Puffin Books, £3.99, ISBN 0-14-032378-3
One reason I was intrigued by Midnight Rogue from the get go is because one gets to play an apprentice thief in this story. That’s a nice change from the usual surly knights or mercenaries. Alas, don’t expect too much freedom to pillage and plunder even if your character is a Port Blacksand local. This book clearly doesn’t want impressionable kids to get the wrong ideas.
Okay, you are an apprentice thief hoping to become a member of Port Blacksand’s infamous Thieves’ Guild. Well, in this campaign, all you need to do is to pass the Guild entry test. It’s simple. Somewhere in Port Blacksand is a valuable gem called the Eye of the Basilisk. You have one night to locate it and steal it from its owner. Where is it? That’s for you to find out, heh. There are clues scattered all over the city, protected by physical and magical traps so this is going to be a night to remember.
As a thief, you get to choose three out of seven unique skills taught to apprentice thieves, although there are actually items to be found in this campaign that replicate the effect of some of these skills. You can end up having all seven skills as a result, but it will take you a few tries to discover how to do so, heh. All these skills are useful, although some are clearly more useful than others.
Midnight Rogue is a rare gamebook where the difficulty level is pretty high but the entertainment factor remains. This is because there isn’t any blind wandering around like a dazed buffoon in some dodgy dungeons or mazes here – the whole campaign is like a fun puzzle to put together. You have to locate clues, discover keys and other means of entry, and more. There are some sudden deaths and deaths due to bad rolls (read: battles with ghouls), but all in all, this is a challenging yet fair gamebook.
Mr Davis’s prose is comprehensive yet descriptive, adding to the atmosphere of the campaign. Sometimes I feel that it is odd how nice the senior members of the Thieves’ Guild or affiliated Guilds can be toward my character, but in a way, it sort of makes sense that thieves of a Guild will stick together against everyone else. Besides, there is a high chance that these apprentices won’t survive the test, so a little kindness doesn’t hurt. The seedy aspects of the criminal underbelly in Port Blacksand are sanitized, but that’s to be expected in a gamebook geared toward young kids.
The only drawback here is that the design can get rather shoddy at places, especially in the second act of the campaign when you have discovered the location of the Eye. For example, the author occasionally stumbles when it comes to consistency. Sometimes you are allowed to perform something without requiring a unique thief skill, but there will be other moments when you need that skill to perform a similar action. Still, I don’t feel that these hiccups truly get in the way of a good rough and tumble adventure in this most entertaining little gamebook.