Dragon Books, £1.25, ISBN 0-583-30763-9
Curse of the Pharaoh is set in an ancient Egypt setting, so you know what this means, right? Yes, pyramids, mummies, scorpions, and asps! Poison, poison, everywhere! To be fair, this one tries to be more than a standard pyramid dungeon crawl, but the stench of cliché still wafts from it.
You are an adventurer looking for fortune and fun – the usual. Your latest venture takes you to the desert land of Khem. You have bought a small slab of carved granite from some nomads when the campaign opens. The slab intrigues you because it bears the seal of the ancient Pharaoh, Kharphut the Mighty, and you hope it will be a clue that will lead you to the long lost tomb of this fellow. You manage to track down from the trader the identity and location of the merchant who sold him the slab. So here you are, at the city of Arkos, looking for a man named Gabbad. From crossing paths with assassins looking for the carved granite to the dangers of the pyramid itself, you are going to have your hands full.
The first obstacle you will encounter here is money management. You will need money not only for items that will be useful, even crucial, in overcoming certain dangerous situations but also to obtain vital information. Unless you cheat, you are either going to sail through or get stuck waist-deep in smelly stuff depending on the way you used your money early in the campaign. Even then, there are many instances here where an unlucky roll of a die means instant death. After all, you know how settings like this would be, I’m sure. Scorpions big and small, asps left and right, traps up and down – it’s a veritable paradise of instant deaths by poison here.
Still, I wouldn’t be complaining if the campaign is fun, but alas, it’s a little too clichéd and too much like any gamebook campaign set in such a setting for my liking. The penultimate moments in the story are rather anticlimactic as well. The end result is a gamebook that is very tough but at the same time not as rewarding to play as I’d have liked.