Puffin Books, £3.99, ISBN 0-14-031952-2
It is year 2453, and folks on Earth have since branched out to live not only on other planets in the Solar System but also on two other planets, Radix and Tropos, with an outpost formed on another planet, Halmuris. The discovery of alpha-ziridium on Tropos allows the creation of spacecrafts that travel to other planets in a much shorter time. It is alpha-ziridium that allows the Arcadion race of aliens to eventually conquer humanity.
When Rebel Planet opens, the Arcadians have ruled humans for 150 years. However, that is about to change. You are an undercover agent of SAROS, the underground organization dedicated to the overthrow of the Arcadians. The key to this is the “queen computer” in Arcadion. The computer controls all Arcadians, so with its destruction, the Arcadions will be finished. However, the binary code needed to shut down this computer is fragmented into three parts, each part known by a rebel captain in each of the three planets – Radix, Tropos, and Halmuris. You must locate these rebel captains (you only know their codenames, alas) and avoid capture in the process. Once you have the complete binary code, then it’s time to show the Arcadians who the boss is.
The plot is quite iffy, to be honest. The three subspecies of Arcadians, for example, seem quite capable of independent thought, so the hive computer plot device is just a convenient method inserted by Mr Waterfield to allow a “single switch” method to complete the mission. Also, there is always the question of how the binary codes are discovered in pieces by each rebel leader without any effort made to piece them together in the first place, or how those people know of the code in the first place. Or why it isn’t more efficient to have three people in this mission, one for each rebel leader, instead of having poor you running all over the place.
Still, the first half or so of this campaign is pretty interesting, as it has you running around Tropos and Radix looking for clues leading to the whereabouts of the rebel leaders. This part of the campaign is a nice change from the usual hack and slash campaigns out there, as it has you running around campuses and museums instead, with plenty of Easter egg references to “the good old days” of present day life on Earth.
However, as the campaign escalates, Mr Waterfield’s idea of increasing the difficulty level involves increasing the possibilities of sudden deaths and abrupt failures, forcing you to play a frustrating game of guessing what is in the author’s head. What seems like sensible options could lead to an ignoble end, so there is an annoying random feel to the campaign as a result. Also, you will need to roll die pretty often by that point or risk failure, so by that point you’d probably be very annoyed if your character has average to poor stats.
Rebel Planet is actually one of the better designed futuristic Fighting Fantasy gamebooks out there, so it is just unfortunate that the later leg of the campaign detoriates into a series of difficult rolls and random choices. On the bright side, if you are unfamiliar with the concept of binary numbers, you’d know a thing or two about the concept by the time the campaign ends.