code keywords, which keep trace of given choices, and are checked later in the story only if there is a need for.

So, to sum it up: this gamebook is well written, with an emphasis on story and choices made by the reader.
There is no randomness: no dices, etc. are used.
I, and a lot of other gamebook connaisseurs too, think that this is one of the best gamebooks ever written: buy it, read it, and enjoy it :-)

P.S.: it is a mature gamebook, and it may not be appropriate for young children and/or "sensible" ones to read it.
There are mature talks about death, trahison, human flesh eating, mutant children killing, madness, fear&terror, drunkness, cold-blood assasination, ...
If you are a parent, maybe you should read the book before passing it to your children.
If you are a child, please, ask for your parents if it is ok for you to read it.
My guess is that the book is OK for pre-teens and more.
For younger children, the story will not even be interesting.
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on 28 July 2014
These books are great, the only problem I have when ordering copies on Amazon is that they arrive with irremovable sticky labels on them which rip the cover when you make the attempt.
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