Dragon Books, £1.25, ISBN 0-583-30748-5
The Temple of Flame sees the collaboration of Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson for the first time, and it is also the start of a partnership that will result in some of the best gamebooks out there. If you are not familiar with those gamebooks, playing The Temple of Flame will make you itch to locate those gamebooks.
Like most gamebooks, alas, the weakest part of this one is its story. You are a Dragon Knight of Palados, who have come to the marshy lands of Anku to locate the hitherto long lost temple of the flame god, Katak. Your quest is to retrieve the “golden idol” of Katak. Not that you are doing this to save the world. No, you want to avenge yourself and a fallen comrade on an old enemy, Damontir the Mad. That sorcerer betrayed you and your comrade, leaving the two of you to die the last time around, and instead of wondering why you teamed up with a fellow called Damontir the Mad in the first place, you decide to smite him to death with your blade of righteousness. So he’s in the temple somewhere, and you’re going to get him.
This gamebook is pretty impressive in that you can die in just three paragraphs away from the beginning, but most of the time you should be able to avoid dying if you are sensible. There are some tough enemies here along with plenty of dungeon crawling, but the whole thing never feels boring because the authors have put plenty of thought into the design of the campaign. Combat encounters are interesting and often fun, the maze elements aren’t merely “turn left, turn right, are you bored yet?” chore, and the villain is truly despicable. Best of all, while the Temple of Katak is a maze in its own right, there are several ways to get to your goal so there is plenty of replay value in this gamebook.
The downside is that the campaign is not fair at places, as it requires you to make almost impossible rolls (for example, scoring below your Psi score with a roll of three dice – may the blessing of Belzeebul be with you if your Psi score is 4) and I won’t blame you if you decide to cheat during those moments.
All in all, despite some really unfair moments here and there, The Temple of Flame is smashing good fun.
But that poor monkey! Why would the authors do such a thing? I was hoping that he’d turn out to be an avatar of Katak or something, but no, sigh. How could the authors be so cruel?