Mammoth, £3.99, ISBN 0-7497-1484-0
Green Blood is the first gamebook in the Virtual Reality Adventures series, a mish-mash of sword and sorcery fantasy campaigns loosely tied together under the premise that you are playing some kind of virtual reality game. The system in this one is a middle ground between the Choose Your Own Adventure-style and the more conventional hack and slash style – you keep an inventory of your items, you get to choose your skills, and you have to keep track of your Life Points, but there is no need to roll dice for combat encounters.
There is no predetermined character in this one – you can create a character of your own and pick four out of 11 available skills. Of course, if you are smart, you’d pick the skills that will help you survive in the wilderness, since this is where this campaign will take you. If that is considered cheating, well, if it’s cheating then they shouldn’t have told you early on that you would be wandering like an idiot in the Forest of Arden, right?
You used to live in the scholarly academy of Helgalopolis until it was shut down by the ruler of the land who’d rather keep his people ignorant and therefore easier to lord over. You are forced to live in the city, and it isn’t long before you grow disgusted with the destructive ways of civilization. Therefore, you wish to seek out the Tree of Knowledge in the Forest of Arden, to learn from it the secrets that will help mankind find a more enlightened way of existence. So there you go.
As you can imagine, this is a thinly-veiled and pretty irrational scree against evil city folks masquerading as a campaign. Over and over again you will be bombarded with propaganda such as men are evil to despoil nature. Even agriculture is demonized in this campaign – who knows, maybe everyone is supposed to live like cavemen or something. The wood folks and druids you encounter are so snobbish and elitist that, even when they need a great favor from you, they will need to test you first! And tests often require that you agree with them that anything and everything human is despicable, vile, and hateful. Otherwise, these enlightened beings will order the beasts and plants in the forest to tear you limb from limb. Hilariously enough, these creatures – who often bemoan the hateful violent ways of humans – will ask you to ignite a war between the elves and the humans who want to despoil the forest, because clearly, killing humans is okay when it’s the “good guys” doing the killing. Oh, and the forest folks are all tall and beautiful, while greedy humans are ugly.
If wading through this mess of hilariously hypocritical PETA propaganda isn’t bad enough, this campaign is full of abrupt tragic ends. Even getting to the Forest can give rise to some frustrating bad endings, and worse, Mr Smith loves to toy with you. If you take the wrong turn, you will end up in a frustrating maze where you will loop back to the same place again and again until you decide to take one of the two options out of the neverending loop – and both options see you dying in a most embarassing manner. What is annoying here is that you will die, not because you make a stupid decision, but because you make a random choice that doesn’t coincide with the script Mr Smith had in mind. And he overdoes this way too much – there are too many chances to fail even within the first few minutes of the campaign alone.
Still, the difficulty level won’t be so bad if the plot wasn’t such an obvious and irrational scree about how everything elven is awesome and amazing while everything human is filthy and corrupt. There is a reason why many people hate elves with a passion – it’s because of such misplaced self-righteousness and hypocrisy that campaigns such as this one are filled to the brim with.