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At the Court of King Minos

Series: Cretan Chronicles #2
Translated Into: Alla corte di Minosse (Italian)
En la corte del rey Minos (Spanish)
Le Labyrinthe du roi Minos (French)
Minosu-Ou no kyuutei [ミノス王の宮廷] (Japanese)
Na corte do rei Minos (Portuguese)
Authors: Butterfield, John
Honigmann, David
Parker, Philip
Illustrators: Embden, Michael (cover)
Woods, Dan (interior)
Release Date: 1985
Length:540 sections
User Summary: Having reached the island of Crete, you must find a way to enter the Labyrinth and slay the Minotaur in order to rid Athens of its scourge. Though not essential, you might also want to learn the purpose of the numbered squares at the beginning of the book (a secret that has deprived many players of several nights of sleep).
Guillermo's Thoughts: This excellent gamebook is one of the main reasons for reading the Cretan Chronicles series. Once again, there is an overwhelming amount of paths and possibilities to explore, and I found rereading the book to be as satisfying as finding a way to succeed at the final mission. Instead of following the more traditional model of traveling around several locations and solving quests, like the first book did, this one has more to do with investigation and social interaction, resembling the sixth Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries book, The Honour of the Yorkshire Light Artillery. The story is involving and there are many secrets to uncover. Furthermore, I cannot help but heap praise on the authors for how well the setting and characters are done – they managed to stay true to their source material while instilling their vision of it with a strong identity of its own. This is more than what can be said of highly-praised recent efforts by young authors, such as Christopher Paolini's Eragon.

Barring a premature ending, all the paths through the book lead the player to the Labyrinth. The maze is described in a very poetic way but in game terms it is huge and mostly uneventful until the Minotaur is encountered. This opponent has astronomical stats and defeating him will almost certainly require finding several items in both the first and second books of the series and gaining the favour of at least one specific deity. Indeed, the first two books seem to function like a mega-book since what you do in the first is critical to success in the second, and this will almost certainly keep you backtracking. If all the correct items are found, however, the Minotaur will be much easier to beat.

After the Minotaur is killed, the weakest chapter of the adventure begins. The final parts of the book are as rife with options as before, but most of them lead to horrible deaths, and only the ones leading to escape from Crete are successful. This creates a false illusion of freedom that is a symptom of poor design. The book might have been a bit shorter and perhaps more enjoyable without much of the stuff at the end. I can't help but think that the search for a way out of the Labyrinth and the final showdown against King Minos could have been handled a lot better.

Overall, this is an extremely enjoyable book despite its weak final parts. It's not a book for the casual reader: you will have to spend long hours immersed in the first two books in order to complete the saga. However, the reward is one of the most enriching interactive fiction experiences you'll find. This is one of the few gamebook series I would honestly call an 'epic' (a word much abused today, especially by marketers of anime and role-playing games). Do yourself a favour if you haven't already and read it.

Community service for those of you who have been hitting your heads against the wall for not being able to win the pankration match: here is a simple strategy. Always direct your punches towards the area the opponent is less likely to be defending, and when he attacks, always cover the area he is more likely to hit. In both cases, it is the body. This leads to a long battle but the player almost always wins. Oh, and don't get drunk.

More reviews by Guillermo

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