Beaver Books, £2.50, ISBN 0-099-44780-0
The Forbidden City follows Grey Star the Wizard, but if you are expecting another horribly unfair gamebook that you pretty much have to cheat to complete, you are going to be pleasantly surprised. The Forbidden City is like a walk in the park compared to that gamebook.
You are Grey Star the Wizard. Where we last left off, you have found the Lost Tribe of Lara in the forests of the Azanam, but at a great cost as your traveling companions end up either dead or kidnapped by fiends. Still, the show must go on. The Kundi tribe wise man Urik does his woo-woo and informs you that the Shadow Gate which you are seeking will appear in Desolation Valley in two weeks when the moon is full. So off you go, with Urik accompanying you. Along the way, you will cross Karnali, where you find yourself embroiled in a fight for the freedom of the city from Shasarak’s minions, before you brave the horrors of the city of undead, Gyanima, also known as the Forbidden City.
This campaign is quite linear, but the storytelling element is compelling enough to make up for the lack of options. You may be disappointed if you prefer a more flexible campaign, however. In this one, you will pick up more allies, and these allies are actually memorable and entertaining. Even better, your encounters in Gyanima will not be standard kill-everything-you-see type, but instead… well, you should discover the fun for yourself.
However, The Forbidden City is quite anticlimactic in its resolution. You will most likely finish the campaign while thinking, “This is it?” The gameplay could have been better designed too as four Magical Powers dominate your options while the others are barely mentioned. It is a good thing that you should have at least two of those Magical Powers already.
To sum things up, The Forbidden City is a gamebook where the storytelling element is far superior to the gameplay elements.