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Item - Madame Guillotine: The French Revolution

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(British cover)
(American cover)
Series: Real Life Gamebooks — no. 1
Alternate Title: The Bloody Rebellion (American edition)
Translated Into: Madama Ghigliottina (Italian)
Madame Giljotin (Swedish)
Madame Guillotine : den franske revolution (Danish)
L'Ombre de la guillotine (French)
Authors: Farrell, Simon
Sutherland, Jon(athan)
Illustrators: Wood, Cathy (British cover)
Dodge, Bill (American cover)
Williams, Brian (interior)
Dates: 1986 (British edition)
1988 (American edition)
Length: 300 sections
Number of Endings: 32
Kveto's Thoughts:

The first book of the series focuses upon an interesting turning point in history, the bloody French Revolution. In this book, you play a minor French aristocrat who is a soldier in Paris and must choose whether he will support the uprising or oppose it.

The book suffers from the same flaws of the other books: short passages, lots of random pointless page flipping and very little characterization. It does manage to be a bit more balanced than book 2 in terms of which side to choose, but there is still a bias toward the aristocratic side, pointing out often "Is it your fault you were born an aristocrat?" (Which, to be fair, considering your character's background, is probably how you'd feel). The book often shows the brutality of the revolt but never really shows why the peasantry had such grievances, but that might be due to lack of space and not getting too bogged down in political history.

The adventure itself can be fun, with a good chance of you getting your head chopped off or shot. Overall, I enjoyed it a bit more than the other books in the series which I have read.

A bit more entertaining than books 2 and 4 but still not as good as it could have been.

More reviews by Kveto

Malthus Dire's Thoughts:

The first in Jon Sutherland's Real Life series has you assuming the role of a minor French aristocrat at the start of the French Revolution. From the outset you are required to choose which side you will join and, as events unfold, this determines whether you will be the enemy of the fleeing aristocracy or of the revolutionaries themselves and the plot is based around this very binary goodies/baddies situation as you negotiate your way through several key events of the Revolution. Essentially, most fail paths involve either being guillotined (if you are with the aristos) or shot (if you are a revolutionary) with victories involving escape to England (aristo side) or remaining in the emancipated French Republic (revolutionary side), so the final outcomes of your choices are very-much pre-destined, but what this book does brilliantly is the way it handles the "who is good and who is bad?" dichotomy. As the book plays out, each scenario can be played from either angle, e.g. as you flee Paris in a carriage (aristo path) you will meet a group of pro-Revolution guards at the gates who will try to kill you; however, playing as a revolutionary means you are one of the guards who is trying to prevent the carriage from escaping. Another neat example of this is when, as a revolutionary, you sit on a clff-face trying to pick-off fleeing aristos with a musket, but, play as an aristo, and you are running across the beach trying to get to a boat before the revolutionary snipers on the cliff gun you down. Needless to say, this mechanic makes the book eminently re-playable and finding all of the inter-connecting aristo vs revolutionary cameos (from both perspectives) really does add something and shows just how much thought has gone into the design and plotting of this gamebook. If there is one flaw it is that the text is a little juvenile and seems to be aimed at a Junior High audience, but that does not detract from what is a very enjoyable and well put-together gamebook.

More reviews by Malthus Dire

Special Thanks:Thanks to Ed Jolley for the British cover scan.
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