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Item - Garden of Madness

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Series: The Legends of Skyfall — no. 4
Translated Into: Il giardino della follia (Italian)
El jardín de la locura (Spanish)
Author: Tant, David
Illustrators: Glentoran, Jon (interior)
Angus, David (cartography)
Date: 1985
Length: 400 sections
User Summary: The Margrave of Shekar has kidnapped Princess Wanda, daughter of the King of Delta. Your mission is to enter the Margrave's castle and rescue the princess so she can marry her legitimate fiancé.
Guillermo's Thoughts:

(review based on the Spanish translation)

This book is a step backward from the previous one. Once again it is mostly a dungeon-crawl, and while not as disastrous as The Black Pyramid, it's nonetheless not a very good one. The main problem with the book is that there is just one path that leads to your goal, and finding it can be rather frustrating. The castle branches out into several paths, and often you have to go down the same path several times before realizing that all the choices in it lead to failure outcomes. People who complain about House of Hell having dead-end areas will certainly stop doing so after taking a look at Garden of Madness, which is a much more serious case. Making the player explore most of the castle, finding items or information needed to rescue the princess, would have made for a better book. In this case, much of the adventure feels rather wasted, and that is the main cause why I consider it a failure.

On the positive side, the traps and encounters do require logical thought (something almost completely absent from The Black Pyramid). If the player makes the right choices, it’s possible to progress through to the final goal with a minimum of combat, and that is certainly appreciated. However, once you reach the princess, you need to escape the castle, retracing your steps down the same path you used on the way in. This also feels like a waste of time, because mostly you only need to do the same things you did the first time around and you're out. So basically, this book requires you to undertake the same journey twice with almost no added satisfaction.

Overall, this book rates a distant third from books three and one. It's a shame a good series such as this ended with a whimper rather than a bang. Despite serious flaws, I enjoyed very much my exploration of the Kingdom of Delta, and would have liked the chance to have adventures in other parts of Skyfall. As of this writing, however, we only have these four books, too few considering the potential of the setting.

More reviews by Guillermo

Shadeheart's Thoughts:

[Rating: 1/10]
[Recommended? NO]

Of the many surprises that await within the pages of "The Legends of Skyfall" series, what resonates the most with readers of "Garden of Madness" is just how sorely lacking of substance the series really is. Starting off with an almost self-praising introduction which denounces uncommitted readers from the get-go, the story begins as densely-packed as the world and structure introductions are. There's unironically little joy to be had in slogging through the worldbuilding infodumps, let alone the world itself that David Tant drags readers through; with a tone that is better suited to non-fiction, I found it strange to see how uninspired the characters, scenarios and overall reading experience were. While the book praises logic, the spirit of the narrative is sorely lacking; you get none of the grandiose feel that the cover art evocatively calls to the imagination (in fact, some of the interior art is quite atrocious). Even the innovative (from which Tant smugly praises himself again a little too much) coin-flipping system doesn't sit well; as the primary story-determining tool, not only does the arbitrary nature of tossing a coin as the book dictates come across as unnatural, it never catches on and really exposes - at least for me - just how insubstantial and unenjoyable the story is in most respects. This title in particular, despite other titles in the series suggesting the contents, does not live up to the maddening story one might have expected; there's a single right path on this search once again, and due to this, the low replay value is severely hurt by this design choice.

While these overlooked gamebooks may be deserving of a second look by some interactive fiction lovers, I generally believe these books - receiving mixed-to-negative reviews upon release - are the kind which could be easily passed over by a majority of readers without regret. After all, no matter how intricately a gamebook's worldbuilding may be extraneously developed, if the writing itself fails to offer even the slightest bit of enjoyment, then the immersion is all for nothing - and I tell you, there is ultimately nothing to be found here which readers cannot find better done elsewhere. ^^

(Mysteriously disappears into the shadows.)

More reviews by Shadeheart

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
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Robert Mammone

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