Puffin Books, £3.50, ISBN 0-14-034032-7
Long before there is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there is… you. You are the famous Demon-Stalker of Gallantria. As a Warrior-Priest (or Priestess, depending on your preference), you are trained in the Sacred Citadel of the Templars to pulverize foul fiends of Demonkind. They killed your brother once upon a time, but now, you have more than avenged him – even the Demonkind boss, Myurr the Demon Lord, has you on his hit list.
Therefore, when Dead of Night opens, you probably shouldn’t be too surprised when you get a vision that Myurr has abducted your parents as payback. You rush back to your village of Crowford, where the Myurr has prepared a warm welcome home party to celebrate the return of the prodigal son…
Apart from the usual Fighting Fantasy mechanics, you also get to choose some skills, or Talent as they are called here, related to Demonkind wrangling to boost your usual swordplay ability. You pick three at first, but there are options in this campaign that allow you to gain more. You will also need to keep track of Evil points, which go up when you do something particularly dishonorable or use Talents that are closely linked to Demonkind.
As for the campaign, Dead of Night is one of those rare gamebooks in this series where the designers are not actively trying to kill you at every turn. Oh, you can die, but this campaign is very fair in that the difficulty level is balanced and you can avoid most deaths if you pick sensible options. The confrontation with Myurr is anticlimactic and there is a chance that you will get stuck in an annoying maze some time later into the campaign, but on the whole, this one is very playable without requiring copious mathematical acrobatics.
The atmosphere is superb – the entire setting is vividly described, evoking a beautifully creepy medieval horror atmosphere reminiscent of England in the Dark Ages. Unlike Jonathan Green who also creates beautifully creepy campaigns set in a similar kind of setting, Jim Bambra and Stephen Hand are more concerned in letting you explore the many options in the gamebook and soaking in the story without trying to kill you off with grossly overpowered enemies and unfair plot requirements.
Dead of Night is on the whole a very entertaining gamebook with strong story value and fairly balanced difficulty, which makes it a good kind of anomaly in the Fighting Fantasy series. Very nice, indeed.