Engaging story with great time travel twists. The Ghosts of Craven Manor is a work of interactive fiction (or gamebook) which puts you in the shoes of a man trying to solve a mystery while also attempting to discover the history of why certain supernatural events are happening in your newly purchased home. There is much at stake if you do not solve this mystery, as you may lose the life of your beloved wife or even your own.
The book not only gives the reader individual choices along the way to influence the outcome of the story but also includes several puzzles and codes to solve, which go so much further than just giving you clues. Some actually contain necessary information which if not discovered, will prevent you from achieving the best possible ending.
There are also incidental characters throughout the time travelling storyline of whom it is possible to prevent their grisly fates, changing history and in turn modifying parts of the house and the surrounding area in the present timeline. This can help unlock certain areas of the town, allowing for even more important discoveries. As with most books of this ilk, there are multiple endings to be had, some happier than others, and some that are are very well hidden. The book has a lot of things to remember, so it's highly recommended you keep a pen/pencil and a notepad handy as well as using a copy of the supplied code sheet in the back.
You'll also need a pair of dice if you want to take part in the dice-rolling combat aspect of the book, although that has been left as an optional component by the author. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys interactive fiction but wants a much more significant challenge than those offered in other gamebooks.
I really enjoyed the challenging nature of the book. It is a combination of the note-taking nature of Aaron Emmel's Midnight Legion gamebook series and a relatively complex hub-based exploration akin to Alone Against the Dark (Call of Cthulhu solo adventure) but executed with high quality and a storyline that is convincing with multi-dimensional characters that you can empathize with. I wish the instructions were more clear around the need to record room section numbers for some of the items you pick up and the fact that coded messages can only be decoded through instructions found in the book (I initially thought they were Caesar cipher encryptions). All in all, it was a gripping tale which had me glued to the book for hours on end and I would place it among the top if not the best gamebook that I have read. My advice to other players is to dedicate a full page or more to take all the notes (future knowledge, inventory, names, other information etc.). As someone who grew up with Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, it is great to see innovative takes on the gamebook system like this one.
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A Ghostly, Time Travelling Game Book edition
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