Caverns of the Snow Witch by Ian Livingstone

Posted by Mrs Giggles on February 3, 2009 in 1 Oogie, Gamebook Reviews, Series: Fighting Fantasy / 1 Comment

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Caverns of the Snow Witch by Ian Livingstone
Caverns of the Snow Witch by Ian Livingstone

Wizard Books, £4.99, ISBN 1-84046-432-1
Fantasy, 2003 (Reissue)


Ian Livingstone’s Caverns of the Snow Witch is easily one of the worst gamebooks in the Fighting Fantasy series. Not only is this gamebook extraordinarily difficult, it is also an exercise in utter boredom as this campaign is completely devoid of imaginative elements.

You start out as a mercenary hired by Big Jim Sun, a merchant who brings his caravans up north to the icy wastes of Icefinger Mountains (there’s a joke in here somewhere) to trade with the natives of that region. You arrive at the outpost to discover a scene of gruesome massacre. Perhaps a monstrous beast is behind this? At any rate, you are tasked to locate and slay this beast. Eventually you slay this beast, but you will then become sidetracked into locating the Crystal Caves of the Snow Witch who is plotting to cover the world in ice.

This campaign is spectacularly awful because it is a thoroughly lazy expansion of a much shorter version that was initially published in an issue of Warlock. By expansion, we are talking about Ian Livingstone carelessly tossing in an unimaginative linear series of encounters with clichéd monsters before putting you into a bizarre race against time where you must wander around in random, stricken by a deadly disease, until you manage to find a cure by sleeping on top of a mountain top. Yes, I’m serious. The Snow Witch actually plays a small role in this campaign as the Crystal Caves leg of the campaign takes up only one third of the whole campaign. The rest is just encounter after encounter even as Mr Livingstone indulges in his fetish for four-feet tall bearded midgets. Nothing against dwarves, honestly, but you’d think a fan of dwarves like Mr Livingstone would make those stumpy midgets more interesting and useful. Oh, there’s an elf here too and yes, he’s just as annoying and useless as you can probably imagine. The opponents can be monstrously tough, which won’t be so bad if nearly all of such encounters are nothing more than brainless hack and slash filler moments.

To conclude, the “plot” is rubbish, the fun factor is nonexistent, and the whole campaign is flat, unimaginative, and even laughable. Check out paragraph 281, where you build an igloo by carving ice blocks from the mountain using your bare hands, for some good laugh at the author’s expense. Giving Caverns of the Snow Witch one oogie is actually too good a treatment one can offer to this turd of a gamebook.


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Cantankerous muffin who loves boys that sparkle, unicorns, money, chocolates, and fantastical stories.

One response to “Caverns of the Snow Witch by Ian Livingstone

  1. George Leigh

    Something seems to have happened to Ian Livingstone after writing Deathtrap Dungeon, because forever after his books just went rapidly downhill. Do you know how many gold pieces a warhammer will set you back in Port Blacksand these days? No? Oh, well it’s game over then! Honestly, the amount of times the man has penalised players for failing to find some broken old bit of pottery or similiar item of seemingly useless junk is verging on the insane! Caverns of the Snow Witch is by far his worst effort of all, far worse even than Freeway Fighter. As is typical of his later books, anything less than maximum skill will soon see you forced to start all over again until such time as you reach the point that you simply can’t be bothered anymore, realising life is way too short to be wasted on this book. There is absolutely no plot whatsoever, instead the entire text is comprised purely of one misadventure after the other. Firstly the player walks out on his employer without so much as a second thought, whilst the actual encounter with the Snow Witch herself is a far from memorable experience, what with her stupid shape-based puzzles, aversion to garlic and so on; finally you find yourself cursed, although to tell you the truth I felt cursed from the moment I turned to the first reference, a feeling which would not go away even after burying the book at the back of a cupboard. Apparently a shorter version of Caverns appeared in Warlock magazine before this book was published back in the 80s, but let’s be honest, it was probably every bit as bad.