Puffin Books, £3.99, ISBN 0-14-036496-X
Deathmoor is an awful gamebook, but then again, it’s like a beautiful kind of train wreck. It is clearly a twisted take on Super Mario Bros – there are even two plumbers here whose names are Oiram and Igiul, heh – but the end result is an occasional burst of gore punctuating a sea of indifferent writing. It is as if Robin Waterfield had a terrible time writing this book, his frequent anguished cries showing clearly in the occasional bouts of tormented brilliance in this gamebook, and one just couldn’t look away.
There is a missing princess, of course. You, a warrior who has just returned from some R&R in Takio, is summoned too late to the city-kingdom of Arion, where you learn that Princess Telessa was kidnapped. You must rescue her, of course, but alas, the King and the Queen (both are siblings, but no, they didn’t have a daughter together – the very idea!) had already passed the mission to your rival. If you want the reward – half the kingdom – you need to get the official seal from Fang-zen himself. And that’s not counting your travels into the dreaded Deathmoor to confront Arachnos, the “unaging” servant of Chaos.
The difficulty level is… erratic, to say the least. You can hit unexpected endings and death scenes without any rhyme or reason, for one. Also, the author seems determined to make your character come off like a total bungling fool. You keep losing things, making bizarre and even stupid choices, and you won’t even rescue an old woman from being beaten to death. The hero coming off like a total fool is either a misfired tribute to Ash Williams or a big mistake all around. There are some stupid puzzles to solve and items to collect as well. All of it is mired in uninspired and desultory prose lacking in description or excitement.
Deathmoor is a joke, but I don’t know whom the joke is on.