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Item - The Black Pyramid


Series: The Legends of Skyfall — no. 2
Translated Into: La pirĂ¡mide negra (Spanish)
La piramide nera (Italian)
Author: Tant, David
Illustrators: Glentoran, Jon (interior)
Maroto, Esteban (cover)
Date: 1985
Length: 401 sections
User Summary: While exploring western Delta, you come across a wounded man who tells you the tale of an expedition lost in the desert, apparently imprisoned by a powerful cult. Your quest in search of them takes you into an ancient Egyptian-like pyramid.
Guillermo's Thoughts: (review based on the Spanish translation)

The difficulty of this book has almost become a legend among gamebook fans, although the fact that many people just decided to put it down without finishing it could be attributed more to its dull design than to difficulty alone. Since apparently so many people did not complete the book, I'll describe in general terms my experience with it, so those same people can decide if they missed anything or not.

The book begins with a journey through the desert, which is short and ultra-linear. It includes two tough, unavoidable fights whose only purpose seems to be to weaken the player character for what is already a very tough journey inside the pyramid itself. The vast majority of the book involves exploring its corridors and rooms, the problem being that this is one of the worst dungeon-crawls to be found in gamebook production.

The indoor part of the adventure starts out somewhat promisingly, since some of the rooms hold interesting evidence about an Egyptian- like civilization. This, coupled with the fact that the cultists seem to be absent, leaves you with a complete freedom of exploration, which can be entertaining for a while. However, it doesn't take long to discover what the flaws of this adventure are. There are way too many traps which cause instant death, and there are not even interesting choices which could allow you to deal with them; most of the time they just serve to tell you which room or corridor to avoid. Other traps just serve to reduce the player's combat stats considerably, which only makes an already tough adventure more frustrating. The few monsters you'll find inside the pyramid are nonetheless tough opponents, so you're likely to die many times while exploring it. By the way, making a map of the pyramid is essential, since there are three floors and the corridors in each are very intricate.

The journey through the pyramid can be very frustrating, since like in the first book, large parts of the adventure hold nothing needed to complete it. However, the first book at least had an interesting design, while the successful path though the Black Pyramid is awfully counter-intuitive. Finding a way to the final section of the adventure is rather easy (almost too easy) to do, which only made me wonder what was the point of all those tough encounters in other parts of the pyramid. However, the first time I found the final rooms, I failed, receiving a hint that I needed a special item to progress to the successful conclusion. Even if you have explored the other parts of the pyramid to death and can figure out where the item is, there is a chance you'll have picked the wrong item (but you'll not know it until you reach the final rooms and fail again).

Take three: you reach the final rooms with the required item, only to discover that you should have taken a different path through the pyramid. Problem one: finding this path is not easy, the way to it being blocked by traps and monsters. Problem two: even if previous exploration of the pyramid lets you deduce what the correct path is, the reader is left wondering what is so interesting about figuring out a path through remarkably uninteresting corridors just to end up in the same final section you happened to discover easily in earlier attempts.

When you have finally gone though all that, you get to see some technological devices which constitute almost the only science- fiction elements of this series. However, your character is left clueless as to their origin, and no background or plot related to them is revealed which could have made the book more interesting than the rather pathetic dungeon-crawl it is. Believe it or not, there is a point when you actually reach the goal of the adventure, and... surprise! You have to find your way back to the outside, not before traveling through the maze of corridors in order to pick up another item which is crucial to the completion of the adventure. But you did draw a map, noting down carefully where the absurd death- traps are so you don't step on them again on the way back, didn't you? Good.

This truly qualifies as one of the worst gamebook designs ever, and definitely the worst book in this series. It's only unfortunate such a weak book could have led readers to abandon this series altogether, since the author certainly did redeem himself with the third book. I really don't recommend it for a pleasant gaming experience, but if you feel you absolutely have to see the end of the story, I would suggest you use the walkthrough I stored in the Files section of the Gamebooks mailing list. It'll save you a lot of wasted time.

More reviews by Guillermo

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
Users Who Own This Item: anhartleyuk, Aniline, Avenger, B0N0V0X, BarefootJimmy, Belgarath, bleuge, bookwormjeff, damieng, dave2002a, DeKoovenWolf, Ed, edwebb, egokun, firefoxpdm, Gamebook, Harvey, jcruelty, jeff3333, katzcollection, kinderstef, le maudit, Malthus Dire, mir1812, mlvoss, nelsondesign, Nich, Office Linebacker_, Osirian08, outspaced, peterm2, Pirrakas, plowboy, Robert Mammone, Rozo, Sabreman, Salpynx, Sheridan77, Sir Olli, sireeyore, skeleton, spragmatic, Threepwud, Treguard, twar, Twoflower, Vampireman, Yalius, Zolika
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