Armada Books, £1.75, ISBN 0-00-692385-2
Monsters of the Marsh is set in the world of Skyfall, which was colonized by humans long ago when their spacecraft crashed onto this world. Technology doesn’t work in Skyfall, so humans are forced to revert to a more simple lifestyle in this rather generic fantasy setting. This gamebook begins with you coming home to the marshy lands of Delta from your explorations to realize that your father is missing.
You see, barges have been disappearing lately in the rivers around your home, and your father happened to be on one of those barges. Oops. Strange monsters have been sighted around the rivers. The economy of the deltas is threatened and, more importantly, your father may be in danger. So off you go… into one of the most boring adventures ever created for a gamebook.
This campaign requires the use of coins instead of die, but you know what? I cheated. Yes, I cheated, but that was because I couldn’t make head or tail of the rules. One moment I was supposed to flip a coin like this, but in the next similar scenario, I was told to flip the other way. After a while, I’m tempted to just flip the author. Rules are inconsistently explained. For example, I can go on for days without eating, but there is no clear mention of any penalty for adopting a supermodel’s dietary lifestyle.
But even when I cheated, I soon realized that I was wandering in a loop, going to the same places again and again for two hours, like some kind of horrible dystopian nightmare. It was only by cheating further and reading every paragraph did I realize that there is only one true path, and may Great Lord Asmodeus help you if you choose the wrong river estuary to begin exploring at the start of the campaign.
The adventure does pick up once you locate the villain’s lair. Also, it’s not every day you get to kick ugly monsters while wearing only your underwear. How bad-ass is that? But by the time you stumble upon the villain’s lair, you’d most likely have tossed this book out the window in frustration.
The setting is interesting, since it’s not every day one gets to paddle a boat up and down rivers in a lush delta region, but the descriptions of locales are flat and boring, with everything eventually congealing into a gray wet desolate place where you’d be begging to get out of. The monsters aren’t interesting or original. But most importantly, the campaign rules are ridiculously inconsistent or vague and playing it is as fun as spending hours watching paint dry.