Red Fox, £4.99, ISBN 0-09-947630-4
As you move deeper into the Magnakai leg of the Lone Wolf series, The Jungle of Horrors takes up the action a notch. This is the eighth gamebook in the series, but it can stand alone very well if you choose to play this one without playing previous gamebooks first. But if you do that, you will lose out on two additional Magnakai skills and possible completion of at least one Lore Circles that could have boosted your stats considerably and you will be sorry.
As Lone Wolf, you are now ready to locate the next missing Lorestone, the Lorestone of Ohrido. Your journey takes you to the kingdom of Talestria, from all appearances a rather generic high fantasy kingdom with one prominent landmark: a hazardous wide stretch of swamp called the Danarg. It is in the heart of Danarg that lies the ancient Temple of Ohrido, which is where you will find the Lorestone. Danarg is full of foul monsters. But to make things worse, the Darklords are now united again when Darklord Gnaag trumped his rivals in the civil war for the throne. As you race towards Talestria, the Darklords’ forces are launching a massive assault on all neighboring lands, of which Talestria is one. You do not want to be caught in the crossfire, let’s just say. Even worse, Gnaag has charged his minions to hunt you down. Meanwhile, the Elder Magi of Dessi spares you an assistant, the Vakeros Knight named Paido, to accompany you on this mission.
This is the last gamebook in this series to be illustrated by Gary Chalk, and it looks like he intends to go out with a bang – the codpieces are pretty in your face here, let’s just say. Check out the illustration that accompanies section 280 for an impressive example of an NPC who has popped a certain blue pill in anticipation of meeting you and Paido, heh.
This is a pretty tough campaign as there are some combat opponents that will give you a hard time early on, but the difficulty level isn’t particularly unfair unless you are playing the gamebook fresh without any bonuses carried forward from previous gamebooks. Then this gamebook can be hideously unfair if you do not have high starting stats and all the correct Magnakai Skills that can confer the appropriate bonuses. An encounter in a creepy monastery at about the midpoint of this campaign is easily the most memorable moment in the entire campaign. Unfortunately, by that point you’d also be so tired of Paido because, far from being an asset, that fellow is Joe Dever’s plot device to get you into unavoidable combat encounters. I have to warn you – if Paido dies, your mission is over, so you will end up being his babysitter as much as his traveling companion. It is a pity that Paido is not used better in this campaign because the Vakeros Knights is an interesting concept.
There are also some bizarre moments in the story where, as the Drakkarim horde from Xanar pours in from the north, razing Luukos to the ground and approaching Syada, the towns you visit in the south seem to be taking their own sweet time to flee. This is good as it allows you to replenish your supplies, get killed, et cetera, but it doesn’t contribute to the atmosphere of panic and claustrophobia that should have gripped the people of Talestria by then.
The adventures in the Danarg are actually quite dull compared to the adventures and encounters in the more civilized parts of Talestria. Unfortunately, the difficulty level doesn’t let up, and you’d probably not want to encounter another Vordak or Helghast again after this campaign.
The Jungle of Horrors is a solid bounce in form after the disappointing Castle Death. It is easily a three-oogie gamebook, but only if you are not starting anew with this gamebook.