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Item - Diceman #1


Series: Diceman — no. 1
Contains: You Are Judge Dredd in House of Death (Mini-Adventure)
You Are Nemesis the Warlock in the Torture Tube (Mini-Adventure)
You Are Slaine in Cauldron of Blood (Mini-Adventure)
Author: Geller, Simon (editing)
Illustrators: Fabry, Glenn (cover)
O'Neill, Kevin (editing)
Brighton, Kevin (assistance)
Date: 1986
Length: 64 pages
Guillermo's Thoughts: This first issue of Diceman is a solid start for the series. The three stories contained herein are of good quality, both from a gameplay and storytelling perspective. The first one, titled You are Judge Dredd in House of Death, is the only instance in this series where you get to play this character. The story revolves about investigating the members of a bloodthirsty cult, which of course leads to encounters with several of Dredd's arch-enemies. The adventure – despite claims to the contrary in the letters page of the next issue – is rather easy to complete successfully, probably because the authors intended to help newcomers get their feet wet with the interactive comic format. There is however a great deal of tension involved in the choices, and the artwork by comics legend Bryan Talbot does a lot to build a very effective atmosphere.

In my opinion nonetheless, the most outstanding of the three adventures included is the second one, titled You are Nemesis the Warlock in the Torture Tube. The adventure consists of a rescue mission which is undertaken by spaceship. The main challenge of the adventure does not lie in choices, die rolls or combat (though these do certainly play a role), but in regulating the spaceship's speed, since there are several instances where failure can come about if the player is flying too fast or too slow. This, coupled with the scoring system, makes the experience very similar to that of a dogfight videogame, a feeling which is enhanced by the visual capabilities of the comic book format. In the end, the challenge lies in remembering to adjust your speed correctly at several points in the adventure, which is much easier said than done and thus the game is very likely to require more than one try to complete successfully. It should also be mentioned that speed has a direct effect on combat rolls, which contributes to the strategic element of the game. My only complaint with this adventure is that the baroque, elaborate artwork often makes it easy to miss some of the game instructions.

The issue ends which a fantasy adventure titled You are Slaine in Cauldron of Blood. It's a tale which combines classic elements of the Conan the Barbarian genre – though including a nice touch of British irony – with a pretty typical dungeon-crawl. The mission here is to enter a tower, defeat the creatures and master magician who live there, and recover a powerful magical item. The combat system is similar to Fighting Fantasy in that player and opponent roll two dice and compare the results, but is also crueler, since the loser gets to subtract the difference between both rolls from his life points. I enjoyed this adventure and found it a decent challenge, though it is annoying just how much it depends on the player being lucky with die rolls in order to complete it successfully. Less obvious clues – even those which are supposed to mislead – would have made it more challenging and interesting. Finally, there is a glaring continuity error in that it's possible to act according to a clue you may not have discovered before. In spite of this, I found the adventure enjoyable, since it captures the dungeon-crawl style quite well by requiring the player to visit most of its locations, win battles and collect items.

Overall I liked the first issue of this interactive comic very much. Characterization and entertainment value are good pluses in all three stories, which is explained by the fact that the 2000 AD series creator, Pat Mills, is the game designer and also the writer (except in the first story which was written by T. B. Groover). It needs to be mentioned, however, that those of us who are used to the meaty content provided in a full-length gamebook may feel a slight distaste considering how quickly each of the three adventures seems to be over. This problem was addressed with more complex adventures in subsequent issues, but the comic book format is so well suited to interactivity that one wonders what great results could have been achieved if there had been Diceman adventures extended into the lengthier "graphic novel" format. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the experience, and since the stories here provide a building block for further issues, I would suggest reading the entire series in order.

More reviews by Guillermo

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Diceman #1 Ad (part 1 of 3)
from Eagle comic, January 25, 1986. Thanks to Ed Jolley for the scan.

Diceman #1 Ad (part 2 of 3)
from Eagle comic, January 25, 1986. Thanks to Ed Jolley for the scan.

Diceman #1 Ad (part 3 of 3)
from Eagle comic, January 25, 1986. Thanks to Ed Jolley for the scan.