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Item - In Search of Christmas

Series: Proteus
Contained In: The Havarine Madness (Gamebook)
Author: Caldwell, Elizabeth
Illustrator: Hunter, Alan
Date: 1987
Ed's Thoughts: On Christmas morning you find that you have received a collection of unpleasant gag gifts. Investigating the sound of sobbing you hear from up the chimney, you discover a dispirited Santa, whose sleigh has been stolen by King Xodar of the evil elves. A hero is required to retrieve the sleigh, but you, soot-stained and equipped only with a dressing gown and slippers, are the only available candidate, so Santa gives you his hat and you ride off on Rudolf (sic) the red-nosed reindeer to try and defeat Xodar.

While slightly childish in tone, ISoC is entertainingly daft, and a lot more fun that the other new adventure in this issue of Proteus. Despite being a bit of festive fluff, the scarcity of opportunities to restore lost Strength (what, did you think your dressing gown was lined with Rations or something?) means it can prove a bit challenging if you play by the rules and don't roll up a super-powered character (I got killed twice). Even so, it is a lot more forgiving than usual. There are several incidents that would lead to Instant Death in a normal adventure, but have a less extreme outcome here, and what happens to King Xodar if you fail to overcome him is delightfully silly.

Other particularly enjoyable bits include an encounter with a group of hostile reindeer, where you find that you can't always trust Christmas songs, and the possible run-in with a Christmas dinner that bites back. Hunter's vicious mince pies look great. Indeed, Hunter is on good form for most of the adventure, though his Harpy is a little too duck-like.

Though the cold never troubles you (for which a rationalisation can be extrapolated from section 51), your lack of preparedness for this adventure is taken into account, and you may find yourself heavily penalised in combat. If it gets that far, that is, as Santa's hat has some unusual properties that may overcome prospective opponents. Like the magic wand in 'Challenge of the Promethean Guild,' its effects are random, but those that aren't helpful are mildly slapstick rather than harmful.

At one point it is ultimately to your advantage to fail a roll, though success is not punished as harshly as in analogous situations in The Dungeon of Justice or Black Vein Prophecy.

There's not much to get Scrooge-like about. In section 54 'despair' is misspelled. Sections 14 & 72 ignore the possibility that the two scores rolled might be equal.

Though bordering on the 'kiddie' in tone at times, ISoC is enjoyable if taken in the right spirit, and it's a much better adventure than some of the 'proper' ones.

More reviews by Ed

Users Who Own This Item: dave2002a, Ed, Malthus Dire, outspaced, Robert Mammone
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