Puffin Books, £3.99, ISBN 1-84046-552-2
Now this is interesting. Instead of running wild on land slaying orcs and looting innocent monsters of their precious treasures, you are now the first mate of a ship called Sunfish. When the campaign opens, the nasty pirate Captain Bloodaxe and the crew of his Troll drop by for a visit and you are the only survivor of the encounter among your crew. Thanks to contrivances, you not only survive, you are also armed and you will now be able to explore undersea cities and say hello to various sea creatures as you try to locate Black Pearls and hopefully avenge yourself on Captain Bloodaxe and his crew.
Demons of the Deep is written by the same Steve Jackson who wrote Scorpion Swamp – that American fellow who happens to share the same name as the British founder of the Fighting Fantasy series. Unlike Scorpion Swamp, this one is an even more loosely designed campaign. The apparent flexibility offered by the many routes and options in this campaign is only illusion, however. There is only one correct path throughout the whole campaign, and missing out on one step in Mr Jackson’s script means that you will realize only too late that you have failed to follow the script. In your first few runs where you will most likely not discover the true path, you will be befuddled by various references to Special Items that you will not have with you.
But don’t worry, if it is any consolation, you can still fail the campaign with your life intact. Of course, the satisfaction of doing so will be most lacking, heh. Still, this campaign is interesting enough to make the few runs needed to complete it tolerable. There are some quirky encounters with sea life with names like Cyrano the Swordfish to reduce the tedium and the frustration.
Like Scorpion Swamp, Demons of the Deep has its moments, but it also may cause you to feel as if you are wandering pointlessly in a maze with the end nowhere in sight. Once you have found the path determined by Mr Jackson as the right one, you may not feel any urge to revisit this gamebook again.