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Item - Shadows of Doom

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Series: Stephen Thraves Compact Adventure Gamebooks — no. 3
Translated Into: Las joyas del rescate (Spanish)
Senki ot ada [Сенки от ада] (Bulgarian)
Il vulcano maledetto (Italian)
Author: Thraves, Stephen
Illustrator: Oakes, Terry
Date: 1993
ISBN: 0340588632 / 9780340588635
Length: 160 sections
Number of Endings: 1 (not including failure caused by loss of strength)
User Summary: An old friend of your late father asks you to help him raise a ransom to rescue his heir; unfortunately, the only way to do this is to venture into a volcano and collect gems by battling mutant monsters.
Demian's Thoughts:

This is a thoroughly uninteresting book. Like other books in the series, the writing is decidedly uninspired and the gameplay consists almost entirely of completely random decisions. However, while some books in the series at least have slightly unusual themes to set them apart from the crowd, this is just yet another combat-heavy fantasy adventure.

The structure is incredibly repetitive -- the adventure takes place in a series of caverns. In each cavern, there are three creatures. You get shown a picture of each creature in turn. You can either fight the current creature or move on to the next one. If you pass on all three creatures, you abandon your chance of gaining a gem for that cavern. When you fight a creature, you pick a random code from a list of possible codes and refer to a chart to see if you win, lose, or need to pick another code. There is no strategy whatsoever. There are a few items which can be found that help give correct answers to the otherwise random choices made in navigating the passageways between the caverns, but the only way to obtain these items is to correctly make completely arbitrary decisions at a few points. Perhaps worst of all, though, is that, barring death, you always reach the same ending, and it basically says "if you have all the gems, you win; if not, try again." You don't get any real reward for victory -- there's not even a special section to read upon your success. After successfully navigating your way through the caves once, you've pretty much seen everything, and there's really no reason to go back and try to improve your score. No matter what you do, the framing story, such as it is, remains unresolved.

If I had to say one nice thing about the book, it would be that there is one mildly surprising plot twist involving one of the ghosts of past adventurers who appear and guide you at various points during the adventure. However, it's only mildly surprising, and it's easily missed if you don't happen to make the appropriate choice, so it barely counts as a saving grace. In any case, with so much superior competition, there is literally no reason to waste any time on this book at all.

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MJG's Thoughts:

This is effectively a continuation of Stephen Thraves' Battle Quest series, which were published a year earlier. It follows the same format as them, but as a compact gamebook it has about half the number of paragraphs, and doesn't have any of the physical items (it has a foldout map, cipher book and cryptics scroll instead), nor does it have custom dice (it uses a combat chart instead, which you're given seemingly random choices from during fights instead).

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