Puffin, £3.99, ISBN 0-14-090409-3
Citadel of Chaos is the second gamebook in a series that is based on the old Sega game Eternal Champions. You have defeated the CyberClones, and now, you and your friends are going to finish what you’ve started. You will break into the Overlord’s Citadel in Megapolis and take down the naughty computer once and for all. It won’t be easy, as assassins called the Lords of Death will protect the Overlord from the likes of you. However, the city also has disgruntled mutated humans and other potential allies that can help you. First, though, you must get to Megapolis. Choosing which team of champions to work with is just the start of your challenge, as not all of them get along with each other…
This campaign ramps up the cheesy swagger that is already present in the previous campaign, and the result is an action-packed bash-fest full of cocky repartee and mischievous one-liners. There are almost moments of unexpected chuckles – such as when you come across a bunch of folks who actually call themselves the Mutie Miners in all seriousness. Not to mention, the Eternal Champions’ much-mentioned oath of not killing anyone seems to be forgotten here as your opponents can actually die. In the same nature, you and your allies can also meet pretty gruesome ends. This is both a comic-book cheeky romp and a darker action comedy all at once, with the added bonus of occasional knowing jabs at its own cartoon nature, Austin Powers-style. Most hilarious is how the other Champions quickly declare that you are better than them and therefore you should be the one to face the Overlord alone. You actually wonder how they will never admit that you are better than them under ordinary circumstances…
The difficulty level is raised considerably from the previous gamebook, as the Lords of Death you meet are pretty tough and your final battle with the Overlord is also a race against time. This campaign is actually very linear, with little room for deviation from the script, but it is still pretty easy to die if you are especially unlucky with your rolls. Still, what’s a little defeat or two in a fun campaign? And fun is exactly what this campaign is. Your allies are a hoot as they are all seem to be in the joke, and they are well-drawn memorable types, a refreshing difference from generally one-dimensional NPCs in many gamebooks.
On the other side, this campaign also feels very short and one-dimensional, and it is quite disappointing how some skills you may have mastered in the previous gamebook are of little to no use at all here. It is more important in this campaign to be lucky in die rolls, make the right combat decisions, and have all the necessary items ready for the final showdown with the Overlord. Fun is the main priority here, not logic, not well-thought game design.
All things considered, though, Citadel of Chaos is a riot. If you prefer sober campaigns that takes full advantage of the game mechanics, this one may miss the mark where you are concerned. But if you have a fondness for crazy, defiantly silly, and pumped to the max type of non-stop head-bashing fun, take a ride on this one. It’s going to be really wild!