Catacombs of the Undercity by Andrew Wright

Posted February 7, 2011 by Mrs Giggles in 1 Oogie, Gamebook Reviews, Standalone Gamebooks / 0 Comments

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Catacombs of the Undercity by Andrew Wright
Catacombs of the Undercity by Andrew Wright

Tin Man Games, $4.99
Fantasy, 2011


Okay, so you are a “lowly adventurer and sometimes thief” who, due to being at the wrong place and the wrong time, is captured by the thieves of the Red Hand Guild. They form “one of Orlandes City’s most infamous criminal brotherhoods” and they don’t like the idea of you poaching on their turf. The boss Vilvidios decides that the best way to get rid of you, in style, is by dumping you into the Catacombs of the Undercity as a sacrifice to their Lord of Shadows. So there you go, weaponless and armor-free, and let’s see whether you can survive the nonsense thrown your way.

Gameplay-wise, this is a standard routine of rolling dice and keeping a sets of scores. You know the deal – Vitality to gauge how much life points you have left, Fitness for the usual “Can you jump over this two-feet railing or will you stumble and get your eyes impaled by rusty pikes?” stuff, yadda yadda yadda. With this being an iOS gamebook, they will even roll the dice and keep score of your inventory for you. Heck, they even do all the counting stuff for you! Cool, you think, and you get ready to rumble.

And then you realize that every combat encounter you come across right from the start is stacked against you. You don’t have a weapon, so you make your attack and defense rolls using one die. And then the opponent uses two dice in its rolls, so you’re so screwed, because if that opponent rolls an attack score of 15, for example, there is no way you can make a successful defense roll by using only one die. Your successful attacks cause minimal damage. Your opponent’s frequent successful rolls take off easily 6 to 11 Vitality points per hit.

You take a deep calming breath when your first opponent, a rat with a Vitality score of only 2, kills you because it only takes a few attack rounds to reduce your initial Vitality of 32 to 0 while you can’t even get a hit due to the screwed-up combat system.

It’s a freaking rat! A rat! And you are supposed to be an adventurer, for Cthulhu’s sake, a hero that can kick rear ends! So what the hell is this piece of dung that has you getting killed by a freaking STUPID rat?

Never mind. You start anew, and finally stumble upon a route where this rat-catcher gives you a dagger. Finally, you get to roll two dice when making an attack score. Okay, the first two waves of combats – again with those rats – take your Vitality down from 28 to 11, but you get to stomp those buggers, so things are looking up. In fact, you know now to avoid combat encounters until you get that super weapon that must be hidden somewhere… yikes, you turn around a corner and this freaking… thing… attacks you. No escape option, sorry, and this bugger rolls three dice when making an attack round.

Fine. One more time. Roll another character, make another blind turn. Oops, dead again.

One more time. Let’s see… you haven’t tried this option, so maybe it’s that “one true way” option. No, some weird little creature starts nipping at your heels, and you die.

Sure, you can make limited Fitness rolls to improve your combat encounters, but a successful Fitness roll only adds one measly point to the next roll of the dice, so this one point is not going to make much difference since it is near impossible to win when the opponent is using two or three dice against your one die. Unless it’s by luck, of course, but any gamebook that forces you to rely on luck alone is utter crap by definition.

Oh look, you come across a ledge. You have to make a Fitness roll to see whether you can jump across it. Oops, fail. Lose 8 Vitality points, die.

Time to climb a wall! Oops, fail, say goodbye to 6 Vitality points. Dead again.

Finally, defeated some monster by pure luck alone! Time to keep going and… Poison spikes! Fail Fitness roll, lose 1 Fitness point and some Vitality points. Try again, fail the roll again, dead.

You can’t even sneeze without having to make a Fitness roll. You die when even the tiniest rat looks at you.

You decide that the person who designed this utter waste of time must harbor some deep hatred for humanity. You check out the credits and realize that this thing has been play-tested. Holy crap. This utterly brainless plot-free dungeon crawl with a rigid adherence to number crunching over good old-fashioned storytelling or even plain common sense is supposed to be an example of a new generation gamebook? One that has a warrior that cannot defeat a freaking rat because he has no weapons? Are these people on drugs?

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Loves boys that sparkle, unicorns, money, Lego, chocolates, tasty buffets, video game music, and fantastical stories.

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