Mitchell, J. D.
O'Halloran, Mason T.
Herring, Matt (interior)
June 1, 2023
1778130208 / 9781778130205
400 sections |
|User Summary:||You work for the government and must successfully navigate your last day of work before leaving on vacation.|
It's certainly not a new idea to create a parody of a well-established gamebook series, as evidenced by the endless succession of joke adventures imitating the visual style of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books. In many cases, though, the joke is only on the surface level, and the authors don't really demonstrate much understanding of the genre they are imitating. Fortunately, The Citadel of Bureaucracy is not one of those books -- on the contrary, it demonstrates a deep understanding of, and affection for, its source material: the original Fighting Fantasy series.
All the key elements of a classic Fighting Fantasy book can be found here: a green spine, 400 sections, the familiar SKILL/STAMINA/LUCK game system, and a particular blend of captioned full-page artwork with smaller filler pieces. Some fairly advanced game design elements are incorporated, including notes which serve as state-tracking codewords, and occasional situations where the reader must remember to add or subtract values from section numbers under specific circumstances. If you've come to this looking for a fully-fledged gamebook that will take some effort to crack, you won't be disappointed. I must confess that I did not have enough available time during my review period to find the optimal path to the best possible ending, but the parts of the book I was able to explore and map out were mechanically interesting and well-designed; I didn't stumble on any obvious errors along the way.
Of course, there's more to a gamebook than just the game part, so the text is also worth addressing. This is a book about senseless bureaucracy and office politics; these subjects have been addressed before in a variety of media ranging from interactive fiction works like Douglas Adams' Bureaucracy text adventure to films like Office Space, and what is presented here doesn't break major new ground. However, it is competently-written and relatable, and it's certainly a less-explored gamebook genre than generic fantasy. It shines most when it applies the full-on gamebook treatment to its mundane subject matter. My personal highlight was when an encounter with a Canada goose eventually led up to a combat in which the stat block was labeled COBRA CHICKEN.
While this book probably won't appeal to everyone, it does an impressive job of targeting two audiences simultaneously yet independently. A gamebook fanatic could enjoy this even without fully appreciating the humor, while a reader more interested in the jokes could follow the "how to cheat fairly" section of the rules, ignore most of the mechanics, and still have an enjoyable experience. If you happen to fall into both of these categories -- a gamebook addict who appreciates office humor -- you should definitely make some time to check this one out!
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