G’day to you all, gamebookers! Today we have the enigmatic Mrs Giggles, reviewer of many things, including gamebooks (the other things are mainly romance novels, films and music, but there are plenty of things there). Make sure you check out her website.
Her reviews are honest, sometimes cutting and always entertaining. I wanted to know what she looks for in a good gamebook. Here is the interview…
– Tell us about yourself.
Well, in real life I’m a grandmother (not that old, though – or so I’d like to think), retired, and spent too much time and money on books.
– How did you get into gamebooks?
My eldest son used to buy them. He was also a tabletop game enthusiast. Eventually he outgrew these hobbies, but I didn’t. I tried out a gamebook or two – Fighting Fantasy ones by Keith Martin, if I remember correctly – when I was about to pack all of them off to some second-hand store. I was hooked, and ended up keeping those books myself. I also started buying my own during the gamebook bloom back in the 1980s, and I still have most of them today.
– Your highest gamebook reviews are for most Avenger! books, some Bllod Sword books, Shadow on the Sand, The Kingdom of Terror, The Masters of Darkness, Trial of the Champions, Sword of the Samurai, Beneath Nightmare Castle, Vault of the Vampire. Is there anything that all of your 5 oogie gamebooks have in common?
Entertaining, inventive storyline, epic battles, and a good sense of atmosphere.
– What do you look for in a good gamebook?
Good story elements and a somewhat fair gameplay system. I’m a bit odd in that I can forgive unfair systems as long as (a) the story elements are very strong, and (b) I am allowed to cheat. However, there is a limit. Send me two or three consecutive enemies with near-maximum stats and plenty of deaths caused by random dice rolls and I’m not in a good mood anymore.
– What really annoys you about gamebooks?
Well, infuriatingly unfair gameplay is one. Another is a gamebook that relies too much on random turns, especially in a dungeon setting where I’m just told to pick left or right without giving me any clue as to what lies in each direction. But I think my biggest annoyance are gamebooks that not only include plenty of random dungeon-crawling, but also keep sending you back to the same entries until you somehow stumble upon the correct way out.
– Your reviews are quite brutally honest. Is this what you look for in a review?
I don’t actually read reviews often. I know! But if I do, I usually look for those that give me a good idea of what works and what doesn’t for the reviewer. That way, I can make an educated decision for myself as to whether I’d like whatever that was reviewed. I’d like to imagine that my reviews work like that too.
– What do you include when writing a review?
If it’s the first gamebook in the series, an overview of the gameplay system. All reviews include a general synopsis and my views on them, often written in a second person’s point of view in keeping to the nature of gamebooks..
– What gamebooks are you going to review next?
Gamebooks take a while to work through, so I don’t review them as regularly as I’d like. But I have a stack of interactive adventures on my Samsung – Choice of Game ones, usually – and a stack of independently produced paperback gamebooks I’ve ordered. All are waiting for me, and I’m trying as fast as I can.
I am often asked this, and I wish I can answer yes, but I am not reviewing book seven of the Way of the Tiger anytime soon. “Redeemer!” costs 30 euros, and that’s not even including the shipping cost! I’m sure it is a lovingly rendered and beautiful hardcover, but I can buy three or four other independently produced gamebooks with that money. It just doesn’t make sense for my budget to buy that book. Maybe one day if it is released digitally or in paperback.