Beaver Books, £2.50, 0-099-44790-8
Beyond the Nightmare Gate is the third gamebook in the Lone Wolf spinoff series The World of Lone Wolf. This review contains spoilers for the previous gamebook The Forbidden City, so do not read any further if you do not want to be spoiled.
So, the story. You are Grey Star, a human wizard trained in the ways of the Shianti. In your quest to retrieve the Moonstone from the Daziarn, you have located the Shadow Gate by the end of the previous campaign. To your pleasant surprise, you discover Tanith, the closest you will ever have to a love interest in this series, alive and waiting for you at the Shadow Gate. Other more suspicious people may suspect that she may be an illusion created by the enemy or worse, she may be part of the plot, sent by Shasarak to spy on your progress in the Daziarn, but you suspect no such thing because you’re such a sweet guy like that.
In Beyond the Nightmare Gate, you will therefore attempt to locate the Moonstone in the vast chaotic Shadow Plane. If you are expecting some degree of synchrony between this version of the Daziarn with Joe Dever’s version in The Prisoners of Time, you are going to be disappointed. Ian Page’s version of the Daziarn is more akin to a trip through a quirky steampunk world. You will encounter eccentric characters with names like Spittlethrift and charmingly bizarre situations, but there is nothing as dramatic or compelling as Joe Dever’s version of the Daziarn. Think, say, The Phantom Tollbooth or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, rather than “Oh Goddess Ishir, not the Chaos-master, NOOOOOO!!!”
One thing you will notice in this Daziarn is how easy it is to fail the mission. In fact, you can do so in as few as three sections. Worse, Tanith isn’t much of a help early in the campaign – she too can cause you to die if you are particularly unlucky while picking a number on the Random Number Table on her behalf. It is later in the campaign when she starts to become somewhat useful, even saving you at least once. All that aside, the difficulty in this campaign is actually shockingly easy, with the chances of failure arising only when you are horribly unlucky or you choose to do obviously counter-intuitive or even stupid things.
Unfortunately, this campaign is short. Very short, in fact, that you can actually complete the whole thing within an hour. You don’t even get a dramatic confrontation with the final villain, with the “turn to 350” thing if you opt to avoid battle being a dead giveaway that bad things will happen if you actually act against the villain. There are also some vague wordings and omissions that force you to make your own judgment whether you can eat in a situation, expend Willpower points when doing something, or get your stuff back after they had been confiscated by the enemy.
Beyond the Nightmare Gate therefore has its interesting moments, but it is also a short campaign that feels only half complete.